Our goal was to create a space where lush beauty, artistic rock n roll, cinematic storytelling, and spoken communication could challenge and inspire for a 2 day conference.
An original sponsor backed out shortly before the event. I was honored to get the call. Can I design something for this shallow stage that can carry all the unique elements planned (several keynote presentations, multiple live music performances, interviews, short films, etc.) with immersive depth and beauty? Can I create an inspiring design that can tie in to already created branding? Can we break the fourth wall into the room? Can I do it with zero purchase - using only donated/recycled material? Can I transport it from Detroit to Chicago in my minivan? Can I lead the setup and execution with a team of volunteers (most of whom are young college students with no experience) that I've never met before? Can the setup be completed in a single day?
This is the view of the room. It was actually a little bit of a bummer to cover up the windows where you could see the Chicago skyline out of the stage left window in the back depth. However, the theme was not Chicago, but rather Everywhere. We wanted to transport people to a place of imagination.
The journey to get to from concept to actual design (including materials list, rigging notes, lighting plot, setup checklist, and rendering of vision) took a lot of iteration. It required lots of emails including scanned sketches and study of blueprints of venue that I was out of town and not able to do an in-person site-survey. We also utilized video conferencing for "face-to-face collaboration between Executive Producer, Production Manager, and myself, the Production Designer) including screen-sharing and digital sketching. The most interesting development was the week-of donation of an LED screen that let us gain a lot of stage space because of the throw distance not being required; which was great for the final product, but required some last minute adaptability in redesign of all the rigging and the plot. One of the key layers of this design that wasn’t there when I arrived at the venue was four lekos with abstract gobos. I pushed way hard for the day of rehearsal that our PM managed to find a way to procure the morning of the conference was isome theatrical gobos to throw textural light at the curtains. Sometimes it's the simple, old-school, theatrical tricks that really create the mood and set the tone for the experience. When the team saw them turn on only minutes before doors opened, they realized why I was pushing so hard for such. Magical!
The following screenshots show the final design plot as well as the iteration sketches, blueprint, and in process diagrams:
Crushed Screen-door strips hung between black pipe as textured depth-of-field behind live art. Burgundy CommandoCloth (from Rose Brand) finessed into a House of Blues inspired "theatrical proscenium" finished with three cords to "tie it" into a reveal. Our center focal point is a large LED Wall. Throughout the room are 12 chandeliers. In addition to being beautiful, I wanted to include them in the design to communicate this year’s theme "Everywhere". We’re called as the Creative Class to be light to the world, the best way to go out into the world is in community; not as an individual light but as a beautiful community of oneness. Therefore I see the symbolism that each chandelier represents the 12 tribes of the historical scriptures into all the world…
Oh, and the piano, harp, and guitar in the mid-depth behind the SL interview area: I only placed that there because we had the equipment in the wings and I thought they’d look pretty.