Advice from an expert: Vol. VI. New technology is like new toys

Last week I had lunch with an exec. at PRG (the go-to shop for all lighting rentals for Broadway, car shows and the rest of the free world).  PRG was the original supplier of the lights in Phantom, the longest running show in Broadway history, which means it first installed the rental package 21 years ago.

As you can imagine, technology has changed a “watt” (sorry) over the last couple of decades.  So, Phantom had to change out all of their instruments, right?

Wrong.

Despite all of the advancements the lighting industry has made, the bulk of the Phantom package has stayed the same. They’ve swapped out the board, made some tweaks, changed some instruments and cabling (some changes were made for safety’s sake), but basically the same technology that thrilled audiences 21 years ago is still thrilling them today.

So what was the advice this expert imparted to me over burgers at Joe Allen’s?

Be careful of the new lighting technology companies that come out with new toys every year, making designers drool like 12 year old boys over the latest video game system.

It’s a Producer’s (and a parent’s) job to tell your designers (and your kids) that when times are tough, you have to play with the toys you have.  Because if toys from twenty years ago can still be effective, then last year’s toys can still be a lot of fun, and they are a lot less expensive.

Some designers/kids may cry if they don’t get the newest thing.  But the good ones will get creative.

I’d add that if your story is a good one, the audience won’t care what you’re playing with.

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