Muhlenberg College puts ETC’s newest console to the test

Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a small liberal arts college with a strong technical theater program. For 15 years, Muhlenberg used ETC’s Expression®-family control consoles to handle their stage lighting. With a performance-heavy schedule, and tech students testing their lighting design know-how on a variety of shows, Muhlenberg has now graduated to ETC’s new Ion®.

According to master electrician on staff, Paul Theisen, it took only a short time to acclimate to the new state-of-the-art console: “We were impressed with how quickly we were able to get the board up and running and how smoothly it was to transition into a tracking console.”

Ion’s user-friendly style of control not only speeds training, but makes it a great teaching board: “Our students come to us with varying degrees of skill and interest in technical theater,” according to Theisen. “Any console we use can’t intimidate new students, but should still have the power that advanced students and professional guest-designers want. We need a console that can be as simple to use as sliding a submaster, or as complex as any production might demand.” Ion’s intuitive layout puts beginners at ease, while more seasoned board operators have a cache of professional features at their fingertips.

In its first exam at Muhlenberg, Ion was used on a dance concert showcasing ten student-choreographed pieces. The console’s powerful control of automated fixtures allowed Muhlenberg to add moving lights and scrollers on the show. “With two universes of DMX, we are able to control all of our conventional fixtures and still have more than enough DMX to control all the rented moving lights and scrollers we’d ever want,” adds Theisen.

Having Ion on the show meant a new level of production values: “The ease in which we could control the moving lights and color changers made the board more flexible for me as a designer. It allowed me to try things I wouldn’t have had the time to work out on our older console.”

Ion features, such as its virtual encoders, make the programming phase easier. Color matching is also a breeze with Ion’s unique color picker and swatch book. With tight changeover times between productions, speed is important. Says Theisen: “The built-in moving-light fixture library made short work of what used to be a complex patching sequence. I would recommend Ion to any school that is interested in providing their students with the ability to program and control moving lights, without having to face the learning curve of a traditional rock-and-roll moving-light console.”

At only 19 inches wide, Ion offers another benefit for schools like Muhlenberg: it takes up minimal space in their smaller, student-jammed control rooms. And Ion’s portability buffers the tech budget, allowing the console to be put to use wherever it’s needed next: “Its size is small enough that you could move it from venue to venue without much effort,” says Theisen.

Ion’s next assignment at Muhlenberg will be the spring show, Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, followed by summer schoolwork on Muhlenberg’s productions of Kiss Me Kate and Tommy.


Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

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“We were impressed with how quickly we were able to get the board up and running and how smoothly it was to transition into a tracking console.” – Paul Theisen, master electrician

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