26 Jul 2022

Gippsland Performing Arts Centre

by Jason Allen

Accessible and Affordable in Regional Vic

Gippsland Performing Arts Centre in Traralgon, Victoria, was previously home to a small 227 seat space known as the Little Theatre. As of March 2022, the civic precinct adjacent now boasts a brand-spanking new 750 pax flytower theatre that includes an orchestra pit on a lifting platform. The Theatre was designed by theatrical consultancy Arup in conjunction with architects Jackson Architecture and Katsieris Origami.

Brett Tippet, Head of Technical Operations at GPAC, has been involved with the theatres in Traralgon since 2007. Handily, he’s also chairperson of the Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres’ Technical Network, which put him in the box seat to select tech as the project to build the new theatre developed.


“Arup wrote up a best-case scenario of equipment and setup for the theatre, including the fly system,” explains Brett. “When it came time to go out to the market for quotes, we had to square the wish-list with the budget, and that’s when we started the conversation about what’s most suitable for us.”

The fly tower went totally manual, with 43 single purchase flylines installed. “Part of the original brief had some lines on motors,” elaborates Brett. “But we rationalised pricing to get the best quality on as much as we could. I’ve seen some venues open with some lines on motors with a plan to buy more later, only for them to never get the budget. We wanted to go for quality and get everything up-front.”

Part of this up-front purchase was a surprising amount of dimming. “There’s 192 channels, but they can act as distro for LED as well,” offers Brett. “We find there’s still a lot of call for dimming in touring theatre productions.” Adding to their existing inventory of Chauvet Rogue R1 LED movers, ShowPro LED CYC2 RGBAL cyc lights, and conventional Fresnels moved over from the old building, the new theatre opened with some new Martin Rush MH7 moving head wash and hybrids for touring rock’n’roll. These joined a new FOH conventional and LED wash and “a lot” of ETC Source 4 Profiles. Control is from an ETC Ion.


PA choice was changed from the original spec when Brett and the crew realised they weren’t going to get enough PA to do touring concert work for the money. They started looking for alternatives. “I have friends who had been raving about Adamson, so we contacted distributor CMI and got a system set up for demo. We were more than impressed, and got CMI to then go back and forth with Arup, modelling coverage in Adamson’s Blueprint software. Arup were on board with the results, and we got a system that more than meets the brief of what is needed to cover the room.”

The final design sees eight Adamson S7 line array elements at left and right, with a centre cluster of two Adamson IS7p point source boxes backed by three Adamson S1119 subwoofers flown. Six Adamson PC 6 coaxial speakers are built into the stage as front fill. Six Adamson PC 5 coaxials are installed as under balcony fill.

While they were at it, Brett and the team decided to buy another six PC 6 boxes to deploy as side fill if the need arose, but they’ve been using them elsewhere. “We’ve found that they’re such a good sounding box, we’ve been using them as foldback wedges,” admits Brett. “We thought for the small size they’d just be good for fill, but on one of first gigs we tried them out down the front as wedges and we’ve had nothing but compliments from artists on the quality of the foldback since, which honestly surprised me.”

“We have artists say ‘I’ve never had a stage sound this good! What have you done?’ and we say ‘Your channel’s flat.’ We had Jack Jones through with his Neumann vocal mic recently, and he said; ‘Some of the places I play I struggle to hear myself, and this is one of the clearest sounds I’ve ever had.’ Brian Cadd told me it was like playing in a studio. It really gives us confidence that we’ve gone the right way with Adamson, because these touring artists and engineers have all been in front of 50 different boxes in the last three months.”

Out the front, the house mixing desk is an Allen & Heath dLive S5000 connected up to a DM48 mix rack and DX168 stageboxes. “We share staff between venues in Warrigal and Sale, which are both on the dLive platform”, says Brett. “Its advantageous to have consistency. We’re running at 96kHz and its just sounds beautiful and wide open; the Adamson PA really lets that shine. The desk runs Dante to the Lab Gruppen amps, so signal is clean all the way through.”

With the venue a completely new player on the regional touring map, the mix of client base is yet to coalesce. “We’re not sure exactly how the balance will break down yet,” concedes Brett. “We’re definitely getting more live music than the old venue did, which really suits the new space. We had Client Liaison here the first couple of nights, which are very synth and sub heavy. That certainly blew the sawdust out! We’ve had a couple of drama pieces, which are still slowly getting back on road. I’d imagine we’re probably going to settle at around 60% music, comedy, and theatre, and 20% corporate, with the usual shift at the end of the year to school functions and dance recitals. Then again, ask me again in six months and I might have a different answer!”

The arts precinct in Traralgon is still expanding. GPAC has also received extra funding to build two outdoor spaces, and at the time we interviewed Brett, a nine-metre-wide LED screen was being commissioned in an outdoor space overlooking the Little Theatre. The screen will be flanked by even more Adamson PA, with the powered IS7 line array purchased to cover the gigs outside.

The Latrobe City Council has put a community emphasis on the theatre development, with accessibility and affordability the core goals. Hiring the new theatre has been made reasonable for school and community groups, and the complex itself has an admirable “no questions asked” concession ticketing policy.

“There should be no barrier to anyone within our community to access the theatre,” said Latrobe City Deputy Mayor Dan Clancy, speaking to the ABC not long after the centre’s opening. “You ring up or you book online, and you say ‘I’m after the full price’ or ‘I’m after the accessible price’ and there’s no questions asked.”


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