First opened in 1921, the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ has hosted just about every type of event imaginable over the decades, from silent films and vaudeville shows to today’s eclectic mix of dance, musicals, string ensembles, and A-list touring acts.
“It may sound cliché to say they don’t build ‘em like this anymore,” the theatre’s head of audio Willie Weist tells me recently while making his rounds backstage prior to an evening show. “But when it comes to this place, the description couldn’t be more accurate. It’s gorgeous, ornate, and filled with plaster surfaces that can be unforgiving at times in terms of reflections. If you use the natural acoustics to your advantage and capitalize upon today’s technology, however, it’s very musical. That’s what I always tell visiting engineers coming in here for the first time.”
With almost 20 years of experience at the theatre, Weist knows of what he speaks. And indeed, technology has been and continues to be one of the room’s main benefactors. As part of regular efforts to keep his systems blueprint current, late last year he began evaluating the process of what it would take to effectively replace a pair of aging analog consoles and related outboard gear within the house and monitor systems.
Drawing upon data gathered from several years’ worth of contract riders, he sought to build a front-end that would be plug-and-play efficient at all levels and versatile enough to meet the requests of any act no matter how large or small.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have everything from Broadway and symphonics to rock ‘n’ roll all during the course of a single week,” he explains. “I knew, as I contemplated this upgrade, that to remain relevant in this market, we’d have to be rider-friendly to all. Everyone wants something different, it seems, and then we still had a budget to consider. In order to succeed we’d have to adapt to all of it. Next came the problem of figuring out just how that was going to happen.”
Around a year ago, a possible solution to Weist’s dilemma began to emerge at Boulevard Carroll, a tri-state area audio systems provider operating from locations in Lyndhurst, NJ, New York City, and just outside Washington, D.C.
“We have a long, shared history with Willie and the State Theatre,” Boulevard Carroll co-founder Anthony Cioffi says. “As we saw it, the key to solving the issues they were confronting was coming up with a design that offered a lot of interchangeable features. If a visiting engineer didn’t like one thing, it could be swiftly and effortlessly swapped-out with something else without reinventing the wheel each time or causing a disruption to the work flow or efficiency.”