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Costumes surround the front of the USITT PQ USA 2007 National Exhibit before it was disassembled for shipment to Prague, Czech Republic.

Photo/Laura Crow

by Sandy Bonds
USITT VP-International Activities


Exhibits Head To Prague

After more than two years of preparation and nine months of construction, the three exhibits representing the United States at the Prague Quadrennial have begun their journey overseas.

The team of faculty and students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, led by Tom Korder and R. Eric Stone, completed the finishing touches in the last few weeks, mounting the renderings and photographs, preparing the scenic models, and placing the three-dimensional objects. With these last details, the structure of the exhibits came alive with the design contents.

A unique feature of this year's National exhibit will be areas allocated for the display of puppets and costumes. The curators incorporated puppetry to illustrate the theme of "New Voices, New Visions," as an alternative to conventional performance. Among the puppets on display is an animated model for Michael Curry's paper ghosts from Cirque du Soleil's new production, The Beatles' LOVE, used to visualize George Harrison's song, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, left.

Costumes from 14 productions surround the inside front of the exhibit. A notable characteristic of each costume is the use of collaged fabrics, found objects, or painting to create unique surface textures. Susan Hilferty's design for Elphaba, the witch in Wicked, used layers of ruffled, multi-textured fabrics to create the look of strata to connect her to the earth.

The Student Exhibit also includes costumes and props. The emphasis on three-dimensional objects moves the presentation past the formative stages of renderings and models into execution, giving the exhibition attendees greater insight into the experience of the performance audience. Costumes and props from The Gods are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi, an African version of the Oedipus story, will be on view among other production artifacts. Class projects also are represented in the exhibit including a series of concept shoe designs from Carnegie Mellon University. The project brief asked for the materials and design elements to express an idea through the medium of shoes.

The Architecture Exhibit highlights 17 performance spaces for the next generation focusing on training facilities for universities and colleges, professional theatres, and performing arts facilities. A photo-montage was created to show the unique features of each along with an accompanying DVD for additional details. Two projects emerged as featured designs: the Class of '62 Center for Theatre and Dance, (right) Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts (Architect William Rawn Associates), and the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (Architect Gehry Partners, LLP). Both were seen as projects of outstanding architectural distinction containing exciting theatre spaces and providing a stimulating educational environment.

When the three exhibits were nearing completion, the proud construction team hosted a gala reception for their UIUC hosts on March 27 and an Open House for the community on April 4. Members of the Theatre Department and Fine and Applied Arts faculty attended. The guests were impressed with the high quality of the work accomplished by the staff and the dedication of the student team who volunteered their spare time throughout the year to work on the project.

The students were very excited to have had the opportunity to work with the artifacts of prominent productions and theatre designers and to see the impressive results of their months of labor. While the project involved a great deal of challenging work, they enthusiastically agreed seeing the exhibits as completed pieces made their efforts worthwhile. Now, the student team is looking forward to seeing the exhibits from the other countries

After the reception, the team carefully disassembled the structure and packed the pieces into their custom built crates. The time finally came to load the crates into the shipping container and bid a bon voyage to the contents. (See The Last Word for a picture of the load-out.)

The team will be reunited with the exhibits in Prague on June 10, when set up for the entire PQ begins. Upon arrival, the exhibit pieces will be delivered to their pre-assigned locations within the four exhibit areas in the Industrial Palace. The National Exhibits will be located in the left and right wings, and Architecture will be situated around the balcony of the central hall surrounding the Scenofest activities.

A second building behind the main hall has been added to the exhibition area to house the Student Exhibits. This PQ will be the largest exhibit ever in square footage as well as number of participants. Curators and production teams from 60 countries will gather for three and a half days mounting over one hundred displays. Opening night will be 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14. When asked how long the party would last, Daniela Parizkova, Deputy Director and Chief Coordinator of the PQ, answered, "We suppose 'til midnight."

Photo credits:
Paper ghost/R. Eric Stone
Concept shoe/Susan Tsu
Williams College/Robert Benson Photography

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