To celebrate 175 years of Antwerp ZOO, Antwerp Zoology decided to create a musical in the Queen Elisabeth Hall. In this musical, the surroundings of Antwerp ZOO, the historic buildings in and around the zoo, the animals, zookeepers and volunteers served as the perfect backdrop in a family show for all ages.
What made ZOO of Life so special was the idea to work with a gigantic bunch of people, all involved or linked to the ZOO. This massive show involved both professional top actors, musicians and technicians, as well as hundreds of volunteers who spent months on and off the stage.
The result of this cooperation? Read on to find out!
Show title: ZOO of Life
Function: tech. director, design engineer & stage manager
Producer: Luc Stevens Producties i.c.w. KMDA
Artistic Director: Luc Stevens
Timings: januari 2018 - april 2018
Location rehearsals: AED Studio’s, Lint, Belgium
Location shows: Queen Elisabeth Hall, Antwerp, Belgium
In ZOO of Life, artistic director and director Luc Stevens told a lovely, moving story about a family who had to leave an okapi reserve in Congo due to dramatic circumstances. They returned to Antwerp ZOO where an amusing and emotional story unravels with family, zookeepers and animals in the leading roles. This heart-warming story leaves the audience both laughing and crying.
The Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (KMDA) was responsible for the production and artistic aspects together with producer Luc Stevens Producties. The set, light and video designers worked together closely and further developed this grand concept into 3D visualisations.
Concrete, technical solutions to convey the designers’ ideas were then needed, and this is where @Vision came on board. Right from the beginning, ZOO of Life had to immerse the audience in the splendour of Antwerp ZOO. The challenge: to create a spectacular show that moves the audience, all within the technical theatre limitations of the Queen Elisabeth Hall and according to a very tight construction and rehearsal schedule.
@Vision was called in as a Technical Director and Design Engineer and organised the general technical coordination and elaboration of the project within the ZOO of Life organisation, in close contact with the theatre and the KMDA. As a Stage Manager, I was also responsible for the general management during construction, rehearsals, performances and dismantling.
The scenery was impressive, with a complex set at different levels, gigantic stairs and enormous LED walls. The videos shown on these walls took the audience seamlessly from one location to another. The set designer, together with the light and video designer, created 3D visualisations of the concept. These were processed by my team and I into a feasible concept within the budgetary constraints and converted into detailed technical drawings. In the weeks leading up to rehearsals, the scenery team, consisting of dozens of motivated volunteers under the leadership of professional carpenters, started on the realisation and detailing of these drawings. The result was a harmonious combination of existing standard rental materials (trusses, pipes, rails, screens, etc.), scenery elements in wood and steel, LED screens and built-in lighting fixtures.
A massive show of this type also created some complex problems. Both logistics and accommodation inside the theatre presented a challenge: more than 700 people needed dressing areas for their costumes and somewhere to eat, clothing workshops had to be set up and everybody had to be able to move around smoothly during the performances. The large number of extras and the big, heavy scenery also meant that the maximum floor load per square metre was exceeded in various places on the stage, so extensive scaffolding in the basement under the stage were indispensable.
What made ZOO of Life so special was the way it was structured: a massive show with professional top actors, musicians and technicians, as well as hundreds of volunteers who spent months on and off the stage. The production consisted of a 14-member cast, 13 musicians, 512 actors and dancers and 175 volunteers behind the scenes.
All these volunteers devoted themselves for months to make ZOO of Life into a spectacular show. For example, one team helped saw, paint and weld the scenery or collect props, while others in the sewing workshop measured and cut, stitched and sewed patterns.
Lots of volunteers were also available during the performances to make sure they ran well every day. As a Stage Manager and Show Caller, I was in charge of rehearsals and performances and I was assisted by these enthusiasts who worked with me on making sure the performance ran to plan, implemented changes under my direction and called all actors, orchestra members, dancers and extras to the stage at pre-arranged times.
If you’re also interested in relying on @Vision’s expertise for your show, please don’t hesitate to contact me!