Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, Calif., recently underwent a reported $7 million renovation. The renovated Peet’s Theatre—formerly called the Thrust stage, and renamed to reflect Berkeley Rep’s new partnership with the coffee company—is scheduled to reopen for its first production in early February. It will be the first venue in North America designed principally for dramatic presentations with a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system.
Constellation instantly transforms the acoustics of a performance space, enabling a venue to enfold audiences in a host of different ambient sonic characteristics. In Peet’s Theatre Constellation is a dual-zone system dedicated to both enhancing early reflections from actors onstage and creating reverberation characteristics appropriate for any production. Digital processing is hosted by the D-Mitri digital audio platform, which hosts the patented VRAS acoustical algorithm. This works in conjunction with 24 microphones and 23 HMS-5 surround loudspeakers, 11 MM-4XP and sixMM-4XPD self-powered loudspeakers, 18 UP-4XP and 12 UP-JuniorXPVariO loudspeakers, and eight UMS-1XP subwoofers.
Once programmed, Constellation’s acoustical environments can be changed instantly with the push of a touchscreen button. When required, direct sound reinforcement is supplied by a separate system of six Meyer Sound loudspeakers suspended over the stage.
“This is a 270-degree thrust stage, which means that actors are directly facing only a third of the audience at any given time,” says Peter Dean, production manager at Berkeley Rep. “Without Constellation, the actor has to be acutely aware of projecting out to the audience. We’re now eliminating some of that complexity, which makes it easier for the actor to react to the emotions in the scene.”
James Ballen, Berkeley Rep’s sound supervisor, says that he expects that Constellation will also benefit older patrons with marginal hearing loss. “We will still offer the mandated ALS systems, but with Constellation’s enhanced intelligibility, some patrons with borderline problems may find they no longer need to wear headsets.”
Constellation will be pre-loaded with a number of presets for different acoustical environments, with others custom programmable for each production. “Even though you are sitting in a relatively small, enclosed room, we can make it sound like a castle or concert hall,” says Dean.
Constellation’s loudspeakers can also double as a sophisticated surround sound system. “This will revolutionize the way we think of sound design in drama for regional theater,” says Ballen. “With the comprehensive loudspeaker coverage provided by Constellation, the possibilities are practically limitless.”