MIDLAND When audience members attend the Midland Community Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol later this month, they’ll notice something different with the set.
That’s because a new 1,600 square foot LED wall and wing panels were installed in the large Davis Theatre I.
MCT unveiled to the public the new LED wall Thursday.
The new technology helps for a variety of possibilities with the MCT’s productions and rentals and will be put to use for the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol which begins on Nov. 25 and runs until Dec. 17.
The new LED walls are a part of the theatre’s $7 million capital campaign.
The walls themselves cost about $1 million.
In addition to the LED walls, the campaign includes expansion to the lobby as well as an expansion to the education space.
“What’s really nice is that we’ve been able to complete the fundraising part of this but we’ve also been able to get these LED walls put in prior to the construction project in our lobby and our educational spaces,” Executive Director of the Midland Community Theatre Timothy Jebsen said. “Our audience is going to be seated through some construction areas through the next year and a half but they’ll get to enjoy phase one of this. Getting the LED walls installed was a huge part of allowing the audience to see what the fundraising campaign resulted in.”
Fundamentally, Jebsen says the biggest challenge for the theater has been to adapt from always having to build everything for a show to now seeing what can be done with projections and actual physical objects.”
“I want to stress that it’s not all going to be projections,” Jebsen said. “There will be physical objects put on the stage as well. A big thing is if you’re going to do a show like Cinderella where you want to have a castle. Before, we were trying to build all these ginormous units with a staircase. Now, you can have an image of a castle and a staircase. That makes it so much easier to physically do what you need to do.”
The projections will also allow Midland Community Theatre to save on doing constructions on big sets.
“As far as storage goes, one of the biggest challenges is that we work in wood,” Jebsen said. “But those things get torn down. It’s really more a savings in construction and costs in addition to actually being able to change scenes much more quickly.”
With the LED walls, Jebsen talked about an image that will be used in the upcoming production of a Christmas Carol that will only be used for 45 seconds.
“That’s something we would never consider doing if we didn’t have the projections,” Jebsen said.
The LED walls also allow for the MCT to do other productions that would’ve been too difficult to do because of the set designs such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which the Midland Community Theatre will be putting on in February, 2023.
“For years, I’ve been thinking about doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and one of the reasons I wouldn’t do it is because you have so many different places and the question was how do we build all these different locations?” Jebsen said. “Now, with these projection walls, you have the ability to transport the audience to the factory, to the house, to the candy store and back to the factory. You can do all of these things with projections rather than having to build everything. Even our 2023 opening musical is an example of something that we can do that we weren’t able to do before.”
Jebsen said he discovered these LED walls from another theater (The Hale Center) that was using them in Salt Lake City, UT.
These are also similar LED screens that the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association uses at their home Vivint Arena.
“The company that installed it is Revel Media,” Jebsen said. “They just replaced all the LED screens where the Utah Jazz play basketball. This is the same LED technology that the Utah Jazz are using for their arena. Revel media is based out of salt lake city. I contacted them and their owner came out here several times to check out the progress of this being installed.”
The screens were made in China and shipped all the way to Midland where it took two weeks to install.
When talking about what it’s been like for the MCT to get adjusted to the new LED walls, Jebsen compared it to going from driving a Corolla to a Lamborghini.
“We’ve been driving a Corolla for years and now somebody just handed us a Lamborghini,” Jebsen said. “It may take some getting used to how the bells and whistles. The first show won’t be the most different options that we do because we’re learning how to use the technology.”
But this won’t completely replace the traditional sets at Midland Community Theatre which has numerous different small stages at it’s location as well as the Yucca Theatre in downtown Midland where Summer Mummers takes place.
“What’s really nice is that Midland Community Theatre has three different performance spaces,” Jebsen said. “We installed this in theatre one. We still have Theatre II which is your traditional black box space. We’ll still do shows in there that are much more traditional. We still have the Yucca Theatre where we do summer mummers. It does change what we’ll do in this particular space but it doesn’t change the same type of theatre that we’ve done in the past. Probably the biggest change that you’ll see, for example, is that we’ve done a September musical in the smaller theatre and now we’re moving that extra musical into this Theater. We’re doing rock of ages next year so that’s our brand new musical in here. We’re adjusting some of our programming based on the changes in the theatre.”
Jebsen, who is also directing A Christmas Carol, says that the cast members have been ecstatic to be apart of a production that will get to use the LED Walls for the first time.
“They’re excited that they get to be the first ones to use this particular stuff,” Jebsen said. “We just had auditions for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we’ll start rehearsals for that as soon as Christmas Carol opens. Charlie and the Chocolate opens in February. You have two casts that are ecstatic to be the first ones to use the new technology.”
The LED walls were installed about two weeks ago but originally Jebsen wasn’t certain if they would be done in time for A Christmas Carol. There was an original plan of what to do in case they weren’t.
“One of the reasons why it has worked out so well for Christmas Carol is that we have a set built and it’s been around for years and years now,” Jebsen said. “We knew that if it didn’t get installed for Christmas Carol, we could do the show in the same tradition that we’ve done. But once we realized that it was going to be installed, I’m probably going to be using less than 50 percent of the set pieces that we already have and most of what we’re using are projections but we are still using the traditional set pieces.”
He talked about how thankful he and the rest of the MCT has been for the community’s support in helping with the fundraiser.
“It’s amazing how much this community supports not only the nonprofits but also the arts as well,” Jebsen said. “We’ve had a couple of foundations that saw the need, not only the for the lobby expansion but also the LED walls and they put lead gifts together to help convince people to support this. Foundations and individuals have driven this capital campaign and we’re thankful for their support.”
For more information about the Midland Community Theatre and the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, go to tinyurl.com/5hc8dnzs.