The company of Cymbeline in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg.
New York, NY (August 17, 2015)—New York City’s Central Park is known for a lot of things; one of the most positive is the long-running Free Shakespeare in the Park series, held by the Public Theater. Now in its 53rd year, the series brings famous actors and the works of William Shakespeare to the 1,800-seat outdoor Delacorte Theater; the current offering—Cymbeline, featuring Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater—runs through August 23. Ensuring everyone catches every word is a considerable audio system from theater audio specialists Masque Sound. “We have to load an entire Broadway quality sound system into a natural park,” said Matthew Bell, Assistant Audio Supervisor. “There are racoons, birds, and rain, and all those have to be taken into consideration.”
That system includes an extensive wireless set up—Cymbeline involves more than 40 channels of Sennheiser 3532 and Sennheiser 2000 series, Shure IEMs, two matrixed intercom main-stations, and three Telex BTR–800s, along with RF Venue Spotlight antenna and Optix fiber-optic remote antenna system, to address and simplify the RF difficulties an outdoor theater in the heart of New York City creates.
Though wireless is of utmost importance, the unique, intimate nature of Cymbeline's set design paired with the Delacorte’s unconventional upstage area –an expanse of open water named Turtle Pond – makes minuscule wireless audio signals vanish into the trees.
“There is no bounce to the room or anything to reflect RF back onto our actors and antennas, like you would have in a traditional theater,” continues Bell. “We used two RF Spotlights to get our antennas physically closer to our actors. Since they’re low profile, we built them into our set pieces and under the deck, and our antennas are 120 feet closer than we would have otherwise been able to get them.”
The Spotlight’s thin 7mm disc allowed The Public Theater to mount both transmit and receive antennas for some of their UHF equipment directly underneath the actors, maximizing signal-to-noise ratio. Underneath the stage, the antennas are connected to two Optix RFoF systems which, in lieu of coaxial cable, send signals for mics and IEMs to and from the rack via 1310nm fiber optic cable.
“This park is so big and all our cable runs are so long that we want to get our signal loss down to as little as possible,” says Bell. “We went with the Optix because 2.5 dB of loss is a whole lot better than the 10–12 dB we would get with coax.”
“We have a lot of challenges in New York, and a lot of challenges that you only find in Central Park,” Bell concludes. “These two solutions have allowed us to pick up only the transmitted signals on the stage, as opposed to getting all the extraneous noise around the city.”