ORLANDO – Comedians rarely make Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, but nothing about Kevin Hart’s extraordinary career can be described as ordinary. Appearing in 10 high-profile films over the past decade, while recording four blockbuster comedy albums and performing before sold-out crowds across the globe, the hard-driving comic (who was one of Time’s top influencers in 2015) has helped define humor, style and swagger for an entire generation.
A key to Hart’s success, aside from his lightning quick wit, has been his uncanny ability to connect to audiences. This attribute makes him an ideal performer to appear on an open circular stage, where he can breezily move around, bonding with people in every direction. For all its benefits, though, a round stage, with its lack of a backdrop, creates a special set of issues for a lighting designer. Zack Bunner, Hart’s regular LD, skillfully met this challenge recently for the comic’s early January appearance at Orlando’s 10,000-seat UCF Arena with help from CHAUVET Professional Rogue and Nexus fixtures.
“There are different situations to deal with when you have a 360° open stage,” said Bunner of Showtime Sound. “We were able to use the fixtures in our rig to create a sense of space on stage, surrounding Kevin with light without interfering with the connection you get from the open layout. Brett Angstadt did an excellent job designing and rendering our rig so we could achieve this balance.”
Bunner and his team, which also included assistants Richard Rothermel, Selina Delgado and Gina Magurno, used 12 Rogue R2 Wash fixtures and 16 Nexus 4×4 panels to create their engaging look. They positioned the Rogue units on horizontal truss suspended about 30’ over the circular stage. Drawing on the fixture’s tight beam angle, they focused light on the stage truss, washing it in whites and an array of colors. They also used the Rogue fixtures for audience lighting.
“Our bread-and-butter fixture is the R2 Wash,” said Bunner. “We used it as a great crowd wash, as well as a stage wash throughout the show. The zoom is so versatile we were able to use it also for various beam looks. As a crowd wash, it illuminated people, so Kevin could see them and connect, without blinding anyone. We rarely have a show where we don’t make this fixture our backbone.”
The Nexus 4×4 panels were hung on stage truss facing the crowd. Run at 75 percent, the COB RGB panels provided a bright and bold reference point for the stage without detracting from its openness. “We created some compelling eye candy with the Nexus panels,” said Bunner. “By pixelating them, we came up with an endless stream of images that reflected different aspects of Kevin’s performance.”
Describing the Nexus panels as “the main fixture for this show,” Bunner credits them with creating visuals that the whole arena could enjoy because of their brightness. Like Kevin Hart himself, they connected to the crowd by being vibrant, colorful and able to work wonders on a circular stage.