Stifel Theatre Creates Modern System in Historic Structure with CHAUVET Professional

Posted on March 13, 2023

Stifel Theatre Lighting
ST. LOUIS  – Adrian Silverstein and Joe Beck both relish talking about history, and it’s easy to understand why! As the assistant general manager and master entertainment electrician respectively of the venerable Stifel Theatre, they work in a building where the past seems to echo off every inch of beautiful Art Deco walls.

Once the largest stagehouses west of the Mississippi, the downtown theatre has hosted some of the most illustrious names from the worlds of opera, Broadway, and comedy, as well as contemporary music acts. Fascinating anecdotes springing up every step of the way, like the time The Rolling Stones performed their first concert in St. Louis here on July 12, 1966, when it was called the Kiel Opera House, and police had to control the large crowds that had gathered for tickets.

Like all historic gems, Stifel Theatre requires extra love and attention to ensure that it’s able to meet the needs of modern productions while still preserving its timeless character. “The historic nature of the theater presents some challenges,” said Silverstein. “We have to continue keeping up with things to ensure the quality and caliber of the acts that grace this stage.”

In 2010, after being closed for twenty years, the theatre underwent an extensive, 18-month renovation, including an upgrade to its lighting system. However, those improvements only took the theatre’s lighting system so far.

“While the lighting system that was installed during the renovation drastically improved what had previously been in place, there were opportunities to enhance its performance features,” said Beck. “It had no intelligent lighting fixtures and the conventional fixtures we did have were not in large enough quantities to do much more than a two-color wash and some front light. Also, to quote a phrase my grandmother used, that system lacked the ‘umph” that was needed to do justice to our stage.” (The theatre’s stage has a 14’ apron, while the stage itself, including the apron and is 128′ wide and 60′ deep.)

Recently, the Stifel Theatre was able to create such a system by working with iConic Solutions Group to install a new rig featuring 170 CHAUVET Professional fixtures supplied by Cine Services/Bad Dog Productions of St. Louis. Included in this collection are 50 Ovation Rêve E-3 multi-color ellipsoidals, 40 Ovation F-195 FC Fresnels, 20 Maverick Force 1 Spots, 20, RogueR3X Wash units, 30 WELL Fit uplighters, 10 Well Panels and one AmHaze Stadium foggers.

Led by general manger Todd Mitchell, the team at the Stifel Theatre selected this package after some extensive research, which included talking to visiting LDs and production crews about their experience with different fixtures. They also received some advice from Rob Denton of rdentex Design, who oversaw the installation of over 700 CHAUVET Professional fixtures at St. Louis’ iconic outdoor venue, The Muny.

“Rob provided mountains of input and information about Chauvet both as company and as a provider of lighting equipment,” said Beck. “He and Kyle Curtis, who represents Chauvet through iConic Solutions, were instrumental in our decision.”

Adding 20 Maverick Force 1 Spot and 20 Rogue R3x Wash moving fixtures greatly expanded the flexibility of the theatre’s rig, noted Beck, who added that the movers also cut down on the amount of time and expense involved in rehanging and refocusing for nearly every event, something that had been a necessity in the past.

Stifel Theatre Lighting

“In addition to being more efficient, the full color-mixing capabilities of our new fixtures open much greater design possibilities,” said Beck. “Also, the variable pulse width modulation is invaluable for our broadcast shows And, very important to our crew, none of the new fixtures weighs more than 48 pounds.”

The quality of light and color mixing of the new system, along with its sheer number of fixtures, makes holding events much easier at Stifel Theatre, which hosts a diverse range of programming, from family productions like “Paw Patrol Live,” to classical concerts comedy shows, to concert performances by the likes of Toto, John Mellencamp and Harry Connick Jr.

Playing a big role in providing the rich palette of colors at the theatre are its Rêve E-3 fixtures. “We have 5ﹾ lenses on 16 of these units and use them for high front light from a position we call ‘The Cove,’ which is an opening cut into the ceiling some 15-feet about the projection booth,” said Beck. “The throw is considerable at approximately 135-feet at plaster line to nearly 150-feet. at mid stage. I can tell you that side-by-side with a 750watt quartz-halogen ERS — and I don’t care who made it — the Reve E-3 is a hands-down winner.”

There are 12 more Reve E-3 ellipsoidals located in the box boom positions stage left and right. The longest throw is about 110-feet t and the shortest is about 30-feet. Lensing includes 10º, 14º, 19º and 26º applications. A handful of additional Reve E-3 units is reserved for specials. Another eight Reve units are kept out the main rig for use as add-ons, spares, or for the occasional non-theatrical application in the lobby or other areas of the facility.

Joining the ellipsoidals in colorizing the sage is the Ovation F-915 FC Fresnel. These fixtures are position on five fly-system battens on approximately 8-foot centers, upstage-to-downstage with each batten carries fixtures.

The rig’s Well Fit fixtures are primarily relied on for support lighting for other areas of the facility but can be and are occasionally employed as additional lighting for the art-deco architecture in the theater for some events.

“Visiting LDs have been very pleased by our new system, especially those who visited before our upgrade,” said Beck. “Our system has the capacity to deploy multiple DMX universes in nearly any location on stage or out in the auditorium which, when combined with the 160-fixture inventory, affords touring acts and LD’s a great deal of flexibility. For those acts that don’t tour with a floor package, we keep a handful of heads in reserve in the event there is a desire to have floor fixtures.”

Visiting crews are also always pleased by the updated lighting positions at the theatre, which afford a good deal of flexibility for power and ethernet connectivity despite the age of the facility. Still, some reminders of the theatre’s age are still present, but they have no effect on the performance of the lighting system.

“Most of the original access routes and intricate catwalk and ladder systems remain in place and in use,” said Beck, calling it “part of the charm you get with a historic structure.” And this historic structure does indeed possess and abundance of charm — but now it also has a thoroughly up-to-date lighting system that gives LDs all the tools they need to create memorable shows.