Jacob Kaplan has learned a valuable life lesson early in his burgeoning lighting design career: It never hurts to ask.
A high school senior at Fusion Academy Plano, Texas, Kaplan is also the Lighting Designer for NTPA (North Texas Performing Arts) Collegiate Pursuits, a troupe launched in fall 2022 to offer a bridge to the collegiate and professional theater worlds via a quality performing arts education and staging family entertainment. NTPA is the largest youth theater organization in the country.
Kaplan was thinking about what kind of lighting fixtures would help showcase the character of William Shakespeare as the rock star of his day in Collegiate Pursuits’ production of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy, Something Rotten! He made student loaner inquiries to several lighting companies in the Dallas area, including Claypaky’s US partner located just blocks from North Texas Performing Arts.
“I expected to get a ‘no’ or no response at all from my outreach,” Kaplan recalls. “But, instead, Claypaky asked me what I wanted to use! We talked about my interest in the field, and they supplied several road cases of equipment for the show.” Currently, Kaplan is loading in his third show for Collegiate Pursuits featuring Claypaky fixtures.
“We don’t have a lot of equipment at the venue, so Claypaky’s support has allowed us to take our shows to the next level and work in a truly professional setting,” says Kaplan. “I’ve been able to experiment with new products and technology from Claypaky’s demo inventory, explore different styles of lighting, and design shows to a higher standard. It’s a great learning experience that I’m very lucky to have.”
Bethany Bourland, Artistic Director of NTPA Collegiate Pursuits, says, “the Claypaky fixtures have vastly increased the quality of our productions and what the team is capable of creating. The fixtures have completely changed the dynamic of our shows. Even audiences have told us that our productions have gone from beautiful to absolutely spectacular!”
Kameron Knott, Program Director of NTPA Collegiate Pursuits, noted that: “adding even one moving light adds so much to a production – right off the bat the show looks different. The Claypaky fixtures set expectations for what a show can and should look like: They elevate the production. The ability for the design team to grow in their professionalism and creativity and for the performers to get accustomed to working with professional equipment is huge.”
For “Something Rotten!” Kaplan laid Claypaky Tambora Battens along the back platform behind Shakespeare as he recited his sonnets rock-style. “The fixtures helped transform the stage into a modern concert space and gave us a red, white and blue look for a ‘Les Miserables’ reference,” he explains. Claypaky HY B-EYE K15s provided pixel wash FOH and ran “some fun effects” in conjunction with the Battens while Axcor Wash 300s filled a more typical wash application.
Coming off the successful implementation of the first loan of Claypaky fixtures, Kaplan was ready to use more to kick off Collegiate Pursuits’ second season with “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the Tony Award-winning prequel to “Peter Pan.” This production was staged in the round in one of the theater’s black box spaces.
“This was our first in-the-round production in a beautiful space that had a limited lighting grid,” noted Kaplan. “Bringing in Claypaky Axcor Wash 300s and Axcor Profile 400s completely transformed the space, gave us a lot of versatility in what we could do and what we could light, and even added a lot of effects. We were able to build an entire immersive environment.” He points out that turning the scrims into clouds with gobos from the Profiles and a blue wash had the audience asking if projection techniques were involved in crafting the effect.
At press time Kaplan was loading in Claypaky lighting for a production of Stephen Sondheim’s iconic, Tony Award-winning musical, “Company.” “We’ll be using Arolla Profile MPs, which I’m very excited to have for their big feature set and different patterns and animations,” he says.
“We also have more Axcor Profile 400s and Tambora Linears, which will add color and texture to static architectural lighting for scenic archways.”
Next up, at the end of May, is “Urinetown,” the Broadway hit satirical musical comedy. Kaplan has slated Claypaky Tambora Battens and Mini-B moving lights for his lighting design.
“It’s been an incredible opportunity for me and for the actors to have these fixtures,” says Kaplan. “I’ll soon be going to college out of state, but the students who follow me in Collegiate Pursuits and use Claypaky fixtures will gain experience they’d be unable to get anywhere else.”
“Our mission is for our students to experience as closely as possible the environment they’ll find in the collegiate and professional theatrical worlds,” says Bourland. “The overall value-add of the Claypaky fixtures from an educational standpoint is so important. Our designers can flex their skills more and our performers get a chance to work with what they’ll find later on in their careers. Thanks to Claypaky we’ve given them the tools to work truly professionally here.”
“We’re extremely grateful to Claypaky for providing these fixtures and collaborating with Collegiate Pursuits to create a real professional experience for our students,” adds Knott.
For NTPA Collegiate Pursuits Bethany Bourland served as the Director of Something Rotten! Assistant Director of Peter and the Starcatcher and Co-director of Company.
Kameron Knott acted as the Assistant Director and Choreographer of “Something Rotten!” the Director of “Peter and the Starcatcher” and Co-director and Choreographer of “Company.”
“When Jacob reached out to us, we were excited to listen to his ideas,” says Julie Smith, managing director Group 1440/Claypaky US. “We want to help nurture these talented young artists, providing them with the technology and tools to make their ideas reality. It is a great partnership with the local theater that gives them a forum to develop their creativity and technical skills. When students and local communities are supported in this way, it benefits the future of our industry.”