Theatre Professor Designs for High Profile Convention

NIU School of Theatre and Dance professor Terry McClellan kicked off his summer by designing scenery for The Cable Show 2011, the annual industry showcase held by The National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Held at McCormick Place in Chicago, the event hosted 13,000 attendees, nearly 300 exhibitors on the convention floor and focused on emerging technologies and how consumers are using video content. Professor McClellan was responsible for the design of two event spaces and stage sets including the stage for an eclectic lineup of speakers and celebrity appearances.

The main space presented the design challenge to create a theatre with seating for 4000 within the vast convention hall. The stage needed to functionally present video content as well as dedicated stage areas to host speeches, panel discussions and entertainment. Backstage areas were designed for dressing rooms and a video broadcast area. As part of the 3-day presentation, Oprah Winfrey spoke about her new cable television network, Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts demonstrated a groundbreaking 1 gigabit-per-second broadband connection and U.S. Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden delivered an address about supporting America’s military families. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and political advisor David Axelrod added political heavyweights to the panel discussion lineup. All sessions were broadcast live on the internet.

The stage area included two large video projection screens flanking the dynamic contemporary asymmetrical scenery on stage which included multiple layered panels incorporating industry graphics which could be easily changed in mood and appearance through lighting effects. Four large flat screen monitors placed behind the dedicated panel discussion areas emphasized content. A contemporary custom lectern with teleprompters put the speakers at center stage.

The secondary stage space incorporated a stage design that featured brushed chrome grid walls with translucent panels that were lit for dramatic effect. A large video screen was embedded in one side of the grid wall and a large entry portal on the other. The speaker lectern was fronted with a flat video monitor for changing graphics. Custom signage and onscreen content effectively changed the branding of the set for the various uses from a women’s business luncheon to the Cable industry Vanguard Awards ceremony.

Professor McClellan feels it is important for his design students at NIU to understand the many career possibilities in which they can use their theatrical design skills in the future. The business of live events is one growing non-traditional outlet for the design talent the School of Theatre and Dance nurtures. The collaborative process with the show producers, client and many other dedicated artistic professionals mirrors the process taught during the production process within the School of Theatre and Dance. Whether designing for a theatre or dance production or a live event, the set designer is responsible for creating the space and providing an environment that enhances the communication with an audience.

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