Part of its 2023 expansion, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has installed Clear-Com’s Arcadia Central Station, FreeSpeak Edge and FreeSpeak II Wireless Intercom Systems.

New Playhouse exterior by Arrasmith & Associates The investment follows the opening of a new building in March, a futher milestone for what was among the first regional theatres in the US. ‘It was a total campus renovation,’ says A/V Supervisor, Aaron Stephenson. ‘It was a big investment for the build, but also in the technology needed to make it functional.’

The large, nonprofit theatre frequently aspires to transition shows to Broadway, and has won a Tony Award for a show successfully transitioned to New York. Because of this, it needed a backstage communication system that could handle very different needs for productions ranging from dramas, jukebox musicals and farces to big Broadway shows with a 26-strong cast and 20-piece orchestra. ‘We need to be able to facilitate communication between all of those,’ Stephenson says. ‘And we often have specific channels where you have one team talking about one thing and another team talking about another thing, so we can work efficiently to get these shows up and running to make great theatre.’

The Playhouse chose the Arcadia system because it could handle all comms in the 537-seat Moe and Jack’s Place – The Rouse Theater and the 172-seat Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre. ‘Arcadia combined all the functionality we required in one device,’ Stephenson says. ‘No matter what we need, we can facilitate it in both spaces, which none of us expected we’d be able to do with one base station. So it has exceeded our expectations.’

The Playhouse strives to offer the best possible experience via cutting-edge technology and by dedicating the necessary resources to ensure their shows are great on a local, national and global scale. ‘That requires a lot of personnel,’ Stephenson continues, ‘Light and sound operators, stage crew, automation, spotlights and stage management and design teams from around the country all require constant, detailed communication at every stage of the process, from tech rehearsals to performances.

‘That’s where Clear-Com comes into the picture – the technology is so flexible, modular and scalable. With Arcadia and FreeSpeak II, we’re discovering features we didn’t even realise we wanted until we found them in the software.’

A/V Supervisor, Aaron StephensonArcadia was up and running when staff got into the new building in February 2023. ‘Even though we had minimal training on the system, when we set it up, it worked on the first try, which is rare. Right off the bat, the cross-platform functionality – using all these different Clear-Com technologies together and being able to communicate between them – was tremendous.’

The system comprises FreeSpeak Edge, FreeSpeak II, and a previously-used analogue 4-channel wired system – all of which are run simultaneously through Arcadia, allowing for fluent, reliable communicating between digital and analog, wired and wireless, comms. ‘We can also create custom groups/channels that we can change to meet the distinct needs of tech rehearsals, previews, and production, which serves us very well,’ Stephenson adds. ‘We’ve been devoted Clear-Com acolytes for years. Moving to Arcadia, FreeSpeak Edge, and FreeSpeak II offers substantial benefits in meeting the Playhouse’s unique comms needs.’

This is evident in the Shelterhouse venue, the original, smaller space where the Playhouse stages more intimate work. ‘It’s a historic park department stone-walled shelter house, so working on the 1.9 frequency is really useful for us,’ Stephenson explains. ‘FreeSpeak II with one antenna covers the entire space, including the lobby, even through the stone walls, and FreeSpeak Edge is useful for the Rouse.’

Facilitating discrete communications is critical. ‘If we’re linking lights and sound together on a show, for example, we’ll switch them over to a group that allows them to communicate without bothering someone programming automation or working through a particularly challenging scene change on the deck.’

Although adding a back-of-house system like intercom isn’t something patrons can see or hear, being able to communicate ensures the highest-quality production values and keeps people safe.

‘We’ve talked a lot about the quality of the shows, but the primary function of comms, in my mind, is safety, the fact that people can communicate with who they need to efficiently and quickly. The new theatre is a fly house, so we have moving parts overhead, set pieces flying in and out, automated scenery, trap doors, all manner of motorized moving objects that can be dangerous if you don’t have constant and vigilant communication.’

Clear-Com’s audio quality addresses and sufficiently solves that problem, Stephenson concludes. ‘Noise, interference, ringing, buzzing, or just being unable to hear what people are saying – eliminating that helps us focus and communicate more clearly.’


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