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Brooksby’s revamped theater meets entertainment needs

Created date

October 26th, 2010

Entertainment is not taken lightly at Brooksby Village: A fully functioning TV studio produces an expansive menu of programs, two theater groups unveil significant productions each year, and a handful of community-formed clubs regularly organize full-scale events.

Now performers and audience members alike have the bonus of an improved stage and technology in Brooksby's entertainment hub the Catering Room. The changes represent the culmination of a year of work, beginning with a meeting involving the resident groups that use the room. Leaders of the Brooksby Follies, Theatre at the Pond, Know Your Government, Concerned Citizens, and the Resident Advisory Council were among those called together by Brooksby staff last fall to discuss their wish list.

"Residents were asking for it, and with all the events that happen in the Catering Room and all the resident-driven groups that we have, we can provide a better service and everyone will be able to hear the meetings," says Wes Beattie, lead coordinator at Brooksby's TV 919. "Every nut, bolt, and screw, every cable, every wish our desires were met with this light board," says Dianne Van Nest, who lives at Brooksby and serves a lead role as Theatre at the Pond's sound and light coordinator.

Delivering technology

Brooksby Community Television and Audio/Visual Manager Brandy Sales was heavily involved in that first meeting and subsequent work with Director of Philanthropy Beth McNelis, Project Manager Matthew Harrington, and an outside consultant to revamp the Catering Room. The room now boasts more space on stage, a new stage exit, 24 channels of lights, a high-definition projector, wireless microphones, and a control room in which to man the equipment from behind closed doors. "It creates a theater experience but it also accommodates when someone comes in and stands at our lectern," Sales says of the changes.

Marie Wakefield, who lives at Brooksby and has been appearing on camera there for about nine years, was optimistic about the impact of the changes on television programming. Wakefield hosts various programs, including Village View, a live interview show. She says two or three guests fit comfortably in the television studio for taping, but the Catering Room will accommodate five or six. "If you can handle more people, then you can have different kinds of shows and different kinds of interviews," Wakefield says. "It will accommodate more people and in a different setting, which I think will be very helpful."

Wakefield was in the process of planning a show inspired by Antiques Roadshow, a PBS series in which experts offer free appraisals of antiques and collectibles. Wakefield planned to bring in Henry Jensen, a local antique expert recommended by Brooksby and often used by people moving to the community. The new Catering Room equipment also allows for activities filmed there to be shown live on television, a change that will likely meet the needs of groups like Know Your Government, which brings high-profile guests to speak to interested community members. Those who can't make it to the events will be able to watch live from their apartment homes.

Learning together

Sales and Beattie say changes to the room incorporate the newest technology, but the room was designed to be user-friendly for those who live in the community. "Our main objective was to make it really simple," Beattie says. "Now for movie night all they have to do is push a button that says 'Use the Projector and Sound,'" he adds, explaining that the equipment is controlled on a touch panel computer screen. Though Beattie is typically available to assist with audio and visual needs, Sales has begun teaching people who live and work at Brooksby how to use the new equipment. "We're all going to learn this together," he says. "We're looking forward to showing them how to use it and showing them how far technology has come. Much like the TV studio, people are really overwhelmed by it when they first walk in, but it's really, really simple."

Don Fields can attest to the learning experience of life at Brooksby. Aside from directing, Fields does everything in the TV studio, including working the cameras and sound board, all of which he learned from scratch. "I'm really looking forward to all the equipment," he says of the new setup. He was already lined up to work on lighting at Theatre at the Ponds' fall performance. "So I'll be getting a major education on how to work the light board and probably by osmosis I'll be seeing how the sound board and TV work," he adds.