Musson Theatrical specializes in providing theatrical lighting, sound, scenery, and special effects for performing arts, education, worship, photographic, film, video, event, television, trade show, and themed environment applications. Musson's services include sales, system design and specification, custom drapery and rigging design and installation, rentals, event design and production services.
This month, we had the privilege of interviewing Musson Theatrical's Director of Marketing & Business Development, Dinna Myers. Here's your chance to get to know a little more about Musson and how they 'play a big role' in theatre in CA.
Do you have a large theatrical client base?
Our client base is very diverse. In addition to a large theatrical community of customers, we also serve houses of worship, corporate entities, schools, themed retail environments, museums, and television and broadcast studios. Musson is the largest supplier of theatrical equipment in northern California.
Do you find that theatres are in need of rentals or purchases for specific productions (larger scale, for example), or specific types of events?
People are definitely in need of rentals for productions. Rarely do we encourage small performing arts groups to purchase moving lights or other automated equipment. Why purchase a lot of robotics that or esoteric effects equipment that you now have to learn how to maintain. Let Musson bare the costs of keeping and maintaining that type of gear, and we’ll have it here when you need it. A dry ice fogger is an excellent example. They are huge to store, hard to keep clean, and needed very rarely. Most companies will find it much cheaper and more convenient to rent when they need low-lying fog effects.
If a theatre was establishing itself and beginning to construct its stage, can Musson help guide them in purchasing the lights, sound and set equipment they will need?
Absolutely. We offer design-build and systems integration services to our customers. We work with the architecture of the space, the electrical and structural infrastructure, the type of performance intended for the venue, and the budget to get our clients the bet possible equipment for the money they have to spend. In most cases, there is no additional cost for our design services, provided the customer acts in good faith and agrees not to share our hard work with other vendors.
Does your team get a chance to see productions in order to keep 'up-to-date' on the theatre 'scene’?
Several of our team members work in various Bay Area theatres in the evenings and on weekends. Some are IATSE stage hands, others are lighting designers, sound techs, prop designers, fundraisers, and even actors. We encourage our team to stay current in the theatre industry, and to take a meaningful part in the theatre community.
What's the most common request Musson receives from a theatre organization?
Our client’s needs are quite diverse. I am not sure we have a most common question. I can tell you that we do often get some pretty funny questions, mostly from customers outside of the theatre community.
People will call up and ask for a blue gel. That’s it. Just a blue gel. We have approximately 40 different shades of blue available!
Every October, we get asked for a “backlight gel”. It is just not a thing. Because, you know… physics. The tungsten lamps theatrical lights do not have the Ultraviolet energy needed to excite fluorescent and phosphorescent pigments. R383 Congo Blue combined with R375 Cerulean Blue will effectively remove the visible light and let the UV pass; but filters only remove wavelengths of light – they can’t put energy into the beam that doesn’t already exist. That’s why those cheap purple ‘blacklight bulbs’ sold at novelty shops never work – there’s no UV in there!
Customers occasionally ask if we carry "Muslims.” Once I replied that we will if necessary, like if one fainted, or if there was a fire, but that they can be quite heavy. The customer then said, “No, I mean for covering flats.” So I said, “Well, sure, but they don’t work cheap!” ;-)
Seriously, though, Most people these days are very curious about LED technology and if it can really save money and energy over time, and how much. LEDs are a game changer in our industry and can really improve the capacity of a theatre to create stunning lighting designs previously not possible in small spaces with very little available power. We help people choose the right LED fixtures with the proper dimming curve and consistency of colour, and try to help them realise that, while the country of China does make and sell a lot of inexpensive LED equipment that is available online, there are very good reasons to avoid that equipment and invest on robust gear that is designed for the intimacy, subtlety, and immediacy of live theatre.
When a theatre rents equipment from Musson, does Musson provide 'training' on how to use it? In other words, does Musson become part of the bigger picture of learning for theatres? So many community theatres rely on volunteers who may or may not have experience in a particular piece of equipment (or they may have a lot of experience that is used incredibly within their community theatre!). Perhaps Musson is able to provide invaluable skills to folks who otherwise don't have the time to learn.
If a customer needs training on a piece of rental gear, it is in all of our best interests to make sure they walk out of here knowing the proper way to install and use that equipment. Most of our customers are pretty savvy, though. Still, if one requires on-site training, we can provide that locally for an additional fee.
Musson is a great example of what the future might look like for young folks pursuing a career in technical theatre. What should aspiring 'techie's' know about making a living in the entertainment community?
In the professional community, we don’t really use the word “techie” anymore. I would stick with Technician. I used to go around to local schools and teach a one-day course on stage lighting. At the end, I would always make sure students understood that it is possible to have a lucrative career in the theatre, but that it requires stalwart determination, constant learning, and above all things, a cooperative and positive spirit. I can teach an employee how to run a light board or test lighting fixtures or quote packages. I cannot teach them to be kind, decent humans or to have a sense of humour. Also, a lot of young people think that if they are going into the theatre, that they need not focus on science or humanities. They could not be more wrong. To design the lighting for a show, a person needs a solid basis in geometry, physics, colour theory, psychology, reading comprehension, and algebra. For reals.
What would you like California community theatres to know about Musson that they might not know from looking at your website?
We know you can buy online from anyone – even us. Our mission is to provide you with the education you need to make informed purchases at the best possible prices, and then back them up with after-the-sales support. We don’t want to be the cheapest service provider for theatrical equipment. We want to be the best!
A very special thanks to Dinna for her time for this article.
Musson Theatrical strives to serve the entertainment community by providing the highest quality products and services at nationally competitive prices. We know that you can just buy product anywhere. Customer service is our top priority. We believe that by being sensitive to our customers needs, and standing by our word, we can rise above the competition as your #1 theatrical dealer.
Time is of the essence to our clients. When you call during business hours, you will speak to a real live person who knows the importance of getting you connected quickly and efficiently. After hours, you can count on our 24 hour technical assistance hotlineto assist you with your emergency needs 365 days a year.
Musson Theatrical is part of the artistic community. We pride ourselves on being a part of what makes your jobs as artists, teachers, designers, and technicians easier. Our staff is here to help you meet your creative challenges and make them our own.
At Musson, we believe that an educated client is a happy client. We are dedicated to keeping our community educated about new technologies and advancements in the entertainment technology industry.
Musson Theatrical is an active member of the national entertainment technology community. Our staff works closely with ESTA, and we are a contributing member of The United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) and an active member of Theatre Bay Area.