Bass Hall Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

The Bass Hall spot booth, where sound and lighting technicians from tours leave their "signatures.&quot
The Bass Hall spot booth, where sound and lighting technicians from tours leave their “signatures.”

Dione Kennedy, President & CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth
Dione Kennedy, President & CEO of Performing Arts Fort Worth
Today, our President & CEO Dione Kennedy blogs about the latest lighting and sound upgrades we’ve installed in the auditorium of Bass Performance Hall, in hopes of making the Hall’s wonderful acoustics even more so. These upgrades took us high above the stage, in secret rooms, on hidden beams, places the public has never seen. Until now, that is. We hired local photographer Jill Johnson to capture images of these seldom-seen nooks and crannies, as Dione explains below.

There’s never really a “slow time” at Bass Performance Hall. If nothing is happening on the stage, you can bet there’s something happening above or below it.

Last year, we here at Performing Arts Fort Worth cleared the calendars of Bass Hall, Van Cliburn Recital Hall and McDavid Studio to make sound and lighting upgrades. We strive to bring you the best the entertainment world has to offer, using the best audio and visual razzmatazz that the technical industry has to offer.

To help orchestrate these tasks, we brought in David Lawler, an old friend of the Hall who has guided us through upgrades since 1999, and technicians from J.R. Clancy, one of the leading companies in stage rigging. Over the course of several weeks, our Production and Building Services teams worked with Lawler and J.R. Clancy techs on these upgrades, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the end results. You’ll now notice crisper sound and sharper lights in all three spaces.

The biggest change we made was in sound, as we converted from analog to digital. Robert Earl Keen’s Texas-sized guitar riffs will be bigger and bolder. And when Hal Holbrook whispers a quiet, dramatic line in “Mark Twain Tonight,” you’ll hear every nuance in every utterance, as this upgrade boosted speech intelligibility.

A peek at the Bass Hall stage, from the center of the dome. Photo by Jill Johnson. (Click to enlarge)
A peek at the Bass Hall stage, from the center of the dome. Photo by Jill Johnson. (Click to enlarge)

We also overhauled our lighting, replacing some of our longtime theatrical lighting fixtures with state-of-the-art, color-changing LED lights. At the same time, we also had our routine rigging inspection and shell-ceiling maintenance done.

This was fun but sometimes harrowing work that found our teams high above the stage, nine stories from the ground.

Ongoing work in the Hall includes upgrades to our spotlights, which are housed in what we call a “spot booth.” This is a teeny-tiny room, hidden away from plain sight, where up to four people man the spotlights that “follow” the performers onstage.

Those who work the spotlights for touring Broadway shows often stencil the name and date of their tours somewhere in our spot booth – an old theater tradition.

Phantom of the Opera and Memphis left behind their stenciled "signatures." Photo by Jill Johnson.
Phantom of the Opera and Memphis left behind their stenciled “signatures.” Photo by Jill Johnson.

Broadway tours such as Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, West Side Story and The Lion King have left behind their colorful signatures in our spot booth, and we thought it would be fun to show them to you. Since that area of the Hall is inaccessible to the public, this may be the only time you get a glimpse of this magical little spot.

The incredible images below, taken by our house photographer Jill Johnson, should give you a good idea of how goose-bump-raising all of this work can be.

I do hope that you’ll come see us soon, so you can fall in love with Bass Hall all over again, as I certainly did after I experienced all of these incredible technical upgrades.

Enjoy Jill’s images below. See you at the theater.

Performing Arts Fort Worth Technical Director Doug Kirk (left) and J.R. Clancy technician John Eckert carefully walk on red steel beams, 90 feet above the Bass Hall stage.
Performing Arts Fort Worth Technical Director Doug Kirk (right) and J.R. Clancy technician John Eckert carefully walk on red steel beams, 90 feet above the Bass Hall stage.
The stage right pin rail, where large ropes are used to hoist scenery, lights, stage effects and, sometimes, people.
The stage right pin rail, where large ropes are used to hoist scenery, light, stage effects and, sometimes, people.
Technical Director Doug Kirk chats with us on one of the technician rails, hidden from the view of the audience.
Technical Director Doug Kirk chats with us on one of the technician rails, hidden from the view of the audience.
A secret door that leads to a secret “access room,” currently used for storage.
Our four spotlights are named after the Three Stooges. Say "Hi" to Moe. Larry, Curly and Shemp are up here, too.
Our four spotlights are named after the Three Stooges. Say “Hi” to Moe. Larry, Curly and Shemp are up here, too.
Signatures from Miss Saigon's tech team, from 2005.
In our spot booth, tech teams from Miss Saigon left behind their stenciled signature, 2005.
Signatures from the second national tour of West Side Story, 2013.
Signatures from the second national tour of West Side Story, 2013.
Mamma Mia!, Fosse and 9 to 5.
Mamma Mia!, Fosse and 9 to 5.
Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker, through the years.
Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker, through the years.
Doug looks as tiny as ant as he works on turnbuckles in the Hall.
Doug looks as tiny as an ant as he works on turnbuckles in the Hall.
Doug checks out the forestage reflectors. These reflectors direct early reflections from within the orchestra shell to the front positions of the seating area, enhance on-stage hearing for players situated on the pit lift forward of the proscenium, improve ensemble hearing in the orchestra pit and provide reinforcement of low power string instruments.
Doug checks out the forestage reflectors. These reflectors direct early reflections from within the orchestra shell to the front positions of the seating area, enhance on-stage hearing for players situated on the pit lift forward of the proscenium, improve ensemble hearing in the orchestra pit, and provide reinforcement of low power string instruments.
Not visible to the public, a beam signed by Perry R. Bass at the Hall’s “topping out” ceremony. In building construction, “topping out” is a construction tradition held when the final beam is placed atop a structure during its building.

The team that worked on sound and lighting upgrades included (clockwise): Doug Kirk, Technical Director Audio Systems; Carey Rogers, Assistant Director of Building Services; Steve Truitt, Technical Director; and
The team that worked on sound and lighting upgrades included (clockwise): Doug Kirk, Technical Director Audio Systems; Carey Rogers, Assistant Director of Building Services; Steve Truitt, Technical Director; and J.R. Clancy technician John Eckert.

All photos by Jill Johnson.

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