Next to Normal at Yale’s David Geffen School of Drama
USA – Yale’s David Geffen School of Drama staged a performance of the American rock musical Next to Normal recently, with a lighting design by David DeCarolis using VL2600 Spot luminaires as part of the Vari-Lite University Outreach Programme from Signify.
DeCarolis employs a musical approach to his lighting designs, having studied music in the past. He structures his looks based on form, harmony and dynamics, even seeing a lighting console as something of an electronic drum kit. He collaborated with the team at David Geffen School of Drama and Vari-Lite to deliver the right luminaires for the production of Next to Normal, choosing the VL2600 Spots as he required a high-output fixture offering a broad range of rich colours and effects.
The Vari-Lite University Outreach Programme initiative is an ongoing project allowing talented students to use Vari-Lite luminaires in a real-world environment. The programme allows educational design programs to connect with Vari-Lite technology and staff to explore design solutions that are often only available to professionals.
“I needed a fixture that wasn’t too large, could perform pretty quietly, and enabled me to have fun with effects and a varied colour palette,” says DeCarolis. “The VL2600s fitted into that picture perfectly and could help me create the world I wanted for the production. In addition to being simple to rig with the universal clamps – the electricians said it was the quickest load in for moving lights – I really took advantage of the Iris, the CMY color mixing and the gobos and prism effects.
“The VL2600 really helped me to isolate and carve out different spaces on the stage, and the variable frost helped me give it all a really nice soft edge.”
DeCarolis says that one of his favourite lighting moments was the ‘Dr. Rock’ scene where the character Diana is seeing a new psychiatrist for the first time. “He does this rockstar stance and pose and we went for it with the lighting,” he says. “Using the VL2600s the lighting state went from very realistic doctor office interior to gobo effects spinning with nice deep colours, to emphasise the drama, and then quickly snap back into the previous state.
“In another scene I was trying to simulate a mirror ball and using the gobo effects I managed it using the VL2600s, beaming small dots of bright white light that punched through the blue-black backlight I was using. The rotating gobos really helped me create effects that underpinned the moments when Diana spirals, mentally, the speed and control of the gobos was fantastic.”
DeCarolis says he was able to wash the entire stage when required, using the VL2600 Spot luminaires, choosing a deep, “almost vibrating” blue to transform the space.
“I’d like to thank Vari-Lite for working with me as part of the University Outreach Programme,” he concludes. “For me, the experience has built familiarity with the fixture and trust in the brand. It’s helped me to understand a new set of features and technologies.”

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