To bring the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown to life on stages across the US for its national tour, Lighting Designer, Bradley King implemented a cutting-edge and versatile lighting rig featuring Martin by Harman LED fixtures, provided by Christie Lites.
Written by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and directed by Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown is an American blues and folk-infused version of the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Mitchell first premiered Hadestown in 2006 with a DIY theatre group in Vermont and recorded a concept album based on the show in 2010 before the final version debuted on Broadway in 2019 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Met with critical praise and box office success, Hadestown received 14 nominations and eight wins at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards in 2019 –– the most nominations and wins for a single production that year.
This year, Hadestown embarks on a national theatre tour that debuted at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. King, who won a Tony for his work on the Broadway production of Hadestown, wanted a rig that translated the Walter Kerr’s natural and intimate lighting to venues of all sizes while accommodating the limited gear capacity and setup times inherent to touring Broadway productions. To meet these requirements, King implemented Martin by Harman solutions including the MAC Ultra Performance, ERA 800 Performance, and MAC Encore Performance and Wash lighting fixtures.
“On a very practical level, the task at hand was to figure out how to take a show that barely fits in the Walter Kerr and then squeeze it into six or seven trucks and be able to set it up and take it down in 14 hours,” said King. “The Broadway production is nearly all Martin MAC Encore Performance CLD fixtures and MAC Viper DX washes. We knew we wanted to try and stay away from lamps on the road, just because introducing lamp changes can be a pain and LEDs are at a point now where we don’t really need lamps, so we were definitely looking for an all-LED rig. We were interested in a fixture that could double as a profile and a wash, and the Ultra is as close to that as any other fixture I’ve seen.”
The abundant headroom ensured that King and the lighting team could create the dark, moody world of Hadestown in venues of all sizes while still keeping the stage visible for audiences in any section. Additionally, the Ultra Performance’s dual frost effects and innovative Extended Framing System gave the touring rig the versatility needed to emulate the original production’s soft and natural lighting aesthetics.
With the Ultra Performance filling out most of the rig, the Martin ERA 800 Performance provided additional output and effects downstage. “I’ve never used a huge amount of the features in any moving light, just because I use patterns pretty judiciously, but I was super impressed with the Ultra Performance’s dual frosts,” added King. “With the Ultra, you’re able to put a heavy frost in and actually have that edge of the beam start to disappear and get that nice, lovely blob. That was a very important thing to me, and I’ve never seen another fixture pull it off before, so that was exciting. The 800s also have great light and heavy frosts so that I can fuzz or gobo or get rid of that circle. Seeing that on the 800, and then seeing an even better version on the Ultra was really exciting.”
Finally, King equipped the touring rig with Martin MAC Encore Performance CLD and Wash fixtures, which he used heavily on the Tony-winning Walter Kerr Theatre rig. As with the original production, the Encore lights provided crisp, neutral white illumination as well as subtle shades of colour, which complemented the music and performances’ raw and vulnerable style. The Encore series also sports near-silent cooling and effects operation, making them useful and reliable elements to any kind of live production.
As Hadestown hits the road, King is confident that the tour’s lighting rig will bring the natural yet dramatic ambiance felt in the Walter Kerr to venues of any size or layout. He also thanked Martin for their continued support and communication on Hadestown and future projects.
“It’s always a pleasure to work with Martin,” said King. “Brad Schiller from Martin came out and visited us during rehearsals to help us sort out a couple of things. I adore Martin fixtures; I think that they are built with a lot of love and quality, and that’s why I keep using them.”