Though not a fan of vampires, werewolves or zombies over the weekend I saw “Song of the Living Dead” at the Promethean Theatre in the Black Box Theatre at Nova Southeastern University. This “Musical about love” “play about zombies” actually surprised and entertained me. We were warned ahead of time about two things: it’s raunchy and there will be blood. So with not much more than the title of the play, a little warning and clothes that could get bloody we set out with a group of friends to see the show.
The play opens with George and Judith on a beautiful day as they are getting engaged. Unbeknownst to them there has been a viral outbreak that’s reanimating corpses and of course all they want is brains! …except for the dyslexic kid zombie who wants “brians”. Intertwined in this mix is Harry Hardman, the over-the-top executive who is obsessed with the newly-engaged Judith. Harry is definitely a stand-out in the play providing such gems as the song “I’m F*ing Awesome” while wearing a double breasted suit with comically large shoulder pads (think of a business suit designed by the Romulans). As the zombie virus spreads Judith, George and a now commando version of Hardman end up trapped in a Party City with a small collective of other refugees.
A parallel storyline to the triangle of George, Judith and Harry is the Reverend Seabrook, a fire and brimstone preacher who leads his choir in “The Lord God Hates Them All”. Seabrook fears and holds in contempt anyone who is different than him and his faith all whilst encompassing the parable of the man in the flood. This leads to some very funny scenes involving him and the gay couple consisting of an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim – a hilarious trifecta of Rev. Seabrook’s hatred.
The play delivers on the promise of blood, there’s a “splash zone” in the first row, but the blood hit all the way back to the fifth. There is indisputably raunchiness, a zombie gives birth to a zombie fetus and there’s a scene about “Going Gay for Jesus”. The play is worth seeing and I hear rumors that the play might be extended through September 10th.
The final South Florida performance of Cirque Eloize iD was a visual feast. The technical direction and set design of the show are flawless. As for the story, I’m not sure I followed it. In fact, I’m not sure there is one. The show begins with a love scene that involves some very nice floor based gymnastics and lifts along with an act on a Chinese Pole and some break dance fighting. After that the plot is not really present and seems to be a jumbled mess of incongruent story lines. The only way that I picked up on this being like West Side Story is that it says so in the promo: West Side Story Meets Hip Hop. I definitely got the hip hop vibe. Although it added to the story, they used break dancing for filler every chance they got, sometimes needlessly. I personally think that their “fights” would be much more dynamic if they incorporated more capoeira techniques instead of trying to make break dancing look like fighting.
Story aside it was a beautiful show. The acts included traditional Cirque performances – aerial lyra, strength acts mixed with choreography, balancing acts, juggling, a contortionist, Cyr wheel and aerial silks. Newer performances were incorporated like jump rope, rollerblading, powerskips and BMX stunts (including audience participation). The one act that really seemed to impress the audience was the trampo-wall act, which involved the entire troupe. This act worked seamlessly with the stage decor, which incorporated trap doors, moving platforms, and digital imagery across it’s various surfaces as each performer did tricks and stunts up the many surfaces of the wall. Throughout the show I could pick up that the performers were tired – and rightfully so, they’ve been performing a rigorous schedule over the last month plus here in South Florida.
Coming from more of a backstage and technical background, the set design is what really impressed me. At any given time nearly every face of the stage design had digital imagery on it. This was accomplished through 9 projectors that must have overlapped with seamless edge-blending or overlapping projection and some major keystoning. The effect allowed for scenes to change while keeping the projection from being fully eclipsed by a performer’s body or other set piece. This is quite an accomplishment as the performers were up against the projection surface for much of the show.
Miami was the last leg of the US tour schedule, but if you have a chance to Cirque Eloise iD, I would take it. The visual experience of the technology behind the show along with the cirque acts is worth it. They even encourage audience participation through live lobby and house video along with constantly updated twitter and text feeds projected on stage.
Live Design International invaded the Orange County Convention Center from November 16th through November 22. The show provides professionals from entertainment industries such as stage performing, theater, concerts, and any other live performance a chance to learn knew techniques, sharpen their skills, and see the latest technologies for live design.
At 10 am on Friday, November 20th the ribbon was cut and the show floor opened. The floor showcases products for any type of live event production. Vendors carry everything from truss and rigging equipment to special effects gear. If you need extension cords, custom fabrics, staging, safety devices, or AV equipment, then the show floor was the place to be. Some exciting new products were on hand this year including VER’s 3D LED screen – this was a surprisingly smooth portable 3D display, flexible LED panels in a variety of resolutions, and battery operated, DMX controllable, LED theatrical lighting elements. One of my favorite new products, though ultimately unnecessary, was the DMX512 controllable blender presented by Doug Fleenor Design (apparently Doug just built a house that is fully DMX controllable). Some of the most notable projects from this year were the lighting for the U2 360 tour and Jimmy Fallon’s stage for eco-friendly design.
Rose Brand hosted a great presentation by Martin Valentine and Herrick Goldman called Creative Influences in Design. The two Lighting Design Directors shared their film inspirations (of course Blade Runner made it onto both lists) and how films have effected the way light used in their respective medium – architectural lighting and theatrical lighting respectively.
Some of the most important and useful information came through the ESTA classes on rigging safety; it’s good to be reminded that the entertainment industry is (probably) the only industry in the world who suspends temporary structures with moving parts into the air, and asks people to work on top and walk underneath these structures while someone operates them in the dark. We viewed structural failures, fires, and other mishaps within our industry from the last 100 years, and discussed how to prevent them.
Social media has even creped it’s way into LDI. 4Wall Entertainment Lighting set up #LDIHunt – in order to win a prize from the company you had to complete a photo scavenger hunt and post the pictures to twitter. There was even a tweetup over the weekend (though I found out about it afterward).
The funniest part of LDI this year happened at the New Technology Breakfast on Friday morning. In a space filled with entertainment techs, lighting designers, and AV gurus one of the four projectors failed to work. By the next day it was fixed, but the humor was apparent.
The weekend was a great learning experience and a good time for all involved. Next year’s LDI show will be held from October 18th through the 24th in Las Vegas. I hope to see you there.