Student designers appraise Elation lighting on Yale’s Carlotta Festival

A scene from littleboy/littleman by Rudi Goblen, directed by Jacob Basri. The Carlotta Festival, David Geffen School of Drama at Yale., 2023. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

David DeCarolis and Yichen Zhou employ Fuze MAX moving heads in lighting design for three student-produced plays on annual theatre festival.

In partnership with dry-hire rental house Main Light, Elation Professional provided Fuze MAX series moving head luminaires to David Geffen School of Drama at Yale for use on the school’s annual Carlotta Festival, which showcases plays written, directed, acted and designed by students.

The Carlotta Festival features three fully produced new plays by graduating playwrights performed in rotating repertory. The plays presented in this year’s festival, which ran May 5–12 at the Iseman Theatre, included littleboy/littleman by Rudi Goblen (directed by Jacob Basri); Furlough’s Paradise by a.k. payne (directed by Leyla Levi); and Color Boy by Esperanza Rosales Balcárcel (directed by Jecamiah M. Ybañez).

David Geffen School of Drama is one of the top theatre programs in the U.S. and offers one of the best theatre design and technology programs in the country. The Carlotta Festival demonstrates to students the significant artistic, technical, and managerial challenges of producing new plays in repertory, in circumstances similar to those in professional theatre, and is an invaluable learning experience.

When third-year MFA candidates David DeCarolis ( and Yichen Zhou had the opportunity to design lighting for the plays—DeCarolis for littleboy/littleman and Color Boy, and Zhou for Furlough’s Paradise— DeCarolis decided to contact Elation Professional to enquire about fixture choice.

Elation Product Application Specialist Nick Saiki steered the designer toward two of the company’s newest state-of-the-art moving heads, the Fuze MAX Spot and the recent NAB Product-of-the-Year award-winner, the Fuze MAX Profile. Main Light supplied six Fuze MAX Profile and five Fuze MAX Spot luminaires to the school for the production.

Specially designed for precision lighting applications such as theatre, with the Fuze MAX Elation has taken a full-spectrum RGBMA LED engine (92 CRI) and combined it with the best features of high performance moving lights such as a wide zoom, gobo wheels, animation, dual frost, prism and iris (plus framing in the Profile version). Lumen output is 21,000, rivaling 1000W/1200W-class discharge fixtures.

DeCarolis says he used the fixtures to accentuate or heighten the more theatrical or psychological moments of the plays, for example using more saturates or primary colors, and accessed their full feature sets for textures, effects, specials, color and animation. “They were an integral part of my designs and I used them in many of the moments of the plays that I am most proud of,” he stated. “We appreciated these fixtures so much and they really helped out with this production.”

For Zhou, the fixtures were most useful when creating specials to emphasize a particular look, such as with animation, but she also used them as fill lights and for angles. Colorwise she says she was able to produce naturalistic shades when producing isolated moments, pastels for example, and was able to blend them in with the rest of the rig, including incandescent fixtures. The Fuze MAX’s RGBMA engine produces fully blended colors across an impressively wide breadth of the color spectrum, along with tunable dynamic whites.

Both designers say they relied on the Fuze MAX Profile’s four-blade framing system to control the beam shape. Looking back, Zhou admits that she would have liked all of the lights to be framing units. “With Furlough’s Paradise’s smaller set it would have been nice to have had more framing fixtures,” she said, a dilemma she got around by using a gobo in the Fuze MAX Spots as a type of shutter. Necessity is the mother of invention.

One plot was used for all three plays with the Fuze MAX Profiles working from over-stage positions and the Fuze MAX Spots positioned over the audience. Zhou adds, “I also enjoyed how quiet the fixtures were. I sat just beneath them during performances and they weren’t distracting at all.”