ETC Tradeshow Booth
The firm, a prestigious maker of lighting and rigging technology for entertainment and architectural applications from Middleton, Wisconsin, transformed its stand into a showcase with two sword-fighting musketeers suspended from the ceiling. While d'Artagnan crossed swords for country and king, this gravity-defying duel drew in prospective customers. Project manager Frank Simon says, "It was certainly one of the most adventurous gigs in my time at s&f."
The design brief was certainly succinct: Work closely with the client to come up with a real eye-catcher. Given that ETC equipment figures prominently in theaters, the idea of staging a fencing scene like those seen in so many Alexandre Dumas adaptations didn't seem so far-fetched. However, the swordplay here would come with a dramatic twist from far out in left field. It was all very life-like, apart from the stunning heels-over-head effect.
s&f collaborator Jens Hübner from Stagedesign, Frankfurt, modeled the musketeers' faces with plaster gauze.
Some of the period-style props and clothes were even sourced from Paris. Gravity's pull had no effect with shirts and pants sutured to the figures and swords welded in place. Just two screws held the fighters' skeletons to the platform to facilitate the action. There was even a candelabra dangling from the ceiling, sans dripping wax, of course.
All this presented quite a challenge, aesthetically speaking. And the logistics were no less demanding. The scene took three and a half days to set up on location. What's more, the client wisely called for a dry run to iron out any kinks a week before deployment.
Frank Simon and his decorator teammates spent five days assembling, painting and bolting things to the ceiling-mount; building and styling furniture; determining and marking pick-points on trusses, and attaching clamps. This preparation made it so much easier for the team to put up the set. "Without it, we wouldn't have made it in time in London," says Frank with a sigh of relief.
When show-time finally rolled around, visitors were treated to a very special experience, an opportunity to play lighting director using ETC's latest technology to illuminate the swordplay and put all the color temperatures and options through their paces on the lighting desk. The asymmetrically inclined platforms used to this end consisted of a metal surround with a TIGER Drylac coating and wood inserts painted black. Ceiling-mounted spotlights fenced in the scene. Framed white screens, also suspended from the ceiling, furnished stylish backdrops for fairgoers to get an even better look at spotlights' brightness and color mixing capabilities.
This sophisticated set wasn't the stand's only eye-catcher. It also flew its banners high with a striking architecture that could be seen from afar. Flexible head panels, arrayed around the theater scene like so many billboards, got their message across for all to see. The panels were actually interlocking, extensible CFC aluminum rods sized to suit the stand and covered with nonflammable stretch fabric. An elastic insert ensured a drum-tight, wrinkle-free fit. Very practical indeed.
The set was torn down immediately after the PLASA show and sent to Werne for storage until next spring's Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt, when the fight to win customers' favor will be resumed.