Theatre – once it used be one of the most popular forms of art, originating from ancient Greece, where more than five centuries ago Great Dionysias were held. The tragedies staged during the celebrations attracted crowds of viewers. Over the centuries, the form and themes of theatrical performances have evolved, using latest technologies and reflecting the joys and fears of individual generations. Regrettably, nowadays, when the pursuit of success matters most, increasingly seldom do we relish sophisticated art forms, and prefer uncomplicated entertainment in their stead.
Henryk Tomaszewski is one of the most outstanding creators of the world-famous Wrocław theatre scene and its main promoter. Named after him, the Theatre Museum continues his work, teaching and entertaining at the same time. We hope that thanks to the multimedia installations we have created, the Theatre will also reach the young generation, enthusiastic about the availability of the internet and smartphones, to help them discover the immeasurable magic of the theatre.
When designing museum installations, usually the key challenge is to transmit knowledge in an attractive and interesting way. In the case of the Theatre Museum, the task turned out to be even more complicated – we had to create a system that would encourage tourists to visit the venue. We achieved this effect by creating a large-format projection on the facade of the building. Six windows of the Coffer Hall have become rear projection screens, and the intriguing animation presented on them every evening, accompanied by a catchy soundtrack and integrated lighting effects, invariably capture attention of passers-by’. By using high-quality laser projectors with high brightness, we were able to get not only a clear and a sharp image to display the smallest details, but we also created a reliable system that can work for years with no need for intervention by users. Shows start automatically at the times scheduled by the CMS. The same mechanism also makes sure that the system does not start unnecessarily when it is bright outside. It also turns off the museum’s external lighting when projection is in progress. After 10 p.m., the show is quieter so as not to disturb the local residents. In addition to image projection on the Coffer Room’s windows, we also placed four movable mansions in this space. Each of these has backlit Plexiglas panels with information about Wrocław theatres, as well as a large touch screen, a display screen in the mansion wing, and a monitor in the mansion’s interior cabin. One of these cabins has a listening stand instead of a monitor. In addition, in the Coffer Room we created an installation with six stage windows where images can be displayed in the Pepper’s ghost technology.
Although all the image presentation spots that we have created in the museum seem to serve the same function, they differ significantly. The simplest of them are stands with touch screens that allow visitors to enrich their knowledge or view historical materials. In the lobby, you will find a welcome monitor with basic information about the museum and a description of the current temporary exhibition. The lobby also has three information monitors which use the wall mural as a backdrop to create an imitation of a living theater rigging system. The projections under the stairs leading to the first and second floor display photos and posters from former theatrical performances; the projection on the rolled screen in the Doll Room displays materials on work collection of Henryk Tomaszewski, while the projection over the Master’s desk presents his notes. By using appropriate photographic accessories, the projection in the photo gallery presents the traditional method of developing photos, and the projector and speakers built into an old CRT TV allow you to watch news broadcast years ago. Weary tourists can rest on the bench with a monitor mounted in front of it, which provides a moment of respite while watching the video materials. Monitors behind mirrors are an unusual attraction. Together with sensors and players, they create interactive installations: “Ballet Dancer” and “Dressing Table”. As for the former one, when you approach the mirror with a ballet rod, instead of the viewers’ legs you see the dancing legs of the ballerina, while when you stand at the original dressing table of Igor Przegrodzki, the mirror shows his image instead of reflecting the viewers’ faces.
The Theatre Museum owns many original theatrical costumes. The “Postcard” stand we have created allows visitors to take a picture of themselves donning one of those costumes and preview it. In turn, the “Studio of Mouth Sounds” (“Pracownia paszczodźwięków”) gives visitors the opportunity to check their diction: they first learn how to pronounce previously recorded phrases, and then try to repeat them. With the built-in microphone, you can record your reading attempts. Both stands allow you to send recordings and photos to any email address or share them on Facebook. A figure that is essential in every theatre, although staying in the shadow, is the stage manager, who watches over the organizational and technical side of the performance. The stand we created allows visitors to step into the stage manager’s shoes as they can broadcast a previously recorded or self-prepared message using the museum’s sound system.
In addition to permanent exhibitions, the museum will also stage temporary exhibitions. The zone dedicated for this purpose was equipped with a central AV switch, a laser projection, sound and control system. The solutions we applied have created a universal and functional space that can be easily adapted to any exhibitions being prepared.
Any museum needs conference space for lectures or meetings with invited personalities. This is the function of the Coffer Room, on whose walls we have created a highly-bright laser projection system. The sound system here is based on the Dante digital protocol – an open standard of digital audio distribution supported by leading manufacturers of audio equipment. The museum has six microphones at its disposal: two on the floor stand, two wireless ones with hand-held transmitters and two wireless ones with pinned transmitters, which helps arrange various events in the facility. In the room, we have also created a control system with an intuitive, wireless touch panel.
All the museum installations are controlled by CMS, a central management system. The CMS can be used to monitor and control individual exhibition using a technical support computer or tablet. It can also be used for automatic control of devices based on a previously prepared schedule. In addition, it controls the basic lighting and exhibition lighting systems developed by us. In the Coffer Room and in the Temporary Exhibitions Room we have installed stage lighting complete with profile spotlights and automatic “moving head” spotlights – the whole set is managed by an DMX bus using controllers which are also integrated with CMS and projection on facade windows.
Most of the installations we have created inside the museum are based on presenting the image on a large-format LCD monitor or in the form of a projection. The museum’s general sound system emits background messages from the stage manager, sounds of the orchestra tuning their instruments or the audience applauding. All this creates a real-life theatre experience. In order not to disturb the atmosphere of the rooms which refer to the theatrical backstage or the studios of theatre creators, all devices had to be “hidden” in dedicated, stylised cases. It took a lot of creativity to design them. Not only did they have to look right, but they also had to meet all the requirements of the equipment mounted in them, e.g. the air circulation and maintenance devices. So we have delivered most of the furniture – tailor-made cabinets, showcases and displays for the exhibits. The equipment had to meet the same high requirements. In addition to the highest level of reliability and high quality of the image displayed, it was also extremely important for the equipment to be able to operate continuously for long hours. In the case of projectors, the projection factor had to be matched to the projector mounting position, with ensured advanced geometric correction algorithms. Moreover, we repainted the walls of the entire interior of the museum and the external front wall to give them a fresh look.
Although many contemporary museums draw on the technical achievements in the area of AV systems, to create installations that would match the climate of stylized interiors oftentimes turns out to be an insurmountable obstacle. However, the Theatre Museum is an example of how with some creativity and hard work you can achieve an effect that will satisfy not only the most discerning interior architect but also every lover of modern technologies. We hope that our systems would be liked by the patron of the museum, Henryk Tomaszewski, whose work is being continued by his successors, entertaining and teaching new generations about the importance and history of the Wrocław theatre.