When Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamburger penned his acclaimed book, Wonderland, in 2005, he focused on telling the day-to-day story of high school students through their own eyes, gathering information for his narration by spending a full year immersed in the high school atmosphere. His book takes readers on a yearlong journey while following a group of senior students, all building up to the most anticipated time of year: the senior prom. Rightfully dubbed the Best Prom in America by Reader’s Digest, this single evening is brought to fruition by thousands of people, including students, teachers, parents, and the countless vendors who lend a hand throughout the process. Each year a new theme is selected, the entire East campus building is transformed, and we use our expertise to enhance the theme and atmosphere… all while producing concert-quality audio and visual effects.
This year’s theme was “Yo Philly!”, made complete by borrowing from some of the City of Brotherly Love’s most iconic elements: the famously imperfect Liberty Bell, the Phillie’s home field of Citizens Bank Park, the Rocky statue, the deliberately skewed LOVE Park sign, the ever-growing skyline, and even some famous local stores and shops. Art students stayed after school for the weeks leading up to the special evening to hand-paint all of the murals placed up and down the hallways and gymnasium, and teachers and parents constructed larger props from wood, creating a convincing cityscape that would fool even Hollywood’s best set designers.
Although we may not be painters ourselves, we do know a thing or two about how to make paintings look like they’re part of the newest exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is exactly what our team strived for. By using high output theatrical fixtures known as lekos, we were able to illuminate each scene depicted in the gym’s murals, casting a soft and ethereal glow that made the scenes even more lifelike than they already were.
Photos above courtesy LevittownNow.com
In most event design scenarios, we endeavor to highlight the unique architectural elements of the venue, creating a subtle yet appreciable ambiance. Since complete venue transformation was the top priority for this event, we based our design plan around concealing every area that would not be covered with a mural. To achieve this, we draped the entire perimeter of the East Campus’ gymnasium, even covering the walls above the bleachers. Our lekos, shining on the murals below, further helped keep attention on the décor that brought the bustling city to the school, and away from the off-themed cinderblock walls the gym is constructed from.
We flew our u-shaped Tomcat truss above the dance floor using 6 half-ton motors, which housed our Martin Mac Aura and Elation Artiste DaVinci intelligent lighting fixtures, along with a line array PA system for the main and front audio fills. We wanted to make sure the evening’s entertainers had Vegas club-quality sound, especially since Vegas club-quality entertainers would be stopping by for a few guest sets. DJ Pauly D from Jersey Shore fame along with Philadelphia native Questlove from The Roots both took turns on the ones and twos, while our own Resident DJ Justin Byrne both opened and closed for the superstars, spinning a record-setting 265 songs throughout the night. On the ground level, we propped up the entertainment 2 feet above the crowd on our 16 x 20′ stage, which provided ample room for the 3 DJs and full band. We also ensured the talent on stage could be seen from all angles by installing a stage wash, using the same style of leko fixtures we used to illuminate the artwork.
Directly above the stage was a 16′ wide projection screen along with a projector mounted behind the screen, displaying live IMAG feeds of the dancing crowd, talent, and custom content for the class of 2017. We flew the screen and projector from the ceiling to maximize the cleanliness of the setup, and to allow anyone from any distance or angle to view the content with minimal obstructions.
Want to bring Pennsbury’s prom experience to your hometown school? Check out what we can do for your next dance: