ALTHOUGH IT'S CALLED the "City of Angels," it is rare to find winged heavenly creatures flying above Los Angeles, let alone making appearances at the city's convention center. However, calling upon the power of the heavens was the feat executed by EventWorks, a Los Angeles-based event production company, during an opening ceremony and stage show produced for 6,000 members of the American Society of Travel Agents World Travel Congress.
EventWorks had been hired by the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau to convey the message to an audience of international travel agents that Los Angeles is a place where a richness of diversity, history, arts and architecture converge. The LACVB had begun using the symbol of an angel and wanted to reveal it with dramatic flair at this 20-minute presentation held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
"Out of all the companies proposing the show to us, EventWorks was the one that really understood the concept," says Trish Keller, ASTA project manager in charge of working closely with the tourism marketing arm of the bureau headed by Patti MacJennett. "The EventWorks proposal was thematic and creative and wove the angel concept in beautifully throughout the narrative. It was what we were looking for, and it came in at our budget."
A CITY OF ANGELS Beginning in darkness, the show came slowly to light with sounds from string instruments creating ethereal music. A screen flanked by scaffolding of varying heights appeared, and a voice from the heavens began to speak. As it did, the music became underscored with a Spanish influence, a nod to the city's ethnic roots, and the voice told the audience that "since the time that time has forgotten, Los Angeles has welcomed all people." As the image of a sophisticated, Latin-looking angel appeared on-screen, a voice-over spoke these words: "I am the Queen of Angels, and I have been here all along." Recorded music meshed with the drumbeat of live taiko drummers on stage. As they beat a new rhythm, another figure appeared on the scaffold. Lifting its shroud, it revealed its wings. This angel, the "Angel of the City," then ascended above the audience, and the voice said: "This is my city today. This is my home." Thus, the audience's journey through Los Angeles began.
The mood changed quickly as urban techno-pop music began. Strobe lighting and quick-cut images on screen set the tone for the in-line skaters and skateboarders who entered the stage from ramps on all sides. On the ramps created to look like Los Angeles freeways, some skaters performed with cell phones, briefcases and business suits, giving the audience a taste of modern-day Los Angeles. With acrobatic theatricality, the troupe performed to music based on Randy Newman's famous song I Love L.A..
As the skaters exited, the mood shifted from modern Los Angeles to the romance of Hollywood. A soloist, costumed in period clothing from the film Titanic, sang My Heart Will Go On. Behind her, images of the ocean gave way to shots from famous love scenes in the movies, ending with the scene between Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslett on the bow of the Titanic. The angel informed the audience, "This is a city rich in creativity, and we share it with the world."
In the next segment, EventWorks conveyed the cultural richness of Los Angeles with architectural photographs of the city's museums and famous buildings. These served as the background for live human sculptures who performed feats of strength and form. The multimedia show and the live performance intertwined to show the breadth of what humanity can achieve, and has done so, in Los Angeles.
And though the event producers always reached for symbolism, EventWorks, ASTA and the LACVB never forgot its audience. "We did our research," Keller explains. "And based on what they responded to in other cities, we knew our audience liked to have their heartstrings plucked a little."
That in mind, the final segment aimed for the heart of the audience. As the stage went dark again, the angel spoke for the last time: "Hear the rhythm of the city. Listen closer, hear the beating of my wings as I soar above the city, reaching for a future." At that, a gospel singer began to sing I Believe I Can Fly and was joined by a gospel choir. At the song's end, the entire cast took the stage as the angel appeared on screen once again, keeping her eternal vigil over Los Angeles.
GETTING IN THE SPIRIT Getting into the spirit of working together was first on the agenda of a project as large as this. Because of the requirements and the tight time frame that immediately followed the show, EventWorks found creative ways to work with the existing video monitors and a light trussing system that were also needed for a meeting following the presentation.
"The convention center had limited space," Keller explains. "We had to ensure that the needs of the event came together as a whole, meshing the floor plans of both the stage show and the requirements for the meeting." Working with these types of logistics continued throughout the setup, yet EventWorks was able to stay close to most of its original scripting.
"For this program, we brought all elements of a live show together in a short time span," says Janet Elkins, owner of EventWorks. "It was a multimedia show that had to have all three elements-the visuals, music and talent-match up perfectly."
Everything was coordinated from ground zero. EventWorks pulled in talent it has worked with over the years-a musical director who helped create the original score; a director with a background in live productions from Broadway to Las Vegas; and a core group of experienced riggers, costumers, lighting directors and sound technicians. "There were 30 specialty people behind the scenes and 75 performers," Elkins recalls. "With this large a cast, we learned the importance of good stage managers to bring each segment together."
Ultimately, the spirit of working together teaches that what you give comes back to you. "Janet and Ted [Bowers] treated this show as a way to give back to and showcase Los Angeles in a way that is not normally done," says Keller.
Whether individual tourists or groups come to Los Angeles is in the hands of the travel agents who saw the show. But thanks to EventWorks, none of them can say that Los Angeles has nothing to offer.