2 Themes in 18 Hours
Behind an inspirational transformation
Eighteen hours. That’s how long this event team had to totally transform a tented environment from a lush underwater theme featuring a full-blown water show and a live mini-Broadway revue, into a whimsical candy factory with hard sets and another live stage show. Although the theme events were part of a celebratory weekend for two children and their birthdays, there was nothing childish about the design, and that clock ticking in the background was serious business.
The clock actually started months before when producer Sonia Sharma of Sonia Sharma Events assembled her event team to create these imaginative worlds for 180 guests, a mix of adults and children. She turned first to Edgar Zamora, CEO of Revelry Event Designers, as the event designer. Together they presented six ideas to the clients. While it’s not sure that the clients meant to have two events back-to-back from the beginning, they certainly did once they saw the presentation. “They came back and told us they liked two out of the six,” Sharma says. But they didn’t just want one of those two…they wanted both, and on the same weekend!
This was a dream come true, but a dream for which the team had to be wide awake to execute. It would take months to cleverly layer the technical and design aspects of each event so they could be peeled back, turned off or on, or strategically moved. Given the physical layout of the space and lighting, as well as all the costumes, performers, and sheer magic needed, this dual event weekend was nothing short of a Las Vegas extravaganza.
Three months before the events, the planning began and Sharma brought on the rest of the team: The Empty Vase for floral and floral sculptures, Images by Lighting, Entertainment+, and Classic Party Rentals for the main pieces of the puzzle. With everyone on board, there was one month of hands-on production, three weeks to build it out, and then one week to load it out. All vendors worked separately, then as a group to fit everything together.
The first event to load in was actually the second event of the weekend. Revelry began by installing the hard sets of the candy factory entrance, as was the interior walls and flooring. Over this, yards and yards of draping were added to create the entrance to an underwater world. Lighting was installed and positioned for the first and second nights at the same time.
Some elements would stay the same such as a children’s area featuring life-size sets, rides and games. Another element that remained the same were the miles of twinkling lights installed by Images. It took four days for the crew to cover the 600 running feet of 15-foot-high hedges, supplied by Revelry which acted as dividers throughout the space.
Night One: Under the Sea
Guests walked into an entrance with a huge floral sculpture created by The Empty Vase. Directly past it was a pool where a water show would take place and behind that a video screen integrated in to the design that would display images that complemented the show.
Cocktails were held in a lounge area designed just outside the entrance of the dining tent and decorated by Revelry. For all the wonder generated by the entrance and its huge underwater scene, draping, over-the-top floral décor, and water show, nothing could prepare guests for the experience of walking into this environment, and that’s testimony to the creativity of this team.
The space, lighted in all blue, swayed with the motion of the sea thanks to Revelry’s ceiling treatment – seaweed cut from lightweight fabrics that moved as if with the ocean’s currents. Revelry’s Tuxedo Shade Chandeliers were covered with blue fabric, and hung in groupings of three throughout the tented structure. “The layout for this night’s event was completely designed around the graphic octopus design in the center of the room,” says Zamora. “It was a really special look. These two events really enabled us to show off the unique work of our fabric artisans as well as our ceiling and perimeter designs.”
A 120-by-20-foot video screen displayed an underwater scene that supported the water show. Additional wall treatments included hard wall and a bar with mirrored port holes. During dinner, guests were treated to a theatrical production complete with aerialists, song and dance numbers and many costume changes. The lighting for the stage was flown on a ground-supported truss that held all the other scenic elements, décor, chandeliers, and performers.
The entertainment producer, Douglas Johnson of Entertainment Plus, had created a full-blown water show, heavily technical with lasers, moving lighting, video projections, water walls, fountains and wet and dry stages. Images took into consideration all the décor for both and entertainment for both of the shows. The lighting design was then configured so that it could be reused, regelled, and reprogrammed from the same position as much as possible for the next event. “Between the tent and the water show, this is as close as I’ve come to mixing theater production lighting with event lighting because they were so integral,” says Curt Stahl from Images by Lighting. “We needed to make it all look seamless between the entertainment, lighting, design and production. It was challenging and made this job all the more rewarding.”
Night Two: Candyland
The transformation of the space from an under-the-sea design to Candyland began Saturday evening after the guests left. As guests returned the following evening, where just 18 hours before they had enjoyed a full-blown water show in front of a façade of soft blue draping, was a hard set of a fantasy castle.
Inside the tent, the flowing “seaweed” was removed to reveal a clean line of ceiling draping. The octopus chandeliers were gone and the octopus dance floor was removed to reveal another floor. Light fixtures and instruments – already in place – were regelled or refocused. The Empty Vase had completely transformed the floral design with extravagant floral trees.
Another element created by Revelry that had been hidden before by draping was revealed to the left of the stage — a custom sculpted chocolate fountain wall with built in caves guests could walk into and get treats, and in front of this, a working chocolate waterfall.
The attention to detail was impressive, even to those involved. Saeed Babaeean, Creative Director and Owner of The Empty Vase recalls, “My team individually glued each seashell onto four-foot pedestals for our nine-foot floral seahorse sculptures. The large scale of this event really allowed our team to create breathtaking designs.” Certainly Sharma agrees. “I loved those seahorses, and the fact that when guests walked in, there was a giant aquarium with live fish.”
“On Day Two,” Sharma continues, “I’d have to say one element I was most proud of was the entertainment. But overall, to create an experience that children would normally see in an amusement park and make that happen in real life was just amazing.”
At one point on the second night, a back lighted silhouette effect in the scrim spelled out the word “Dream” and “Wonka” calling to mind the inspiration for the events. Which is fitting because Wonka perhaps said, or rather, sung what this team accomplished best in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: “There is no life I know | To compare with pure imagination.”
Which is fitting because when it comes to layering, there is nothing like peeling each element back one by one until you are left with the essence of great design — pure imagination.
Design Production: Sonia Sharma Events | Design: Revelry Event Designers | Andrena Photography | Floral Design and Floral Sculptures: The Empty Vase | Catering: Wolfgang Puck Catering | Images by Lighting | E+ Entertainment | Classic Party Rentals
Originally posted on DesignDawgs
eNews December 2014