An annual charity gala held September 9th at The Sony Centre in Toronto, Fashion Cares is a dazzlingly theatrical evening of fashion, entertainment and philanthropy that benefitted The AIDS Committee of Toronto and The Elton John AIDS Foundation. Since 1987, Fashion Cares has contributed nearly $12 million dollars to HIV/AIDS programs; this year marked the 25th anniversary of the event. Sir Elton John served as the evening's headliner, while The Scissor Sisters, Janelle Monae, Sky Ferrera, and an ensemble of previous Fashion Cares performers rounded out the bill. The event's hosts were David Furnish, supermodel Linda Evangelista, and fashion designers Dan and Dean Caten of DSQUARED.
A veteran of Fashion Cares, lighting designer Christopher Pegg of Westbury National Show Systems brought new excitement to the gala's visuals with his use of High End Systems' TechnoArc and Intellaspot XT fixtures as the evening's main eye candy. Pegg explains, "I've been involved with the lighting design for many years, but I always try to keep it fresh; Westbury's involvement started in year four. Over time the event has morphed from fashion show into an evening that encompasses many musical entertainment and fashion elements."
Treated as a one-off design with no involvement from Elton John's touring camp, Pegg's main challenge was to meet the three-day deadline for load-in and programming. "With a show like Fashion Cares," he says, "there are many competing demands. I get to work with a tremendous group of talented people doing live musical performances, fashion and dance segments. As well, from a budget standpoint it's important to match up my expectations with the equipment supplier's inventory in order to achieve the biggest bang for the buck. In this case, the supplier is the company that I have worked at for years, so I don't have a big problem with that. It's nice to be able to take it all out for a test drive!"
Pegg's design philosophy was to cover the multiform requirements of a variety show by embellishing the conventional fixtures in The Sony Centre's house system with newer technology. "Basically, we wanted to supplement the house rig with moving lights; I tried to make sure we had a 50/50 mix of spots and washes, as the fashion and dance elements really needed some white light. And because Fashion Cares has so much live entertainment, a healthy amount of moving lights is a great way to go when you need to create different colors and atmospheres. The lights that really stood out and gave a unique look to the show were the High End Systems Intellaspot XT and TechnoArc. There is such a wide variety of gobos, colors and other choices in the Intellaspot XT, they were a lot of fun to work with. The patterns now include very theatrical textural elements and leafy break up styles that give you some classic looks, and with the prism and a few of the effect wheel tricks, the choices are outstanding. One of the main advantages of High End Systems fixtures is that they have a great amount of respect for the color spectrum … the lights don't just do effective blues and greens - there's warm ambers, brilliant reds - they offer designers a wide variety of color options that all look fabulous."
With eight Intellaspot XT fixtures in the stage left and stage right corners, Pegg was able to get superior bang for the buck. He explains, "I knew the Intellaspots were light cannons, so I used them to get a lot of different looks across the entire stage. I was able to light the second tier of the stage quite effectively from those positions. We had drapes to the left and the right that I figured would work well with the gobos, and we also had a large orchestra that needed illumination. Thanks to the fixture's incredible zoom range, the Intellaspot allowed me to switch between these tasks very easily."
The designer also had the opportunity to put eight new TechnoArc fixtures through their paces, and was thrilled with the results. Pegg continues, "Obviously the beam element is key, but the ability to go from a wash style light into a beam, and also to add color mixing in is really cool. To bring in elements of a color within another color is just a great bit of eye candy. From a rental house perspective, I really like the fixture because it's not a one trick pony. I'm very happy the light can also do other things, and to morph between beam and wash is in itself a great look. As a rental guy I have to admit this versatility is very appealing."
In addition to the TechnoArc and Intellaspot XT fixtures, Pegg used 24 High End Systems Studio Beams, four Catalyst media servers and three DL.3 units. He further augmented the house rig with MAC 700 and JB A7 fixtures, 224 Lighthouse DuoLED panels and 120 Element Labs Versa Tubes. "While I did concentrate on wash fixtures for coverage," Chris says, "I used the Studio Beams because I needed quality white light in an arc fixture, and once again, I appreciate that respect for the color range that High End Systems products offer. But the show's eye candy came from Intellaspot XT and TechnoArc; they are each quite unique." Pegg used the three DL.3 for "a little gag on Elton's piano" while the Catalyst servers were utilized with the Versa Tubes and video wall.
The lighting team consisted of Pegg (design, programming, Board Op), Iain Young (movers and control), Andrew 'Ziggy' Cweirdzinski (LED screens) and Andrew Villaneuva (digital lighting). Philip Ing served as Creative Director, with Christopher Mercer as TD and Don Loughlin handling the set design. Paul Tozer and Kevin Filek supervised audio for Westbury. Account manager was Westbury's VP of Production Services Rob Sandolowich, another seasoned veteran of Fashion Cares who has contributed to the ongoing success of the event.