LCTs Associate PM Kevin Orzechowski Talks Immersive Theater

by Michael Eddy
Roxanne Kidd appears at the bottom of a stairwell in Ghost Light Credit: Julietta Cervantes
Roxanne Kidd appears at the bottom of a stairwell in Ghost Light Credit: Julietta Cervantes
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LCT’s Associate PM Kevin Orzechowski talks about integrating Ghost Light into the Claire Tow Theater

If I were speaking with another PM about working with an immersive theater company, I’d say that your space is already established and there are numerous considerations to keep in mind. Unlike other spaces that Third Rail has worked in in the past, which are blank slates like a warehouse, our theater is a traditional proscenium stage. You have to let the idea of what your space is go. The biggest challenge is to embrace their format and what they were going to need in the space. You should embrace that and throw away your expectations of how you usually use the space.

Typically, you get a script which is the foundation that everything springs from, but with this show they started with ideas, shapes, and images. We did a few workshops prior to starting where they found what would work; what wouldn’t; and how they were going to move through the space. We had a lot of conversations about how the audience would flow throughout the spaces. The real organization happened with the stage managers and the performers; we responded to what they wanted to try.

We were diligent right from the outset when it came time to thinking about the audiences that moved throughout the whole theater space—including technical areas. Primary considerations when we created these spaces were that they needed to be accessible; we needed to be meeting codes; and of course, it has to look great, but aesthetics cannot compromise what we needed to do. Once the performers started moving in the performances spaces; that started to define where the audience could be; and that decided where egress would be. 

Regarding technical considerations of power, audio, lighting, etc., from the very beginning, it was clear that the scope of this was much bigger than what we were accustomed to and reaching out into those ancillary spaces, stairwells and hallways, was going to be a huge part of the show. One of our first questions for Facilities, was ‘Do you mind if we put holes through the walls of this brand-new space?’ Everybody here was great, working together to make things happen. We didn’t destroy the building and everything’s been restored. Because the Tow was relatively new construction, it went online in 2012, there were a lot of resources that were already built-in. There’s a good house sound system out in the lobbies; it reaches out into the dressing rooms; and the rehearsal space. You can patch into the rehearsal space and control that from the booth. 

Power for lighting was a bit more challenging. Our master technician and production electrician spent a lot of time going through different ways to distribute power. We have two company switches that we fed out to power distros around the space and then to dimmer packs. Ultimately it worked well; it was all very thoughtful. Our technicians worked closely with the lighting and sound designers and created a successful infrastructure that supported the whole show. 

Again, for other spaces considering an immersive piece, there are a lot of considerations for the facility; for the institution; for the people. There are a lot of variables to keep in view. And a lot of times those don’t reveal themselves until you’ve already started the process. A lot of things came into view as we were going along. You have to be ready to adapt. 

For us at Lincoln Center, It was a wonderful production; Third Rail were wonderful to work with. To have something so different in our space—it was a little terrifying but it was refreshing also. My wife says that I’ve aged in the past year. But it was worth it as the audience had a great time and we got to share our space in such a new way.