The Well-Spring Group recently built a state-of-the-art 340-seat theater that, in its initial season, is scheduled to host everything from chamber concerts and opera to a reader's theater event and a Black History Month concert, with more events likely to be added.
Wanting a theater with uncompromised quality and the flexibility to grow, Well-Spring, a community for seniors with high-quality services and amenities suitable for a full range of residents, called on architects Calloway Johnson Moore & West, in conjunction with Theatre Consultants Collaborative (TCC) of Chapel Hill, which served as design consultants for the project. A multidisciplinary collaborative of industry veterans providing an array of design services, TCC ensured every audience member would hear the theater's events by installing digitally steerable line array loudspeakers and subwoofers from Renkus-Heinz.
"This is the first time we've taken a performance space for one of these facilities to this level," said Jason Prichard, TCC performance systems designer. "We truly made a venue that's like a small version of a performing arts center." The sound system needed to serve a variety of programs with clarity and sufficient power for the space. "We wanted a speaker that would provide full-range support for light music, jazz, and speech; we were not trying to do rock and roll in here," Prichard said. "A lot of the need was to couple high-quality sound with minimal visual impact on the space."
TCC specified a pair of Renkus-Heinz IC Live Gen5 ICL-F-Dual-RD digitally steerable line array loudspeakers to cover the room, supplemented by two DR18-1R single 18-inch subwoofers to provide very low frequencies. The Dante-enabled ICL-F-Dual-RD consists of two IC Live array modules, each containing five 6.5-inch neodymium low-frequency transducers and three one-inch throat, titanium nitride-coated high-frequency drivers. Since every array element has its own DSP and amplifier channel, the ICL-F-Dual-RD offers individual control over each element to form up to eight beams.
With no balconies or other architectural complexities to accommodate, covering Well-Spring's theater was relatively straightforward. "We used two beams from each ICL-F-Dual-RD, one covering the front section and a second beam covering the rear seating," said Prichard.
Audio was distributed via a redundant Dante network controlled by a Symetrix Radius NX 12x8 DSP, as suggested by Greensboro-based Audio & Light, the installers and system programmers on the project. The Renkus-Heinz speakers are hardwired directly to the Dante switches. The Dante network also feeds audio to a 70-volt speaker system that covers several support spaces, and to a separate building-wide audio system, so that programs can be routed to the rest of the building in which the theater is housed. Similarly, video from the theater can be sent to a building-wide CATV system.
Inputs are connected through custom wall panels designed by TCC, installed at key locations around the stage and house areas. The theater's Yamaha TF series digital mixer can be connected to a panel placed in a raised seating area at the rear of the house for mixing from that position. A Crestron control panel can control the Symetrix DSP directly for quick setup for speeches or simple events.
TCC gave the speakers a low visual profile. "We worked carefully with the architect to incorporate the speakers into the structure on either side of the proscenium," said Prichard. "We requested a custom color and put them into faux column fascia panels; you don't even notice them. The subwoofers are in the front-of-stage at the aisles, hidden behind fabric."
The context of a senior community added considerations beyond TCC's typical jobs. "It is a unique experience working in a theater geared toward an older age group," Prichard said. "We needed to think about sound control in the theater to make sure it was as quiet as possible in the room, and we needed good intelligibility throughout the space." A specialized contractor installed a hearing loop system in the floor of the theater for assisted listening.
Logistics was another issue TCC needed to address. "We had to consider how people are moved in and out of a room like that, and be able to accommodate a lot more walkers and wheelchairs than what we deal with in a standard theater space," said Prichard. "Finally, we didn't want it to ever go completely dark in the room; we needed good light on all paths for those with visual impairment. All of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) considerations we usually deal with are amped up in a space like this, since a majority of patrons are dealing with those types of issues."
Well-Spring is already working its theater hard. "What I like about the Renkus-Heinz speakers is that they are a quality product," said Prichard. "They give quality sound without a super-premium price. Honestly, if I'm speaking about how compact a steerable array is relative to its sound quality, I think the IC Live Gen5 sits at the top."