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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Audio Circus

Jul 14, 2009 12:00 PM, Staff Report

Mertz Theatre, Sarasota, Fla.


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To accommodate the three-level seating chart of the historic Mertz Theatre, part of the 85,000-square-foot Florida State University Center for the Cultural Arts, Sarasota, Fla.-based Tight AV installed Nexo PS10 loud¬speakers along with PS10U-TD-V2 processors.

To accommodate the three-level seating chart of the historic Mertz Theatre, part of the 85,000-square-foot Florida State University Center for the Cultural Arts, Sarasota, Fla.-based Tight AV installed Nexo PS10 loud¬speakers along with PS10U-TD-V2 processors.

The Mertz Theatre is well-known in the Sarasota, Fla., area and to anyone who has witnessed a performance in the historic facility. In 1911, John Ringling and his wife, Mable, purchased 20 acres of waterfront property in Sarasota that was later used to house several theaters and circus museums.

The Asolo Theater was the first theater on the property and a work of art in its own right. It was originally built as a palace playhouse in Asolo, Italy, (hence the name) in 1798 to honor a 15th century exiled queen, Catherine Cornaro of Cyprus. The 500-seat theater was acquired by the Ringlings, dismantled, and moved by sea to the family’s estate in the late 1940s. It became one of the most important pieces of the Ringling Museum, noted especially for its dramatic collection of Baroque paintings, and it served as a setting for plays, concerts, lectures, and motion-picture programs.

When John Ringling died in 1936, he bequeathed his art collection, mansion, and estate to the people of the state of Florida, and the Ringling grounds became the site of the 85,000-square-foot Florida State University (FSU) Center for the Cultural Arts. A fledgling acting company known as the Asolo Repertory Theatre was founded in 1957 by faculty at FSU and began performing a summer series of plays at the Asolo Theater. In the 1980s, another turn-of-the-century elegant European 500-seat theater, originally built as the Dunfermline Opera House in Scotland in 1903, was demolished. The interior was rescued and shipped to Sarasota, where it was restored to its original façade within the FSU Center. It was renamed The Harold E. and Esther M. Mertz Theatre, after its devout patrons.

By the late 1990s, the decay from deferred maintenance in the Asolo Theater had reached a critical point and the building was condemned, so the theater company took its performances to the Mertz Theatre. (The center is also home to the 153-seat Cook Theatre, which is currently being renovated.)

In 2002, Michael Edwards started as the Asolo Rep’s artistic director, and he immediately applied for a grant to update lighting and sound systems in the Mertz Theatre. Tight AV in Sarasota was hired as the contractor. That company first arranged a loudspeaker demo that included products from five different manufacturers. Measurements were taken, and Matt Parker, the Mertz Theatre sound designer, was given a critical listening session.

“The Nexo PS10s, along with PS10U-TD-V2 processor, came out on top,” says Pascal Danon of Tight AV. “The speakers more than met the sound designer’s expectations, and he was very impressed with the dynamic range, transparency, and clarity.”

The Mertz is a little more than 40ft. deep and about as wide with three levels of seating (orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony).

“A center cluster is impractical because there is no place to secure it and the levels would block the seating below them,” Parker says. “So we chose the PS10s first and foremost for the sound quality. Their coverage was ideal for the theater’s needs, not to mention they are slightly smaller than the speakers normally used for musicals. The improvement in sound was astounding, and there is more headroom, clarity, punch, and a bigger sound at lower decibels.”



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