Kung Fu, the new play from David Henry Hwang, the Tony Award-winning author of M. Butterfly, introduced audiences to a Bruce Lee they probably don’t know. Fusing dance, Chinese opera, martial arts, and drama into a bold, new theatrical form, Kung Fu showcases Lee in his journey from troubled Hong Kong youth to martial arts legend, husband, and father. WorldStage supported the production with projection and playback equipment during its world premiere at New York City’s Signature Theatre.
A scene from "Kung Fu" featuring production support from World Stage.
WorldStage provided projection designer Darrel Maloney with eight Christie projectors, a mix of M Series HD14K and HD10K models, plus a d3 Technologies video playback platform so he could pixel map the entire set.
Maloney’s diverse array of animated projections transformed the martial arts studio set, featuring concrete-like side walls, wood paneling, cinderblocks, and an archway into a back room, into a backdrop for many scenes from Lee’s life. A proscenium arch, projected around the arch in the set, added grandeur to a Chinese opera sequence. Shadows of telephone poles and other exterior elements created a Hong Kong alleyway for a street brawl. Vintage ’60’s graphics and a show open styled on The Green Hornet TV series recreated Lee’s American TV debut. And training drawings, based on Lee’s diagrams of martial arts moves, accented his amazing athletic ability.
WorldStage worked hand-in-hand with the production staff at Signature Theatre on projector placement. “We had to squeeze a slew of projectors into a relatively confined space,” says WorldStage director of emerging technologies, Lars Pedersen. “We needed to provide an image canvas that covered all the scenic surfaces, all the nooks and crannies, without being obtrusive and with minimal impact on the lighting, props and scenic departments.
“We were fortunate in that we were able to place the projectors in close proximity to their respective optimal positions,” Pedersen continues. “The other departments were very accommodating and attuned to our needs. In those few instances where location was less than ideal, the outstanding warp and geometry correction features of the d3 playback system made pixel mapping a pretty straightforward process.”
Maloney, who previously worked with WorldStage on A Night with Janis Joplin, at Broadway’s Lyceum Theater, likes the confident feeling that comes from working with WorldStage. “I really like knowing I’ll get a complete package that will work from day one,” he says. “And if I run into any problems I know they’ll be there to support me.”
“Kung Fu was one of our larger productions, and the projections were integral to the piece,” notes Paul Ziemer, director of production at the Signature Theatre Company. “WorldStage and Lars did a great job. WorldStage is a top-class organization, and it was great to do business with them. We’re an off-Broadway theater with big desires in terms of what we want to do. WorldStage was incredibly helpful in keeping costs down and maximizing our budget.”