Hibbing Community College Theatre
presents
Beauty & the Beast

Bauty & the Beast

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton

Directed by Mike Ricci
Scenic Design by Ellie Ricci
Costumes provided by Heartland Costumes
Lighting Design by Mark Harvey
Assistant Lighting Design by Alex Flinner

April 26 -May 6, 2007

Photography courtesy of Marc Rouleau


Lighting Design Approach

In November 2006, Mike Ricci, director of Hibbing Community College Theatre, contacted me searching for a lighting designer for his spring production of Beauty and the Beast. I'd heard good things about the theatre program in Hibbing, so I expressed interest and was hired for the project. Some time later, Alex Flinner, a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, was hired as the assistant lighting designer.

I visited the theatre venue on the HCC campus for the first time in February. I noticed immediately the steeply raked seating in the house. An audience viewing the play from such a steep angle would provide me with some lighting opportunities I do not regularly get at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where I am faculty in the Department of Theatre. A steeply raked audience also makes for some challenges I knew I would have to deal with.

I returned four weeks later to watch a run-through, and realized how much distribution of the lighting was going to be a significant part of the design. The scenic design utilized an open floor plan in order to accommodate the dance numbers in the show, as well as the oversized costumes (!) The two-story castle interior was located upstage of a blue cyc. Down stage of the cyc, a drop and two portable side units comprised the village square. When the cyc and drop were flown out and the side units moved off stage left and right, the entire space was used for the castle interior. A half dozen castle rooms were designed into the set, but many other locations in the castle would need to be determined strictly with light.

Beauty & the Beast Castle
Beauty & the Beast
Castle Interior


In order to provide as many different lighting areas as possible, I decided to divide the space into six lanes from downstage to upstage. Each lane had five lighting areas from stage left to stage right. This decision committed over a quarter of the lighting inventory to front light, but I felt it was important to have control of as many independent lighting areas as possible. My hope was the audience would understand that scenes were moving from one place to another even though actors may just be moving a few feet away.

Beauty & the Beast Isoation
Beauty & the Beast
Front Hallway


This approach also made it possible to visually indicate scenes that were happening in two different places simultaneously, which was oftentimes an important part of the action.

Beauty & the Beast Lair & Bedroom
Beauty & the Beast
Lair and Bedroom


The parlor area in the castle also doubled as Belle's bedroom. The parlor fireplace moved downstage left and bedroom scenery telescoped out from behind a curtained alcove. Quick transitions such as these were important to maintain the rapid pace of the musical.

Beauty & the Beast Bedroom
Beauty & the Beast
Belle's Bedroom


The grand staircase was the visual centerpiece of the scenic design, so lighting specials were included to divide the stairway into four different sections. Throughout the play, different combinations of these specials were used to compliment the scenery or isolate the actor's position.

Beauty & the Beast Staircase
Beauty & the Beast
Castle Interior Grand Staircase


This musical calls for three major scenic locations: the castle interior, the village square and the tavern interior. To establish different looks for these different locales, I provided two sets of side light from both stage left and right and one set of top light - cool top downstage for outdoor village scenes, and warm top light upstage for castle interior scenes. A threatening forest look was also created using color and projected patterns of light.

Beauty & the Beast Village Square
Beauty & the Beast
Village Square


Beauty & the Beast Tavern
Beauty & the Beast
The Tavern


Beauty & the Beast Forest
Beauty & the Beast
The Forest


One of my biggest concerns was the cabaret number "Be Our Guest" in which the castle converts into a cabaret stage. Initially, I had no additional lighting fixtures for this number, but the addition of color scrollers on the front of house boom positions and chase lights on the proscenium helped create a series of new looks for the number.

Beauty & the Beast "Be Our Guest"
Beauty & the Beast
"Be Our Guest"


Beauty & the Beast "Be Our Guest" Finale
Beauty & the Beast
"Be Our Guest" Finale


The play begins with the story of the prince's transformation into a beast, which is told with narration and acted out in silhouette. We accomplished this with a white cyc which was lowered downstage of the grand drape and a single 8" fresnel located on the floor upstage center that lit the actors from behind. When the grand drape curtains were pulled back, the shadow of the curtains framed the action quite nicely.

Beauty & the Beast Pantomime
Beauty & the Beast
Opening Narration


We also figured out how to use simple techniques with good results, such as a bare light bulb for the dungeon scene, or clip lights for passageways underneath scenic platforms.

Beauty & the Beast Dungeon
Beauty & the Beast
The Dungeon


Two I-Cue intelligent lights provided spot lights when needed. I chose to mount one I-Cue on a Source 4 19 degree ellipsoidal at center in the front of house beam position, and the other on a Source 4 36 degree ellipsoidal at center on the 1st Electric. With these two specials, we were able to provide spot lights for virtually every location on the stage.

Beauty & the Beast I-Cues
Beauty & the Beast
"Be Our Guest"


It was important to be able to reveal the castle library to the audience and Belle at the same time. Scenic pieces were put into place while a scene was played downstage of the grand drape so when the curtain was opened, both Belle and the audience would see the library for the first time.

Beauty & the Beast Library
Beauty & the Beast
The Library


We also wanted to create a different look in the castle for the ballroom. A blue wash on the floor and a chandelier helped create the feel of romance for the scene.

Beauty & the Beast Ballroom
Beauty & the Beast
The Ballroom


An interesting idea developed during tech week that allowed us to move, in full view of the audience, from the village square to the forest then on to the castle during the mob scene. We began creating the menacing feel of the scene by bringing up the tree gobos for the forest on the village square scenery. Up light from down left and right was added as torches came on stage throwing large looming shadows on the scenery upstage. The audience could sense the change to a more foreboding atmosphere. The transition first from the village to the forest, and then from the forest to the castle was seamless and did not impede the quickening action as we sped towards the final confrontation between Gaston and the Beast.

Beauty & the Beast Mob Scene
Beauty & the Beast
The Mob Gathers in the Village Square

Beauty & the Beast Mob Scene
Beauty & the Beast
The Mob in the Forest Threatens the Castle


The transformation of the beast back into a prince was created with two Mighty Scan intelligent lights hung on a make shift 4th Electric directly above the landing at the top of the grand staircase. Fog was pumped in from below to block the view of the audience while the prince changed places with the beast.

Beauty & the Beast Transformation
Beauty & the Beast
Transformation Begins

Beauty & the Beast Transformation
Beauty & the Beast
Transformation Complete


While the production quality for this show was quite high for a community college, I witnessed perhaps an even more important aspect of community theatre during my residency. The town of Hibbing supports this theatre program wholeheartedly, and it was very rewarding to experience the show with a full house opening night. Multi-generational families enjoyed the experience of this production together and I am hard pressed to think of a more valuable contribution the theatre can make to our society.

Beauty & the Beast Talk Back Session
Beauty & the Beast
Audience Talk Back Session

Beauty  with child princess
Beauty & the Beast
Beauty and a Princess