Set and costume designer Maria Bjornson, perhaps best known for her award-winning designs for Phantom of the Opera, died unexpectedly in December at the age of 53 after suffering an epileptic fit. Recently, a gala memorial titled "For Maria with Love" was held in her honor at Her Majesty's Theatre in London.
The star-studded event featured a selection of pieces from Bjornson's vast catalog of shows, performed by her colleagues and friends. It was directed by Francesca Zambello (also director of The Trojans, one of three Bjornson works in progress at the time of her death); designed by Andy Pollock, with costumes coordinated by Alan Watkins and lighting by Rick Fisher. (Fisher was also working with Bjornson on a new opera, The Little Prince, at Houston Grand Opera when she died.)
Her Majesty's Theatre is the London home of Phantom, so Fisher used the house lighting rig for the show, and various pieces of the Phantom set. Projected Image Digital supplied a RADLite visual manipulation system, programmed by Chris Watts, for a scroll-through of credits, showing titles and dates for 160 of Bjornson's works. As the show concluded, it was also used for a montage of her personal photographs.
Projected Image Digital’s David March (right) with RADlite operator Chris Watts
As the details of the gala became clear, Fisher thought it was an ideal opportunity to put the RADLite system through its paces in a theatrical environment. "I had just one afternoon--that of the show--to plot and program lighting; there were lots of changes as parts of the show evolved, and we all had to work very fast. Basically there was no time or room for errors, and the flexibility of the RADlite was invaluable," comments Fisher.
Material and images for the two projection sequences were converted into digital formats and loaded into the RADlite's hard drive, where they were adjusted to fit the space. They were beamed onto two projection surfaces with a Sanyo projector supplied by Bryan Raven at White Light, rigged on the dress circle lighting bar.
Fisher explains that they wanted to show to be perfect--as Bjornson herself would have been. He also comments that it was fitting to be using cutting-edge technology at her tribute, as she’d always been a pioneer and an innovator. "Projected Image put a lot of energy and effort into making it work for us," says Fisher.