Colin Harbinson

 

The Masterpiece–an adaptation of Toymaker & Son

You can learn more about "The Masterpiece" video by clicking here.

A Report on The Technical Aspect of the Show
By Impact Productions, Tulsa OK.

What do you get when you combine the excitement of a live Broadway-style stage show, the intensity of over a quarter million dollars in lighting and special effects, and the passion and zeal of 30 multitalented performers and technicians with a vision to reach a sight and sound generation for Jesus Christ? None other than "The Masterpiece–A Toymaker's Dream. "

The message of "The Masterpiece" is unmistakable. The medium is fresh and high-tech. Cloaked in a fantasy world of toys and their toymaker, the redemption story from creation to resurrection is retold in a unique fusion of drama, dance and mime. The hour and a half production combines the skill and precision of 23 artists with some of today's most advanced technology and was designed to create an unforgettable experience for the entire family.

In this Toymaker's magical world, the apprentices anxiously await the unveiling of the masterpiece designed by the Toymaker and his son. Abruptly, the dream is shattered when the jealous chief apprentice attempts to steal the design and build the masterpiece himself. Banished from the presence of the Toymaker, the Evil Apprentice plots revenge, even if it means destroying the beloved masterpiece. The Toymaker and his son conceive a rescue plan in which the Toymaker's own son will become a toy. The rest, as they say, is history.

This powerful stage production is the brainchild of Impact Productions, a nonprofit performing arts group and production company based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But, being one of the only full time Christian touring theatrical productions does not come without its own unique problems. While they do perform in many theaters, the company also sets up in large church auditoriums at least half of the time. All churches have their own unique design and their own set of design flaws. In order to recreate a uniform stage every time, they travel with a Wenger versatile stage that can fit with different size legs to accommodate any size platform. Genie Supertower lifts are used to elevate a front and back light truss. Side light trusses are set at stage height in order to successfully achieve mood, selective visibility and composition to help create a surreal background effect during the scenes depicting the evil characters, and during the intense crucifixion scene. They also help contribute more depth and atmosphere when combined with the front lighting.

One essential ingredient to the powerful dramatic lighting is the use of a crack oil hazer which produces a vapor mist that hangs in the air. This, with the use of dry ice and chemical foggers, not only adds dimension to the light show but one of their most spectacular effects. In the climactic resurrection scene, a laser light cone envelopes the Toymaker's son as he rises from the dead. Five sparkle airbursts are ignited simultaneously overhead to produce a sensation of good triumphing over evil. In the opening scene in which Satan rebels from God, flame projectors capable of producing flames up to 10 feet tall are used to accent the power struggle between the benevolent Toymaker and the Evil Apprentice.

Roots and Growth

"The Masterpiece" owes its innovative concept to Colin Harbinson, director of the International Festival of the Arts. As an elementary schoolmaster in England, he was faced with the project of creating a Christmas play for the school using students. He awoke one morning with the simple concept of toys and a toymaker flooding into his mind, and created the play accordingly. The play was a tremendous success. Later, as director for the School of the Arts with YWAM, he developed the play for theaters and for street outreach using adults. It quickly became an international Phenomenon. In 1982, when Tom Newman first saw the play "Toymaker and Son" in Ontario, Canada, he was moved by the simplicity of the message. He saw the international potential of a drama not dependent on words.

As producer, Newman makes no bones about the need for Christianity to communicate on the level of today's society. "Let's face it, we live in a contemporary world. Why would we use archaic means to communicate God's love to this generation? "Originally, Impact Productions was formed to produce and manage "The Masterpiece" some 14 years ago. Today, the company has expanded into a multifaceted production house reaching thousands around the world through drama, music, film and video.

At one time, this may have been one of the best kept secrets in Christianity, but in the past several years "The Masterpiece" has become known across the evangelical world as a standard for arts in Christianity. "Our mission is simply to be the best touring production in the country as well as the most effective ministry team possible," says executive director, Roger Nix. Indeed, it would seem that "team" is a key word in making all this happen. Along with the cast, 8 tech crew and 8 more office and artistic support staff, this production gives over 150 performances during what can be a grueling eleven month touring season.

"The beauty of this show is that it can transcend all language, cultural, religious and denominational barriers," adds Nix. To date, the production has been seen worldwide by nearly three million people in 22 countries and nearly every US state.

On With the Show
Artistic Director, Andrea Jobe attributes part of the success to a high commitment to the overall production value of the show. Impact Productions conducts auditions in the spring of each year to fill positions, attracting artists from all across the United States and abroad. The actors and dancers continue to train as their schedule allows. Dance and conditioning classes are a regular part of the regimen on the road.

On the technical side, the production design team is always looking for the latest technology to enhance the message of "The Masterpiece." This year the show will add computer animation using video projection screens as a part of their background set design. Jobe adds, "It is our hope that what we have chosen is enough to communicate thoroughly yet allowing the audience room to find themselves in the Masterpiece.

The technical show includes a plethora of special effects such as a fully integrated light show utilizing a series of moving lights and color changers along with over 100,000 watts of conventional lighting. All of this is controlled by the Martin 3032 computerized lighting controller. The design team for Impact needed a cost effective way to stay on the cutting edge of today's technology and yet stay within their annual operating budget. Laser light and graphic effects also augment the light show to make this a truly dazzling spectacle. Jobe admits that sometimes there is a dynamic tension in a live theatrical stage show between going overboard with effects and allowing the production to speak for itself with dramatic but simple lighting. Complementing the array of lights, lasers and pyrotechnics is a Claire Brothers R4 speaker system with Crest power amps and a Yamaha ProMix Audio Mixer providing a state of the art digital playback system. Although there is no live dialogue by the performers, each scene is linked by narration which is told from the perspective of an old toymaker. Unlike a live music concert, the sound must be full yet comfortable for both younger and older members of the audience.

Every aspect of the show has evolved over time. Costume Designer, Susan Newman has spent years perfecting each costume and now many of the 34 colorful costumes require thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours to create. The original score, (composed by songwriter and producer, Michael Demus), surrounds listeners with a variety of music styles from classic rock to rock 'n' roll. There is something for everyone from ages three to ninety-three.

Throughout all of the changes over the years, the one thing that has not been lost is the focus of reaching people with God's love. Impact achieves a rare combination of both professionalism and ministry that will make a difference well into the 21st century.

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© 2007 Colin Harbinson Email Colin: colin4arts@gmail.com