Considered one of New Jersey’s preeminent arts and cultural institutions, Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) hosts more than 200 performances for over 240,000 patrons annually. Built in 1937 as a single-screen, first-run movie theatre, the building closed in the 1980s and reopened as a performing arts center in 1994. Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary season, MPAC has completed three major renovations over those years and now boasts all of the amenities necessary for a modern, 21st century concert venue, including a new L-Acoustics Kara loudspeaker system installed by Boulevard Carroll Entertainment Group.
The new house PA system comprises left and right arrays of 10 Kara each backed by hangs of three SB18 subs, a pair of KS28 subs under the stage, two X12 outfills, four X8 frontfills, and six X8 under-balcony fills, all powered by six LA12X and two LA4X amplified controllers. According to Boulevard Carroll President Anthony Cioffi, the installation of the system was the culmination of a years-long process during which the 1,300-seat venue experimented with several major brands of sound systems, ultimately finding Kara to be the best choice for a variety of reasons.
“The main physical challenge for the installation was the need to have everything hang off of the existing box truss, including the sound and the lighting,” Cioffi explains. “In addition to the weight issues that brings up, it’s also a tight fit. The Kara boxes and SB18 subs offered the best combination of coverage and impact for a variety of applications from theatrical performances to rock concerts, and in terms of unit size and weight. Crucially, we were able to fit the subs directly behind the Kara hangs. No other system could offer all of those elements.”
MPAC Director of Production Chris Ball acknowledges that, “We have an unusual front-of-house situation, in which the PA has to hang from the lighting truss, instead of its own steel, so we’ve always had to have very compact sound systems. One of the problems was that the old system couldn’t handle many of the bigger, louder shows that come through, so we had to rent additional PA components, which added to our costs. With the Kara system, that’s no longer an issue. The system fits the space and fits our volume and coverage needs.”
The Kara system had visited the venue several times in recent years, both as a rental system, provided by Boulevard Carroll, and most recently as part of an extended evaluation process by the theatre to choose the best installed system for its wide range of shows. During that process, a number of complete PA systems were brought in and installed for a week or two at a time, for a number of shows.
“We asked that they let us bring Kara in for testing during the most diverse group of shows they had on the schedule says,” Cioffi recalls. The result, he says, was “stellar,” with the Kara rig performing perfectly for rock shows as well as musicals. “They were doing their due diligence, bringing in a number of systems to listen to and examine, and they were being very smart about it,” he explains. “They asked each visiting front-of-house engineer to fill out a survey of their thoughts on each system. And the results of that polling was overwhelmingly positive for the Kara system.”
Ball notes that many of those live-sound engineers will come through the venue multiple times, and they’ve been voicing their approval of the move to the Kara system. Gladys Knight’s longtime FOH engineer, Ruben Laxamana, described the system as “amazing,” says Ball. “Since it’s been installed, we’ve had a dozen genres of shows in here, from rock bands to comedy to ballet to Broadway. It handles everything perfectly, and that’s exactly what any performing arts center needs.”