Pull Back the Curtain on an EPIC Activation!
Back in March (2018) I was contracted by the incomparable Entire Productions to create SIX "living museum" masterpieces for a sales incentive gala dinner. I had never produced anything on this scale before, and I was very honored that Natasha Miller and her team had total faith that I could pull it all off.
All six backdrops were 10 feet tall, with another 5 feet that covered the stage, and 15 feet wide. After some good old Google searching, I decided they should be made of good old fashioned muslin. But it ended up being tricky to find muslin wide enough... it had to come from the internet. And once I had these giant pieces of fabric in my hands, it was apparent that I had to find a LARGE space to paint them in. Luckily my son's school had an unused cafeteria space with big windows and expanses of industrial tiled flooring. Whew!
To make the most economical use of materials, I employed a trick from the Skin Wars finale- when we had to paint a 10' x 10' mural. They provided us with gallons of untinted interior flat latex house paint, and small containers of potent high density pigments, so we could mix up an unlimited spectrum of colors. This worked GREAT- better than I could have hoped for! Working from nothing more than letter sized images of each painting, printed at home, I began sketching each piece with graphite. Every piece was sketched and painted on the floor! Oh, my back...
After all six backdrops were finished, I breathed a (premature) sigh of relief-- then realized I had to create props for all six pieces, and costumes for SIXTEEN models! Even the hair had to be made of sculpted, painted props so it would appear two dimensional. All the costumes were custom fitted to each model from the left over muslin pieces- cut and shaped and constructed with staples and duct tape at the seams. Then each costume was painted with carefully mixed shades of house paint to match the original paintings and also appear 2D.
Did I mention this all had to be finished in 5 weeks? As the deadline drew near, I had to pull in reinforcements for several all-nighters, and spent the final week snatching what Zs I could on the floor of the work space. We were painting foam core umbrellas and animals into the wee hours the night before load in. The last costume piece- a voluminous pink bustle skirt- and a crazy foam core and pvc pipe contraption representing the frame of a mirror had to be loaded in last because they were still damp with paint!
We loaded everything into the venue- a hangar for private planes in Monterey, CA- the day before the event. It took all day to install all six stages- with their custom-made gold frames (created by Entire's favorite fabrication vendor), pipe and drape wings and "reveal" curtains, custom lighting rigs- and then set up all the backdrops at the right height for perfect viewing angles, test the models in their costumes and positions, and adjust sight lines and lighting.
The next morning the REAL action began! Our green room had 16 models, 9 painters, and 8 ACTUAL ballerinas that needed to be turned into living Degas sketches. It was about the most fun and color that's ever been all in one place. The hotel staff were tickled pink, and lunch with everyone half painted was definitely a hoot!
Shuttles started bringing the performers over ahead of schedule - how often does THAT happen? Everyone was vibrating with anticipation, excited to finally bring this massive project to it's thrilling conclusion. Two tableaus were activated at a time, spread out between courses of the sit down dinner service. The curtains opened, and models posed for two minutes. It took almost a whole minute for the guests to realize there were actual PEOPLE in the paintings!
Everything- unbelievably- went off like clockwork. It was a flawless activation thanks to Natasha's uber organized team. And for sure the biggest production I've ever undertaken. The guests were floored, the client was ecstatic, and our team were exhausted, painty, and over-the-moon happy with the finished production. I can't wait to see what the next challenge will be!