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Expanding Clear-Com Infrastructure Underpins Storytelling at NYC’s Public Theater


Clear-Com® intercom solutions have long been a go-to for The Public Theater, a means to ensure the behind-the-scenes technology for the stories they tell on stage is up to the task, now and for the future. In doing so, The Public Theater has recently implemented a new Clear-Com system to serve the multiple performance spaces in their Lower Manhattan headquarters on Lafayette Street at Astor Place in Manhattan.

One of the nation’s first non-profit theaters, The Public Theater has supported emerging playwrights and performers for over 60 years, including the premier of Hamilton in 2015,  and has won numerous awards, including six Pulitzer Prizes.

The project they’re currently working on is a system designed to provide reliable comms throughout their headquarters’ five theaters and their cabaret venue, Joe’s Pub. “The building wasn't meant to be a theater,” explains Audio Supervisor, Malachy Kronberg. “It’s actually three buildings with the walls blown out in some areas – the center (building) being the old Astor Library. The Luesther Theater’s dressing rooms are in the basement, and the theater is on the third floor, which creates some interesting comms issues.”

“The end goal is to have full connectivity between the theaters,” Kronberg continues – from the dressing rooms in the basement on the south side of the building up to the theater on the third floor on the north side – and never lose connectivity.”

To achieve that, Kronberg worked closely with Clear-Com’s James Schaller (Regional Sales Manager, Northeastern USA), ultimately designing multiple systems comprised of an Eclipse®HX , with an E-IPA high-density IP interface card, FreeSpeak II® beltpacks, and V-Series Iris™  and V-Series™ Desktop Panels. He adds that the intercom system in each theater will include the same elements, with some variances in terms of the number of FreeSpeak II beltpacks and V-Series panels deployed.

There was never any question of using a different manufacturer’s technology, Kronberg continues, citing Clear-Com’s service and support, the flexibility of their technology, and the ability to expand as their needs evolve. “Those are top of the list for us. We’ve used Clear-Com devices in our theaters for years, so it’s a natural fit.”

“I also have to mention how amazingly supportive Clear-Com has been throughout the project. James and the company have been great sources of information and partners. Before this, we’d run analog comms using Clear-Com Encore Analog Partyline Systems. With the switch to the V-Series Panels, we’re excited by what we can do and how much connection power we’ll have.”

Beyond connectivity, there are many other benefits the system provides. “A lot of them have to do with versatility – what we can take in and out and where we can route that.” That’s important, he notes, given the evolving use of intercom in theater. “A good example is that you’re starting to see video departments record their shows, using multiple feeds so they can watch a performance later and look directly at any changes they want to make, and lighting teams are also starting to do this now.”

Flexibility and the ability to provide discreet comms channels for multiple departments allow users to revisit cueing and workflow, using comms to streamline workflow in the development of shows and throughout their run, not just during performances. “These days, intercom isn’t just a communications tool - it’s also a workflow tool.”

In their Central Park venue, The Delacorte Theater, which will soon undergo a substantial renovation, Kronberg hopes to include Clear-Com’s Arcadia® Central Station. “For the Delacorte, we also purchased a FreeSpeak II® package that matched nicely with what we already had. The ease of programming with FreeSpeak II®, HelixNet®, and now Arcadia® lends itself well to the various skill and experience levels at The Public. We’ll often be the first place many people start in NYC, but we’re also a place where veterans of Broadway will come back to, as a home base, to do something ‘arty.’” So, for the veterans, Clear-Com is a familiar technology, and for new folks just making their bones in the industry, it provides an education in industry-standard comms.

Another benefit, he adds, is how robust and consistently reliable Clear-Com products tend to be long-term. An important consideration when dealing with freshly minted theater professionals is the wide range of settings in which The Public deploys comms, and because instead of renting intercom as they previously have, this is the first time they’ve purchased the systems outright.

“One of the big things that’s made a difference in purchasing versus renting is how robust and durable Clear-Com products are. They’re excellent – you can’t even imagine some of the things we go through at the Delacorte. It’s an outdoor venue with no ceiling, and the comms systems are constantly subject to extremes of heat and rain. The first FreeSpeak belt packs there have been through hell and back but keep on ticking. When it comes down to it, the worry of purchasing versus renting is always long-term maintenance costs. But we don't have those concerns with the hardware Clear-Com is putting out.”

With The Public now fully connected with a Clear-Com intercom system, there’s no limit to how they craft their art of storytelling.