Lightswitch and Upstaging partner with Pulama Lāna‘i to create a world-class entertainment venue that seamlessly blends tradition, beauty and sustainability.
In a harmonious blend of cultural reverence, sustainability and modern entertainment, the Lāna‘i Ocean Theater has emerged as a spectacular amphitheater on the southeast coast of Lāna‘i, the sixth-largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. This visionary project stands proudly within the lush grounds of the Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i, overlooking the serene Hulopo'e Bay, and employs IP-rated Proteus Lucius and Arena Zoom Q7IP luminaires from Elation.
A unique entertainment space that organically conforms to its natural surroundings, the Lāna‘i Ocean Theater is a Greek-style amphitheater that pays homage to the historical roots of theatre. The project, initiated in September 2021, transforms a section of the hillside overlooking the bay, creating a breathtaking venue that seamlessly integrates with the natural landscape and botanical garden setting.
Pulama Lāna‘i, Lightswitch and Upstaging
Land and resource management company Pulama Lāna‘i partnered with visual design practice Lightswitch and event production company Upstaging to create a space that not only meets the highest standards but also respects the island's natural environment. Lighting design was spearheaded by John Featherstone, Principal at Lightswitch, with Ryan Breneisen of Upstaging serving as a project manager and technical director. Upstaging supplied the lighting for the project and executed the installation.
One main lighting fixture
Working with Featherstone to develop a production design, Ryan Breneisen was intimately involved in every aspect of the entertainment portion of the space and specified all the gear on the lighting, power and staging side. He emphasized the meticulous selection process for the lighting fixtures, stating, “We wanted to use one main lighting fixture for the venue and design everything around it. That fixture needed to be outdoor rated with good color mixing, gobo options and include framing shutters. It also needed to be flexible and powerful enough to work on stage and at the FoH position at a 127 ft throw.”
Breneisen worked with Rob Ludwig from Elation rep firm Five Lakes Marketing to source the Proteus Lucius LED profile luminaire and following a shoot-out with similar moving head fixtures, says the Lucius checked a lot of the right boxes. “With its brightness, durability and outdoor readiness, it proved to be the ideal choice as part of a tour-ready setup that can easily go in and out of the space.” Breneisen says he wouldn’t have considered the fixture without Ludwig’s help. “He has been key in getting us comfortable with Elation and provides a level of service that really makes a difference.”
The venue utilizes IP-rated Proteus Lucius and Arena Zoom Q7IP luminaires as central lighting fixtures in a unique and adaptable festival-style system for the multi-use venue space. The Lucius are positioned on 30-ft tall custom torm towers that carry the Lucius inside, six fixtures per tower. Two additional towers with Lucius are positioned at FoH with more Lucius fixtures working from floor positions. “The truss is really designed around that specific light with square box tubes so the lights can’t roll when the towers move in and out,” Breneisen explains, noting that the entire space can be transformed into a deck as a viewing and garden area with seats. “I’ve used Proteus outside for months at a time in an Illinois winter so I know it’s a good line and is going to survive outside.”
Featherstone is one of the first to have worked with the outdoor-rated Proteus fixtures from his years of work on Illumination: Tree Lights, the popular wintertime experience at the Morton Arboretum near Chicago. He appreciates how difficult it can be to work with lighting in nature. “Finding something that feels balanced, harmonious and appropriate in a natural environment is a far more challenging task than putting lights in an arena,” he says. “We’ve been enjoying the weather resilience of the Proteus line for years, which have opened up all sorts of new creative potential in outdoor environments.”
Lightswitch and Upstaging embraced the project’s adherence to ecological principles, even working with ornithologists who influenced the stage design by deeming a vertical tower design to be less intrusive to migratory birds than a horizontal design. According to Featherstone, the commitment to environmental responsibility extended to fixture choice as well. “Another way we can minimize the footprint is by using a fixture like the Lucius that has a gentler footprint in terms of the power it uses, and because they are IP-rated, they help to minimize the amount of disruption we have on site. There is a whole package there which translates to less service, less waste, less power, and it's still a great fixture.”
Evolution of a project
The innovative design of the Lāna‘i Ocean Theater reflects a dedication to perfection, as well as sustainability. When a first-generation design was deemed good but not great, John and Ryan were challenged to continue to evolve something that more perfectly honored the natural environment. Featherstone comments, “The design process works best when it is allowed to be iterative and exploratory and the opportunity is rare to have a client that says 'let's take another look at this and make it better.' That's how we push things forward.”
Featherstone highlighted the brightness of the 33,500-lumen Lucius as a valuable feature, stating, “The fact that the Lucius is so bright is useful in that it will enable us to move the fixtures much further away from the stage if need be.”
The Lāna‘i Ocean Theater symbolizes a harmonious blend of tradition, sustainability, and world-class entertainment—an enduring legacy for both the people of Lāna‘i and those fortunate enough to visit the Four Seasons Resort. Amidst the lush tropical surroundings and against the backdrop of majestic sunsets, the venue provides a stunning setting for concerts and cultural events alike.
In December 2022, Hawaiian singer-songwriter John Cruz inaugurated the venue with a pair of shows with subsequent performances from Kenny Loggins and Jake Shimabukuro.