The Lane Bryant fashion show is always a must-see event during Fashion Week. This year's production, titled The Grand Cabaret, was staged in the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center Studios and featured performances by Rouge, the New Bohemian Cabaret, in addition to the traditional sexy lingerie fashion parade. Guests sat at small tables around the runway and free drinks were served. Adding more spice to the event was the infamous Roseanne as the hostess with the mostes', and the pièce de résistance was none other than Kelly Osbourne, who performed "Papa Don't Preach" at the end of the show.
Lighting design was by Gordon Link of Bernhard-Link Theatrical Productions, with ETC Source Fours, Vari*Lite® VL1000s™ and VL2000™ wash luminaires, plus R40 striplights along the runway for footlights, all controlled by a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® II console with expansion wing. The ballroom has a large mirror ball which gave a magical sparkle to several scenes. Link succeeded in finding a balance between the bright white light needed for the fashion photographers at the end of the runway and the dark and colorful atmosphere the producers wanted for the cabaret feel.
ALS: How long did you have to prepare for the show?
GL: I think we started the initial project probably in December.
ALS: And that's when they told you the concept and the venue?
GL: Yes. They wanted a performing area in the runway, to be underneath the house mirror ball. They wanted a very warm, intimate experience for their guests. Typically, in the past, they've done much bigger venues with lots more people, so they had to be very selective this season, and it's what they wanted to do, and they wanted something that was totally different from what they had done or from the typical fashion show. They were really looking for theatre/cabaret.
ALS: Have you worked in that venue before?
GL: Yes, I have, very familiar with it.
ALS: So you knew ahead of time what problems you might have to work around.
GL: Yes, we are aware of some of its drawbacks. For instance, there is no freight, per se, that goes there. You have two choices: You either use the small passenger elevators and they put padded blankets on the walls, which limits you as to size of scenery, etc. Or, they have a shaftway, if you will, with a one-ton winch. They lower cables down to the ground floor, and you tie things on and hoist it up. I've been telling them that they really should upgrade that with some kind of bridle system onto a steel reinforced deck that people can load gear onto and haul it up.
We really like the Manhattan Center spaces, we really like the Hammerstein Ballroom, we really like the seventh floor. Why? Because there are rigging points that they have installed overhead through the ceiling, which allows you to configure truss to make all your lighting positions. It was a fairly extensive truss deal we had to do to make that system work. So, they gave some good thought into that. Very good, adequate power. They've really put thought into that. They have the boxes, they have the juice, for fairly large productions. So those were good, and the staff there is very friendly, accommodating, and helpful.
ALS: When did you load in the equipment?
GL: We were scheduled to load in on Sunday. We had booked Sunday and Monday for set up, and beginning to do dry techs Monday evening, Tuesday was rehearsals all day going into show. However, in a subsequent meeting with Manhattan Center, it was discovered that there was nothing in there Saturday, and they were very kind to offer us, at no extra charge, to load in on Saturday as opposed to Sunday at 12:01am. We were thrilled and immediately jumped on that. It was such a terrific boon to get those extra hours. We loaded in Saturday morning at 6am, did all our pre-rig, got the truss all together, got it flown to chest height, hung and cabled the entire rig, put on the track for the blue traveler curtain, and then flew it out. It worked beautifully.
ALS: What equipment did you use? I saw Source Fours and VL1000s.
GL: We had the VL1000 and VL2402, which, now, Vari-Lite is changing the name and wanting to call them the 2000 wash series. I chose the R40 striplight simply for the look of it. The reason I chose them was for the broader head and look of the color running up and down the runway edge. I used to use them a lot way back in the 80s, as a great footlight/striplight, and I knew they would work perfectly, and they did. We put flood lamps in them, and they did everything I wanted them to do. That trough was just the right height to allow me to tip them and get coverage basically from head to foot.
We brought in Lycian short-throws for the followspot configuration for the balcony rail. There were four of them, and that allowed me to get fairly good coverage. The only place I didn't get total body coverage was at very end of runway. The throw distance was so short, I think we got just above the knee to top of head, but it did work. I was very pleased with them. The other unit we used was a far cyc wash employed on the upstage gold curtain and everything else was Source Fours. In essence, all the gear came from Vari-Lite Production Services and Fourth Phase. And we had a Wholehog® with expansion wing.
ALS: How long did you spend programming it?
GL: I would say, overall, programming and adjusting cues, because there were a ton of cues, I would say we probably spent close to 24 hours programming. I tell you, conventionals are very quick to program on a computer console, but when you're playing with all the attributes to moving lights, color, pan, tilt, and running program, where's it going, what's it doing, that's what took all the time, and of course every time we had a rehearsal, notes would be given.
I think the key thing on this was the fact that they were not looking for a Seventh on Sixth, bright-lit runway type of show, they really did want theatre/cabaret, and that's what I found most challenging--to give them that effect and still try to allow photographers and video to get the shots they needed. It was a fine line of balancing as dark as I could possibly get and still get the pictures we needed. Right up to the last minute we were adjusting levels, particularly for the very end of runway to allow the still photographers to get the shots they needed, to get the color temperatures where they needed to be. Frankly, we were running things so low we were not even getting up to 3200K tungsten; initially we were running at around 2900K. So in discussions with the producer, they loved it at that level. For the human eye and for the excitement of that kind of cabaret performance, it was great. But the photographers and videographers were looking to get a little more lumens and hotter color temperature so that the pictures would turn out better. So, we did a few bumps here and there to get that and yet keep it as dark as we could, and I looked at some of the footage and it looked terrific.
ALS: Did you design lighting for Kelly Osbourne's song?
GL: Yes, we did. It was interesting. She came in the morning, they set up her gear and did a sound check mid-afternoon, and I had one brief, five-minute meeting with her production manager/stage manager, and I asked what would they like. And he said, "We were told you had put in a two-color backlight, two-color frontlight, wash for the band, and we see what you've got here out in the house, so do whatever you'd like." So we did. And for the brief performance it was I think the lighting worked out fine for it. My biggest disappointment was that I didn't get to meet Ozzy. I heard he was there and watched her perform from backstage.
ALS: Is there anything else you'd like to say about the project?
GL: It was a lot of fun. I got immense satisfaction from doing it, and I can't say enough praise for the producers and Lane Bryant in having the foresight and the patience and the perseverance to do the type and size of productions they do. They're really terrific to work with.
Photos: Shawn Robinson