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The Tender Land | Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre


‘The Tender Land’, with music by Aaron Copland and libretto by Horace Everett, is a story about how one night can change the life of a single person. Set on a farm during the depression, it was the choice for an outdoor performance – at a farmhouse – by the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theater (UFOMT). “The idea is that you can find love in one night, but surprisingly, the pair doesn’t end up getting together; the girl ends up leaving on her own, and moves on from the farm and her family,” notes Lighting Designer and Head Electrician Jordyn Cozart. “It was a very interesting project; I had never done outdoor theater as a designer before, so it was challenging,” she adds.

The opera was performed on the front porch, and Cozart’s console was in the backyard of the residence located in Millville, Utah. “People were entering and exiting from the house, which is where the RC4 gear comes in,” Cozart notes. “At the end of graduation party, as they’re going inside, the director wanted to be able to make it look like, the lights of the house turn off like they’re going to bed.”  After that, she adds, “There is a moment where the main character is up in the window of her bedroom, and the love interest is throwing a rock at the window. She wanted to have a light on in the window so we could see that moment happening inside the house as well. I did not want to rely on actors to turn on and off lights, plus the color temperature of this very modern house would not be the same as it would have been in the 1930s during the depression ”

Cozart fabricated two custom lanterns as a solution. She explains, “I put six volt LED tape in lanterns that I found in the prop shop and then used the RC4 equipment to control it from out in the lawn where the board was. There were two lanterns; there was one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom window.”

Because of the location, she chose to use the RC4Magic-900SX series of products, which uses the 900MHz bandwidth, ensuring superior wireless signal strength. “Each of the lanterns was controlled by an RC4Magic-900SX DMX4dim. The transmitter I used was the 900MHz because I knew that it would be able to go through the walls of the house, and that was my biggest concern since I was operating this from an Ion console literally in the back of the yard behind a porch swing,” notes Cozart.

There was another challenge involved as well. Cozart continues: “The lanterns were a last-minute add, and having the RC4 equipment and knowing I could rely on it and knowing it would work was very nice. It could have been a stressful addition to the production, but it ended up being something I did in 20 minutes: I just soldered a connector on the end of the LED tape, and it was ready to go.”

Cozart, a grad student, spent the summer at the Eccles Theater, the home of UFOMT. “I was the head electrician for the whole season, and this is my first time working with RC4 equipment. ‘The Tender Land’ was our last show to open, so I had been working with it for two months before I used it on that show. By that time, I was familiar with Commander [RC4’s proprietary software], which was nice. If you have basic wiring knowledge, all you have to do is plug it in and it works. That’s simplifying a bit, but it is super reliable,” she says.

For those unfamiliar with RC4, Cozart notes: “I think the concept of wireless DMX seems very daunting at first. When I first got here and realized that all the practicals I was using were wirelessly operated, I was very nervous about it. But honestly, RC4 has made it very easy;  it isn’t as scary as you think it is going to be, and it does make doing practicals much easier.”

Cozart is moving onto the theater department at UNLV; she’s not sure of their current wireless DMX situation. “I have full intention of continuing to do more with wireless dmx, and working with RC4. They make wireless so much less scary,” she concludes.