Popular touring Passion Play made even more inspirational using state-of-the-art entertainment technology
Passion Plays, traditional theatrical depictions of the life and death of Jesus, have been an Easter season staple for centuries and the modern-day touring production “The Thorn,” with a full Elation lighting and LED video package, is arguably one of the best.
“The Thorn,” which has been staged yearly since 1998, breaks from ritual and adopts a more dramatic form, fusing Cirque du Soleil-type aerials, martial arts and state-of-the-art entertainment technology with emotionally powerful performances. This year, the play raised the visual drama even further through use of a dynamic package of Elation Platinum Series and LED-based moving heads, LED Par and effect lights, and LED video displays with haze and special fog effects from Antari.
Illuminate Production Services (www.lightingips.com) of Sacramento provided nearly all of the lighting equipment, labor and production management for the five-week, five-state tour, which was out throughout March and was seen by nearly 75,000 people. Each year more than 60 professional and volunteer cast and crew join “The Thorn” to take the show on the road. In each city, the touring cast and crew is joined by hundreds of local actors and artists to bring the story to life.
Not your average Passion Play
“The Thorn” (www.thethorn.net) is not your average Passion Play. Designed to be inspirational and motivating, visually stunning beams, color-changing scenes with pattern projection, along with changing background graphics on LED video screens, add an extra element of visual drama and intensity to the production that both wows and engages the audience.
Lighting design was handled by one of the youngest lighting designers around, high school talent Caleb Franke of Illuminate Production Services. Caleb was given a basic lighting plot from prior years to work from, but was given creative license to do what we felt would look best. The biggest change was adding vertical side fill trusses behind LED panel pods, which gave the stage more dimension and elevation compared to year’s past. The project was designed in Capture Polar lighting design software and roughly preprogrammed to save time on show sites.
“The Thorn” uses a virtual set and in the past relied on triple-wide HD projection on a large white backdrop screen. This year, they used a 35K lumen projector in the center and flanked each side of the stage with two offset columns of Elation EVLED 20IP LED panels that ran a variety of scenic graphics and gave a transitional layered look to the backdrop. The EVLED panels, a medium resolution 20mm semi-transparent screen that emits a bright luminous intensity of 4000 nits, is semi-transparent (35%) meaning they can virtually disappear when not on. The LED panels also served as wings and entrances to the stage. “The EVLED panels were extremely reliable,” stated Rick Franke of Illuminate Production Services and Production Manager for the show. “We had spares on the tour put didn’t need to use them. Some of the panels took some extra abuse due to props and sets being moved about and they still worked flawlessly every night.”
Large Elation rig
Used to flood the stage in color and break-up textures, as well as provide striking mid-air beam looks were a variety of Elation spot, beam and profile fixtures. Filling the rig at down- mid- and upstage locations were energy-efficient Platinum Series fixtures including 12 Platinum Spot 15R Pro’s, 10 Platinum Spot 5R Pro’s and 20 Platinum Beam 5R Extremes, while a pair of Platinum 35R Profiles with internal framing were used as primary key lighting fixtures.
A host of Elation LED lighting fixtures graced the rig as well, including 12 Rayzor Q12 wash luminaires on mid-stage trusses and from a floor position, 6 Platinum Wash ZFX Pro’s lining an upstage truss, and full color RGBA Opti QA Par lights, also on an upstage truss and used for stage fill.
Used for effect lighting from a floor position were Elation’s new SixBar 1000 color-changing LED battens with new SixPar 200 LED multi-chip Par color changers used as stage fill with their UV LED adding a spectacular look to the show. Eight Design Wash LED Strip RGBAW fixtures were used for uplighting of scenic elements with other Design series fixtures used for additional color and beam looks. Bright and punchy full color Cuepix Panels served as crowd blinders and a pair of Elation’s award-winning Sniper 2R multi-effect lights also got in on the act as effect lights during battle scenes.
Passion Plays lend themselves to creative use of haze and fog effects as an important aspect of atmosphere, mood and scene creation. Antari haze and fog machines were used throughout the play, including Antari W-715X Fog Jets for special effects during supernatural scenes and an Antari DNG 200 for atmospheric low lying fog. An Antari F3 Fazer and HZ 300 were used to keep the stage sufficiently hazy for mid-air beam projections and general effect.
“All of the fixtures performed great and held up really well,” Rick Franke commented when the tour finished. “As with any tour there are bugs but Elation gave excellent support and occasionally contacted us to see if we needed anything. That is unprecedented service. It’s nice to know that someone has your back and is thinking about you when you’re on the road.”
Executive Producer: John Bolin
Production Manager: Rick Franke
Lighting Designer: Caleb Franke
Show Control, Assistant PM: Austin Duarte
124 x EVLED 20IP
12 x Platinum Spot 15R Pro
10 x Platinum Spot 5R Pro
20 x Platinum Beam 5R Extreme
2 x Platinum 35R Profile
12 x Rayzor Q12 Zoom
6 x Platinum Wash ZFX Pro
12 x Opti QA
10 x SixPar 200
4 x SixBar 1000
4 x Cuepix Panels
2 x Sniper 2R
8 x Design LED Strip RGBAW
2 x Design Wash LED Zoom
2 x Design Spot 1200C
4 x Design Spot 575E
2 x Antari W-715X Fog Jet
1 x Antari F3 Fazer
1 x Antari HZ 300
1 x Antari DNG 200 Low Fog Generator