Elevating The Stage for an All-Inclusive Experience



More than 300 talented musicians and performers filled the 62 x 63 University of California Berkeley Zellerbach Auditorium stage during an astounding, all-inclusive performance comprising of a 165 piece orchestra and two combined choruses that made up approximately 200 members.

The challenge for the production crew would be to (1) effectively showcase a substantial amount of performers on one stage and (2) to configure the set in a way so that the entire orchestra and combined choruses could have an unobstructed view of the conductor.

Overcoming a Challenge

Together, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the UC Berkeley University Chorus and the Pacific Boychoir all joined the stage, predominantly featured in the inspiring show “¡MUSICA!” using platforms and risers to elevate both performer and audience experience.

“Our production crew used Staging Concepts SC 90 platforms to create a multi-tiered performance riser that could effectively display the musical sections in six levels, starting with the strings on the first level all the way to the two choruses at the top, back level,” said Doug Warrick, Cal Performances General Manager.

This riser system enabled director Gustavo Dudamel to harmoniously conduct the 365 musicians and performers as he stood front and center stage atop a 4’x4’ SC 90 platform. Not only could every performer of the orchestra and choruses see all of his gestures, the audience was visually captivated by Dudamel’s charismatic way of conducting. During the performance, Dudamel would turn around to the audience and lead them to sing along. “In this instance, it was important to have the conductor himself elevated and mainly displayed,” explains Jon Chase, Staging Concepts Engineering Vice President. “A simple SC 90 platform did just the trick.”

Configuring the Stage

When setting up a riser system for performance spaces such as Cal Performances, it’s important to configure a set that is effective yet subtle. The risers and platforms should add dimensions to the stage while looking and feeling as though they are part of the building. The Staging Concepts SC 90 Adjustable Supports allowed Cal Performances to adjust the platform heights to create different multi-level tiers specific to what was needed for the Simon Bolivar Symphony and chorus performance.

“With over a dozen engineers on staff, we love the challenge of diving into a client’s needs and making sure we’re providing the exact system that they require. Whether it’s a small high school choir or a large-scale production, we like to customize our equipment to work with any size performance,” Chase said.

Dudamel arrived at the UC Berkeley Zellerbach Auditorium with his extraordinary Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela ready to join forces with the University Chorus and the Pacific Boychoir. Together, they delighted the audience, singing and playing together with remarkable energy.

The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra is the flagship of the orchestral program of the State Foundation for the Venezuelan System of Youth and Child Orchestras. The program involves over 250,000 members across the country including a system of preschool, children’s and youth orchestras. The talented youth of this orchestra, combined with the young and gifted Pacific Boychoir and the University Chorus, made way for an exceptionally diverse performance.

“Every one of the young performers deserved the spotlight and–with so many on the stage at one time—the risers and platforms made it possible for them to perform safely, which all resulted in an enjoyable event for both the performers and the audiences,” Warrick said.

Cal Performances is a performing arts organization based in the University of California, Berkeley. Over the years, it has grown to become the largest, multidiscipline performing arts presenter in Northern California, and one of the largest university-based arts presenters in the United States. Zellerbach Auditorium is one of five Cal Performances venues. Performances at this venue range from instrumental and vocal recitals, music chambers to dance and theater performances.

“When dealing with a venue that hosts 250 plus shows a year, it’s very important to sit down with a client to understand all the different potential staging needs and then to have the ability to create a system that is flexible enough to meet each show’s prospective needs,” said Joe Olson, Staging Concepts sales associate.

Whether or not an auditorium will be hosting multiple music groups on one stage, risers and platforms are a good way to elevate the experience for both the performers and the audience. By giving the stage some dimension, not only will the performers be given the stage display they deserve, the audience will also have a more interesting visual display to focus on.

About the Author
Anna Tu is the Marketing Coordinator for Staging Concepts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Staging Concepts offers portable stage equipment including: performance stage platforms, seating riser platforms, choral risers, custom applications, camera platforms, portable stairs and raised flooring. For more information, visit stagingconcepts.com.