It was way back in 1939 that The Wizard of Oz first opened in theaters, and if you thought that was a long time ago, it was a full 13 years before that when Knox County Memorial Theater first opened its doors. Now, a new stage production of the classic story is showcasing how LIVE! Technologies transformed the 1926 theater into a venue that meets the needs of today’s touring artists and theatrical productions.
But before Dorothy could make her way home to Kansas, LIVE! had its own challenges to overcome. Our analysis determined that the theater needed new electrical service, sound system, lighting, rigging, communication system, as well as multiple infrastructure improvements. Oh, and we had 16 weeks to coordinate and complete the entire project.
A few surprises immediately greeted our team at the beginning. First, there were no electrical drawings for the original building. Most of the existing electric conduit was buried in the walls and floors. And the theater wasn’t constructed with the capability for a counterweight system.
LIVE! replaced the existing sound system, installed in 2002, with a Yamaha mixing console and Meyer speakers, which are among the best audio systems in the world. We selected a combination of four different speakers in order to provide the best sound coverage. The result is that no matter where you’re seated, there’s no more than a 2-decible difference between what you hear and what someone on the other side of the theater hears.
The projection screen was replaced with not one but two motorized screens, one placed toward the back of the stage and one in front of the main curtain. We also replaced all of the 1960s incandescent lighting fixtures with a new LED theatrical lighting system.
A new motorized rigging system allows actors to fly through the air, which brings a thrilling dimension to performances and makes those flying monkeys in Oz all the more terrifying. Stage managers have nothing to fear, however, thanks to a state-of-the-art control system and an innovative intercom system that ensures a smooth production.
All of the new equipment and technology may be just as dazzling as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, but it’s ultimately all in service of creating amazing performances that enchant audiences. But don’t take our word for it. Read what those in the audience and those behind the scenes have to say about the new Knox Memorial and see photos of the production: