ETC's Congo® lighting control console was a huge hit with the producers of the red-hot Venezuela Viva! show, which finished up a packed-house 35-city tour of the Netherlands, on December 10th, 2006, by way of the Edinburgh Festival and other stops.
Performed by the Las Lizarraga Company (the first Venezuelan company to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe), the touring show combines vibrant music, dance, poetry, lighting effects and video projections to illustrate the history and the colorful blend of cultures and events that have informed Venezuelan national identity. With flamenco as a starting point, the show narrates the history of Venezuela from Columbus onward. Performances combining lively zapateos (rhythmic foot stomping), sensual movement and dramatic crescendos with Arab dance, Afro-Venezuelan drumming, classical flamenco and Caribbean salsa result in a show bursting with energy and passion. The complex music, itself referencing and fusing New and Old World rhythms, was composed especially for the show, which is directed and choreographed by Carolina Lizarraga.
Venezuela Viva! was brought to the attention of Universal Arts, a tour and management agency that specializes in bringing shows from abroad to the Edinburgh Fringe, by the Venezuelan cultural attaché in London. Founder Tomek Borkowy said: "In January '05 I went to see the show and discussed with Carolina the changes needed for the international market. Two months later I started to work on the show as a consultant director and made a number of changes to it with lighting as a priority. Venezuela doesn't have lighting directors as we know them, and after trying out a couple of different people there, I decided to call in David Gray, whom I have worked with as lighting designer on a number of occasions."
"The lighting design was not our only challenge: when we first brought the show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2005, we had some problems with unreliable lighting control desks. They were simply not up to the job and kept breaking down on us. I did not want to risk those kinds of problems on a big tour. So David - who is ETC's associate regional manager in Italy and who used to be a board member of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society - recommended the ETC Congo desk. He arranged for us to try it, and I was really impressed with how well it worked and how user friendly it was."
Following the sell-out success at the Fringe, the group returned to Venezuela to prepare for their tour across Holland, coordinated by Universal Arts, once again enlisting the help of David Gray as lighting designer and programmer.
Gray says: "I booked a week's holiday off work and took my demo Congo desk to relight and program the show for a one-off production in June. That show was an eye-opener for me, as they have very different methods of working, especially with regard to power sources. A half an hour before the show, we were told to switch everything off while they unplugged the venue from the national grid and started up a generator, which would provide a guaranteed power supply."
The use of the Congo particularly paid off when the show arrived for the multi-week tour of the Netherlands later in the year. Just a few hours of touching up was needed before it began the first of 36 performances across the country. Dutch distributor Lightco supplied the new desk, and although Gray did the tweaks, programmer Tony Newton Universal Arts' Tour Technical Manager continued his work and stayed on as board operator. Illustrating what ETC calls Complete Control in its new generation of lighting systems, the Congo handles complex rigs filled with conventional fixtures, automated luminaires, and LEDs, as well as media servers. Venezuela Viva! uses a large video screen on stage behind the performers to project a stunning montage of Venezuelan-themed scenery and landscapes. says Borkowy "For the next tour we are planning to use the Congo's media server to run our video projections. It will not only eliminate the need for a dedicated DVD operator but will also allow us to do special effects coordinating stage and screen movement."
For a high-energy production like Venezuela Viva!, filled with dramatic color and dynamic lighting effects, Congo is ideal. "I'm delighted with the Congo," says Borkowy. "The show's gone spectacularly well, and I'm hoping that for this autumn tour of Eastern Europe and next year's tour of Germany and Belgium we'll be able to use the new Congo jr. I've been so impressed with ETC that I plan to use the desk in our venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year."