Established in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is home to three theaters, including the oldest full-scale Elizabethan stage in the Western Hemisphere, the 1,200-seat Allen Elizabethan Theatre. A longtime Clear-Com client, OSF recently added the Arcadia® Central Station to their preexisting FreeSpeak II® Wireless Intercom and HelixNet® Digital Partyline system to service both the Elizabethan and the 600-seat Angus Bowmer Theatre. The addition proved so immediately beneficial that Audio Engineer Amadon Jaeger is now integrating a second Arcadia system for their 300-seat black box venue, The Thomas Theatre. Across all three venues, Arcadia’s cutting-edge technology will allow OSF to both increase its existing capabilities and expand its functionality going forward.
“Now, when we get requests from other departments who want to talk to each other we can say, ‘yes, that’s possible,’” explains Amadon. “It’s a good feeling not to default to saying ‘no’ because of gear limitations. Including more departments and crew who’ve previously had a harder time communicating with everyone into the communications structure has made the workflow better and more efficient.”
Although OSF’s programming remains scaled back compared to pre-pandemic levels there’s still a significant amount of work going on for those behind the scenes, particularly when there are matinee and evening performances of two completely different plays on two completely different sets on the same day.
The sound department is comprised of just five employees, who are concurrently producing Rent and Romeo and Juliet in the Bowmer Theatre, The Three Musketeers and Twelfth Night in the Elizabethan, and gearing up to open Where We Belong in the Thomas Theatre. “Our Clear-Com system upgrade was really important for getting all our theaters working and setting up our sound team for success as we run a myriad of different shows in repertory,” says OSF Sound Supervisor, Val Turos.
A long-time Clear-Com client, OSF has consistently upgraded its intercom system over time, deploying various Clear-Com legacy products and adding the HelixNet and FreeSpeak II systems between 2016 and 2018. Now, Val says that Arcadia’s digital connectivity enhances coverage in the “labyrinth” of shared spaces (i.e., dressing rooms) beneath the venues and that transitioning from XLR to Cat5 cabling has improved that coverage, especially in the Elizabethan.
“The fact that we could upgrade so easily speaks to the flexibility of all of the [Clear-Com] systems and how they connect,” adds Amadon. “Arcadia being one integrated system allows for a degree of flexibility we’ve never been able to accomplish before. Previously, we were limited to how many channels we could create with both wired and wireless options. Now, with Arcadia, we can assign channels to any box regardless of whether it’s wired or wireless because it’s digital and all-in-one. It’s hugely beneficial. And it sounds better. We don’t have issues with echoes or different gain levels across different systems; all the problems that showed themselves are gone now.”
Ultimately, the possibilities offered by the upgrade to Arcadia's comms technology mirrors OSF’s efforts to expand the transformational power of their productions on all their stages, including offerings provided via “O”, their digital stage.
“We have so many more options, and we’re going to come up with things we’ve never thought of before,” Amadon concludes. “And when investigating those options, instead of having to say ‘no,’ now, the audio team at OSF can say, ‘yes, let’s get it done.’”