The Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA), known on campus as the creative lab, encompasses the University of California Irvine’s drama, dance, art and music programs. The School’s mission—to present the arts as the essence of human experience and expression—was challenged by the shelter-in-place restrictions that halted their ability to safely showcase live performances. Luckily, after a meeting with Clear-Com® at the (virtual) Stage Manager’s Symposium in May 2020, CTSA decided to add Clear-Com’s LQ® IP Interfaces and Agent-IC® Mobile App, which both complemented their existing system and provided a new learning opportunity for students.
CTSA is comprised of nine different spaces including four theaters, a concert hall, three art galleries, and the Beall Center for Art + Technology, boasting comprehensive undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are among the most prestigious available. “We’ve been a national leader in training emerging artists and performers since we were established in 1965,” said Associate Chair of Drama & Co-Head of Stage Management, Joel Veenstra. “One of our goals is to not only train our students with the best technologies, but to also train them with technologies that are used widely in the industry, so they are as prepared as possible for a successful career in the Arts.”
The system that existed at CTSA before COVID was comprised of a Clear-Com Encore® Analog Partyline system with a 4-channel MS-704 main station, four RM-704 Remote Stations, and RS-701 beltpacks distributed in the venue based on the channels needed; Backstage and Stage Management, Audio, Lighting and Video.
“The system we have has worked great, but we didn’t have the ability to transition to remote productions, so I went to the Stage Manager’s Symposium event to find a solution,” explained Veenstra. “After a conversation with Clear-Com, I was assured that we would be able to quickly integrate our existing equipment with LQ and Agent-IC and begin remote productions.”
The first performances to utilize the expanded system were the New Slate Online dance concert, which included both live and prerecorded elements, and She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, a comedic drama performance about fantasy role-play. Both productions were held on multiple nights with overlapping time frames meaning their comms system would need to accommodate both shows at once.
“We were able to run both programs simultaneously using a single 4-port LQ Interface that was connected to a campus VNC network, where we designated two ports for each show—one each that was for calling the show via our existing partyline system and one each for stage management activities,” explained Production Sound Supervisor, Jeff Polunas. For both performances there was a number of onsite staff who were socially distancing, as well as several remote staff members who had downloaded Agent-IC onto the smart devices.
Once the app was downloaded, at-home production personnel could connect to the local LQ device over 3G, 4G, LTE or Wi-Fi networks, and effectively monitor the Encore system at CTSA.
“This was the first time our undergrad and graduate degree students would be using LQ and Agent-IC,” said Veenstra. “After a brief 30-minute training and connectivity test to ensure things were running smoothly, the students were able to run with it.”
Agent-IC is designed to be intuitive, easy-to-use and quick-to deploy, making it a reliable option when remote staff are separated from the core intercom group.
“Our productions would not have been possible without the LQ unit and Agent-IC,” adds Polunas. “Moving forward, it will also be a great teaching tool for our Stage Management program.”
Part of the curriculum for the various CTSA departments includes building a valuable skillset that will be applicable in the real world, which includes hands-on experience with top technologies. “Implementing LQ and Agent-IC has awarded our Stage Management students the opportunity to continue developing their skill set of calling productions on a multi-channel IP comms system, so they are ready to work as soon as the pandemic lifts, while carrying their new remote capabilities with them” said Veenstra.
The next production scheduled to utilize the system is The Jubilee and Me – Songs I Never Got to Sing, beginning on February 12th.