phase7 Stages Main Show of Hans Christian Andersen Festival supported by Elation

by Michael Eddy

For the past five years, the Danish city of Odense has honored its most famous son, Hans Christian Andersen, with a festival. With a long list of fairy tales that continue to find their place in the hearts of readers of all ages, it isn’t surprising that the H.C. Andersen Festival enjoys a growing popularity. This year’s festival, held this past August, included over 700 events with the city's main square the scene of the festival’s nightly show.

While over the last five years complex projection mappings were popular, this year the festival director wanted a new concept and commissioned the Berlin-based artist collective, phase7 performing.arts, with the task. Under the artistic direction of Sven Sören Beyer, phase7 performing.arts handled concept development and implementation of the new show.

“…sunshine, freedom and a little flower”
Based on a line from Andersen's The Butterfly “…sunshine, freedom and a little flower,” a Danish cast brought the show to life on an irregular, six-story Layher scaffold reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle. In addition to the figure of Hans Christian Andersen himself, there was a singer, dancers from the Royal Ballet School, and musicians from the South Danish music conservatory. The scaffolding stage was covered front and rear with a cyc on which video was projected. The realtime-video content, designed by Frieder Weiss, was triggered by the dancers and actors themselves.

To light the exceptional stage, lighting designer Björn Hermann used 40 new Proteus Hybrid™ moving lights from Elation Professional, which saw its European debut before the public in Odense. "Many of my events take place outdoors, in open air," says Hermann. "In theory, one can also use any other light in the open air, but then need a dome as weather protection. In Odense, however, we were not dealing with a 100-meter stage; also, the lights were not far from the action, but right in the middle. In such a setup, domes need a lot of space and quickly destroy live and camera images." Beyer reiterates the importance of IP65 protection for open air performances. “This is a feature that is generally underestimated,” he says. “However, weatherproof lights are very important because domes quickly destroy the picture. Quite apart from that, the light quality also suffers.”

The interactive video content was clearly the focus of the performance. "With light, video is broken," says Hermann. "Therefore, the lighting design should be knitted around the video content. Nevertheless, of course we needed the typical 'big picture' for the final. Therefore, my choice fell to spotlights.”

The IP65 certified Proteus Hybrid came in handy for Hermann with lighting positions defined by the free space available in the structure of the scaffold platform. Hermann placed three Proteus Hybrid fixtures in each free space. A few other spotlights found their place on cantilever braces, with which the lighting designer optically extended the stage and set a light frame. In total, 24 of the hybrid Proteus lights were used on the scaffold platform. In addition, two smaller Layher scaffolding platforms (8 x 2 meters) were placed to the right and left of the stage, each about 15 meters away, on which a further 16 Proteus Hybrids were used.

"The Proteus Hybrid is as good as the other hybrid lights on the market," says Hermann. "As I was working outdoors, it was clear then that I would choose the light with the IP65 rating. What should also be remembered is that weatherproof lights are budget-saving because domes not only consume space, they must also be rented." The designer also has nothing to complain about as far as reliability. He stated, "We set up the lighting system on Monday; rehearsals took place on Tuesday; on Wednesday we had a public rehearsal; and from Thursday to Saturday we had two shows a day. During that time, we did not change out a light."

Curious to know at what distance the fixture can be used, Hermann was thwarted in testing the fixture at a longer distance in Odense. "We've seen that the Proteus Hybrid has some real punch but we could not position it half a kilometer away to judge how it works from that distance. We’ll have to try it out on one of the next shows," he said.  

The main show of the Hans Christian Andersen Festival conceived by phase7 Stages from Berlin. Photo by phase7.deA further supporting role on the show was played by 19 drones that not only interacted with the dancers during their impressive air ballet but also took part in choreographed fireworks at the end of the show. "We wanted to show that drones are not only a weapon for war but that you can also create something beautiful with them and arouse emotions in humans," explains Sven Sören Beyer, artistic director of phase7.

The half-hour show was performed from Wednesday to Saturday, altogether seven times, with 10,000 spectators at each show. The team was composed of artistic director, Sven Sören Beyer; Björn Hermann, lighting design; Frieder Weiss, interactive video art; Jana Posth, project management, phase7; and Steffen Fuchs, technical management.

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