Other than Hamlet, Hans Christian Anderson (H.C.A.) is the most famous Dane in the world. Known for his extensive collection of fairytales, Anderson was born in 1805 and an extensive bicentennial celebration of his birth includes A Tivoli Fairytale, a 20-minute outdoor theatrical tribute to the beloved writer that opened on May 14 and runs through late September at Copenhagen's equally beloved Tivoli Gardens.
Produced by Bettina Buckey of WOW!Works and Peter Rose of Tivoli, and directed by Gary Paben, president of Gary Paben Productions, A Tivoli Fairytale (Et Tivoli Eventyr in Danish) stars large-scale luminous puppets designed by Lynn Holloway, and built by Greg Brown of Hard Drive in Orlando. A puppet of H.C.A. is the master of ceremonies, presenting 45 puppets, with three-dimensional carved heads and hands, bringing to life characters from 10 of his tales including “Thumbelina,” “The Emperor's New Clothes,” “The Princess and The Pea,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
Holloway looked at illustrations as well as paper cuts out by Anderson. “I did research on the Internet,” Holloway says. “But I did not use one specific visual language from a particular source.” He drew detailed pencil sketches, then color renderings on dark blue paper to indicate the nighttime environment that would embrace the puppets. “They come out and represent the stories on a proscenium stage before parading through the audience to a stage at the far end of the playing area where they create a dramatic tableau on a second stage,” explains Buckley.
“We wanted to create a fantasy world with a storybook feel. The stories are timeless and we didn't tie them to any one period,” Holloway adds.
Custom-printed fabric with handwritten texts by H.C.A. and the words “once upon a time,” visually tie the puppets together. There are snippets on each puppet, in Danish of course, and on vests worn by the 50 puppeteers.
Armatures of steel, carbon fiber, and aluminum that measure 15'-18' tall are supported by backpacks worn by the puppeteers. Stretch fabrics define body shapes, with a lot of sparkle, chiffon, and organza on the puppets. “A lot of the fabrics are semi-sheer, as the number one goal was to keep the puppets lightweight,” Holloway says.
“A puppet of Hans Christian Anderson orchestrates the whole show, as if it all flowed from him,” explains Holloway. “We had to create an image that the Danish people would accept as a representation of Anderson. I looked at photos as well as drawings. It was difficult to decide on an age, but we put him on the younger side of middle age.”
“The Snow Queen is a cloud of iridescent fabrics and lights, who appears in a cloud of fog,” says Holloway. “She has articulated hands and an icy stare.” One of the more complicated puppets is that for “The Princess and The Pea.” “This is a stack of mattresses with the princess puppet atop of them,” Holloway explains. “Two puppeteers carry the bed and a third manipulates the princess from below.”
Each story has special effects, designed by Tylor Wymer of WOW!Works. Snow, bubbles, and pyrotechnics gear include two Look Solutions Wireless smoke machines, two Le Maitre BM 2000 DMX-driven bubble machines for “The Little Mermaid,” two Snow Masters T-1500 DMX-driven snow machines for “The Snow Queen,” two Fire One FireLite Controllers and two Fire One computers with Fire One 2000 software (SMPTE driven), and 10 WOW!Works custom pyro firing platforms. “The pyro was designed to be up close, near the stage with small pencil-foggers in some of the puppets' hands,” explains Buckley.
“The puppets are translucent with a magical quality and built-in LEDs from Dan's Lighting in Orlando,” says Greg Brown of Hard Drive. “There are fishnets of free-floating lights hidden in the costumes.” Battery packs in the puppeteers' backpacks are recharged when the puppets go to sleep for the night.
Once completed, the puppets were taken apart, carefully packed and shipped to Denmark by sea. “I took a four-person crew with me and trained the local staff so they would have knowledge of the mechanisms,” says Brown. “Each has its own idiosyncrasies. Some have more than one puppeteer, so we had to make sure they have a full range of movement.”
The puppets weigh 30 to 40 lbs. including the backpack. “It takes a fair amount of training to wear these puppets,” says Brown. “It's not just the weight, they can get a little tipsy in the wind. But once the puppeteers get the hang of them, they can articulate them beautifully.”
Danish lighting designer Tue Selmer Friborg used 24 of the new Martin Professional MAC 250 Wash fixtures, supplied by Martin Scandinavia, as well as MAC 550 Profile spots. CMY color mixing allows the LD to create different moods.
The MAC 250 Wash units are mounted on green streetlight poles and encased in faux flowers. “Together with Martin Corneliussen of Seelite, I developed four towers inspired by flowers. Each flower head contains a MAC 250 Wash and serves as rain protection. The flower heads only conceal half of the fixture, but so far I have had no problems related to moisture,” says Friborg. The “petals” are green and creamy white wastebaskets and salad bowls from IKEA.
Programmed on a MA Lighting grandMA console (lighting programmer: Jeppe Lawaetz), the lighting and pyro cues are run via SMPTE time code on a flexible timeline. “I designed a different look for each of the fairytales,” says Friborg. “For ‘The Little Mermaid’ there are water reflections from the MAC 550s on large white sails that form a backdrop for the show, and heavy blue in the wash lights, plus bubble machines.” The console is located in a control booth with pyro and audio control from a small Yamaha digital console. The loudspeakers are by L-Acoustics from France. Two technicians run the entire show.
“This is the first time we had a show like this, with giant puppets, in Denmark,” says Friborg. “It's like a big theme park show and people really love it.”
Gary Paben, Gary Paben Productions
Tue Selmer Friborg, Tivoli
Lighting and Pyro Technician:
Liza van der Voorn
Special Effects Design:
Tylor Wymer, WOW!Works
Bettina Buckley, WOW!Works and Peter Rose, Tivoli
Puppet Design/Art Direction:
Lynn Holloway, Holloway Design
Morten Winther, Tivoli
Tivoli Design and Development:
Nicolai P P S Haagensen, Tivoli