Celtic Woman was the first of two shows that we worked on this year at the famous Fox Theater in Atlanta, it was a show destined for PBS, to be shown mostly during pledge drives. Celtic Woman is a fantastic organization and act to work for, beautiful women with beautiful voices and a non-stop show that succeeds in pushing every button and a commitment to exceed every production value. The whole process was an absolute delight, the set a perfect fit for the performance and Ryan Polito’s stunning direction using sweeping camera moves that took full advantage of this revered venue, when combined with Tom Kenny’s superb lighting made it a show to treasure.
I used soft sheers and satin drapes with one of our signature Atomic Rental Laser Drops to create a dreamy feminine backdrop for the deck system which allowed multiple opportunities for entrances and exits, necessary because the songs run into each other and as one performer leaves another enters, so it creates a seamless evening of entertainment. Finally, this was the first outing on TV for the Pippa panel the latest in our line of SuperLever products that look so cool and are so easy to use.
One of the big successes was the main staircase, which was perfectly proportioned for ladies in heels to feel completely comfortable ascending or descending. I call this step formula my “Diana Ross” formula, since it was originally conceived for the shows which I designed for her many years ago. The Celtic ladies were thrilled to hear about their dimensional connection to such a great artist. The metallic decals on the face of the step risers also played a huge part in the look, especially in close-up where it broke up what would otherwise have been a rather bland element.
It was a thrill to work in the Fox, with its mainly Moorish decoration and its vast auditorium. Back in the Seventies I worked on a Hollywood design exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum at the time when I first started my scenic studio back then, and many of the “Egyptian” and “Chinoiserie” elements that you find in the various rooms around the theatre were very similar to those that I painted for that show, so I felt a really strong connection to the place. We had a stellar crew which together with a friendly and very Hibernian production team made the design, build and rehearsal process great fun. It was also an intense pleasure to work on a show that was so Irish, although I was born in the UK my parents were both from Ireland, and I’m sure it was a show that they would really have enjoyed.
All in all a totally wonderful experience!
And, talking of wonderful experiences – Soul Train Awards 2011! Well, as you can imagine, working in the same venue in Atlanta so soon again - we were there with Celtic Woman in September and came back with Soul Train just two months later – was quite a coincidence, and with the theatre staff telling us that they totally expected us to be back in January with another completely different show, we were really starting to feel that if Studio10A was in Lititz then the Fox had become Studio 10B!
This was our third Soul train Awards, and even though last year was a great show for us, I really felt that had we done the screen content we would have taken it to another level, and this year… this year we produced all the screen content and yes… I believe we really did take it to an unbelievably higher level.
Yes I’m blowing my own trumpet, but the truth is that I was just the leader of the band. What happened that took us from just designing the set to designing the set and the screen content, was that in the first place I was desperate to do it and then we met Ryan and Andy from Meteor Tower, a local media production company and everything just clicked. Actually “clicked” is a small word for what happened. It starts with Charlie Cook getting into Cinema 4D when he started here at Studio 10A, to the point where we’re at now, where he or I can have an idea and we see it executed as a rendering or even better an animation just hours or perhaps a day later, so proficient has he become. It continues with the fortuitous moment when we met the two guys from Meteor Tower and knowing from the very first test piece that we had stumbled into something quite amazing. Ryan and Andy bring intimate knowledge of entire suites of media software and enormous technical prowess to bear on any idea.
And finally it all comes together when I can design a set and a screen configuration that we can manipulate and play off, and for any idea I might have, whether it’s a repurposed video clip or a made from-scratch animation, it seems as if anything is possible. OK, sounds like I’m gushing, but it’s a creative process that’s really as thrilling, as exciting and as satisfying as I hope I’m making it sound.
The set, though it looked imposing and impressive is, when you analyze it actually pretty minimal, a truss façade, big white circles, a sliding door on tracks, a staircase that folds down and stores behind the façade and a decked second level… that’s more or less it – but it’s the five screens that can move in and out that define the look -now add Otis Howard’s lighting which so perfectly complemented it to that mix and the result is that every look was integrated, every look was different and every look was brilliant.
Even with all that going for us, I couldn’t have pulled it off without Line Producer Allen Kelman and Executive Producer Bart Phillips’ constancy and steadfast support. This was the first time I’d ever taken on absolutely everything, and to have those guys give me so much trust and encouragement was very uplifting and I think we lived up to the expectation.
Because I want to do this again and again, and do it not only for myself and but equally for other designers…. Because at the heart of this, is my firm conviction that this process belongs with the Production Designer and the Art Department. And, it’s also my firm conviction that this team we’ve grown is too good not to put to work and go on to create many more projects and that what we’ve started here will thrive and grow.
Check out some great pictures from both shows in the portfolio, both shows were very dear to my heart, and they have that and their venue – the fabulous Fox, in common.
Return to Blog / News