Rome City Auditorium Upgrades with Barbizon and ETC

by Michael Eddy
The Rome City Auditorium has a new theatre rigging and lighting system thanks to ETC and Barbizon Lighting Company. Photo by: Ashley Phillips Photography
The Rome City Auditorium has a new theatre rigging and lighting system thanks to ETC and Barbizon Lighting Company. Photo by: Ashley Phillips Photography

MIDDLETON, WI—The Rome City Auditorium is a neoclassical brick building in historic downtown Rome, GA. But as its 100th anniversary approached the state of the theatre was anything but classic. The rigging system had become inoperable years earlier, an inadequate lighting system disappointed performers, and the lack of controls meant a lot of extra work for a staff of one. The Barbizon Lighting Company provided them with a new rigging system, LED luminaires for the stage, along with new control for the house and stage lighting.

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When David Palombo, a field project coordinator at Barbizon Lighting Company in Atlanta, was called in to light a dance troupe performing at the Rome City Auditorium and saw the state of the theatre, he walked right into the city manager’s office and introduced himself. “I told them I was from Barbizon, that we specialized in upgrading theatrical systems, and we could help them,” Palombo remembers. They immediately started working on a solution that included rigging, stage and houselight controls, and LED fixtures for stage lighting.

First up was rigging. The building had several constraints that called for a special solution: a catwalk obstructed the space where a lineset would normally go; concrete “ribs” supported the ceiling but cut down on headroom; and the main trunk of an HVAC system ran along the ceiling as well. ETC’s Prodigy® hoist system was the solution, navigating all these obstacles to provide a safe, reliable system.

ETC Prodigy hoists fit the tight space between the concrete ceiling ribs and the grid.The Prodigy system’s unique compression tube design was small enough to work around the lack of space in the ceiling, since the small form factor fit within the four feet of space between the grid and the ceiling. (The same cannot be said for the inspectors, who roll through the tight space on car mechanic trolleys.) The hoists’ small form factor also allowed the theatre to include all the linesets they wanted, with 12 inches between each of the lines. The Prodigy system included a Foundation® control system that makes it easy to create presets and manage the permissions of people using the system.

For lighting, ETC Source Four® LED Series 2 fixtures replaced most of the old fixtures, resulting in a rig that’s now 90 percent LED. The Source Four LED Series 2 fixtures impressed everyone with their power at the very first event they had in there. Palombo was operating the lighting console when someone complained about how bright the new lights were. “I told them not to worry, I can turn it down,” laughs Palombo.An ETC Source Four LED fixtures with the Cyc Adapter hang above the stage at Rome City Auditorium

An ETC Unison Paradigm® system controls all of the houselighting and also has several presets for the stage. All of these are accessed via a seven-inch Paradigm touchscreen. The touchscreen gives the volunteer staff a simple way to run events. “I actually had one volunteer shed tears of joy she was so happy about how easy it was to use,” says Palombo. “She was an older lady and she was happy to know she could still operate the system.”

For more complicated shows, theatre staff can break out an ETC Element™ to program looks. Its Magic Sheets help speed up programming and the tight integration between the console and the Paradigm system mean theatre staff can quickly program an event, record it, and have the event producers control the show from the Paradigm touchscreen, without ever needing access to the booth. “The city’s theatre manager was brand new to the world of theatre tech, and had no previous knowledge of a theatrical lighting system,” says Palombo. “But she does it all now, with no problems. She loves the simplicity of the system.” Thanks to work of Barbizon and ETC, Rome once again has a classic theatre.