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Local theater hosts international debut of next-gen, sustainable stage lighting

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Wealthy Theatre is the first historic theatre in the world to debut the ETC Source 4 LED - the most significant development in stage lighting in over three decades, made in the USA, and premiering at Trip The Light 2012.
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Congratulations from United States Senator Debbie Stabenow

"Community Media Center's work to retain the character of this historical structure while also using the latest in energy efficient technology is impressive and I know will serve as a model for other theatres around the country. It is my undertanding that the next step in your plans is to upgrade the lighting system by converting it to LED stage lighting. I fully support your efforts and wish you every success as you seek partnerships that will enable you to continue your cutting-edge project." -United States Senator Debbie Stabenow

An American company has developed a protoype version of the most revolutionary stage lighting instrument in over three decades: an LED version of the Source 4 light, by ETC (Electronic Theatre Controls). And this weekend, with the support of the ETC, Wealthy Theatre will become the first historic theatre in the world to install and debut the use the prototype in an actual stage event.

"Trip The Light 2012," May 12 at Wealthy Theatre, will be the first stage production in the United States to be lighted with an LED spotlight.

"If this groundbreaking test proves successful," said Community Media Center (CMC) Executive Director Laurie Cirivello, "Wealthy Theatre will be well positioned to pursue our dream to become the first historic theatre to go 100% LED - a tall order, but invaluable in our quest to  become a "teaching hospital" for other historic theatres nationwide, when it comes to sustainable practices."

"Some of the most innovative approaches to greening have begun and continue right here, in Grand Rapids," said Grand Rapids Mayor George K. Heartwell. "Wealthy Theatre is uniquely positioned to accommodate LED stage lighting equipment."

"I can barely describe how huge this could be," said Erin Wilson, Director, Wealthy Theatre. "CMC has pioneered some of the most innovative usage of tech in recent memory but this is beyond anything we've imagined."

Normal stage lights require 1,000 watts of power and produce an equal amount of heat; the LED version created by ETC uses less than a tenth that much power, and produces nearly no heat.

"Some days we're conditioning air exclusively to compensate for heat generated by lighting instruments," Wilson said. "The heat coming off these instruments can ignite construction materials."

Additionally, Wilson said, a single LED instrument can replace multiple incandescent lights, with 2.4 million colors available without any gel changes.

"When a single LED instrument can replace multiple 1,000-watt instruments, in terms of capabilities, you're talking about 95% reduction in electrical usage," Wilson said.

Electrical costs at Wealthy Theatre are 300% greater than heating costs, he said.

The effort to get a prototype of this magnitude debuted at Wealthy Theatre happened because a local company, John Hyatt & Associates, took an interest in Wealthy's greening and sustainability fundraising efforts.

"Wealthy Theatre is trying to lead the way in heading off rising energy costs that cause many historic theatres to go under," said Hyatt & Associates CEO John Hyatt. "Retrofitting this community space 100% to LED would change everything, and it'd be a model for others, so it's a perfect demo site for the LED instrument."

Community Media Center is working this summer with Rockford Construction to finalize a greening campaign that seeks to revolutionize historic preservation, said Cirivello.

"This revolutionary instrument is a beacon of light - pun intended - that we're on the right path," Cirivello said.

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