An Exciting and Full Start to the Year at DAR Constitution Hall

Written by: Paul Guilderson, Constitution Hall Managing Director
May 3, 2019

The early months of 2019 at DAR Constitution Hall have included a number of high-profile events, as well as some firsts for the now 90 year old venue. The February schedule included the hit true crime comedy podcast, My Favorite Murder, which was the first podcast to hold a live event at the Hall. The fact that it sold out in less than a half hour suggests it will not be the last podcast scheduled.

The Library of Congress held its annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at the Hall on March 13. This year the award was given to the first husband and wife team, as well as the first Hispanic-Americans, Gloria and Emilio Estefan.  

The night included the original cast of “On Your Feet” (the Broadway musical based on the life and music of Gloria and Emilio Estefan), iconic producer and composer Quincy Jones, Latin legend Jose Feliciano, Patti LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Rita Moreno and Andy Garcia. Other performances included Fernando Varela, Gian Marco, Sarah Chang and, a duet between Gloria and her daughter Emily Estefan.

The show will air on PBS stations across the country on May 3, 2019. Be sure to tune in to see DAR Constitution Hall host this entertaining tribute concert!

Almost immediately after the Gershwin Prize event, the Hall began a 10-day transformation into an elaborate ballroom for the Horatio Alger Awards Gala Dinner. The orchestra level seats, and the boxes, were covered with a platform to enable the placement of tables for a total of 1,000 dinner guests. The 13 awardees this year included a who’s who of Fortune 500 executives and the musician/philanthropist Jewel.

The most notable change to the Horatio Alger set design this year was the reliance on Constitution Hall’s very own architectural features as the backdrop for the event’s stage. The new creative team indicated at the first site visit that they wanted to use the beauty of the Hall as the focus of the stage design. The main element of their plan was a 60 foot wide curved video wall. The placement of the video wall closely conformed to the existing upstage wall containing the four recreated murals of Colonial era Philadelphia, Charleston, New York and Boston.

The designer thought the murals were interesting and he asked for the high resolution images of the paintings created for the mural printing. Less than 48 hours after he received the images he had created an animation that was breathtaking. When it was first viewed on a laptop it was remarkable, and by the time it was transferred to the 60 foot video wall it was unbelievable.

The animation opened the entertainment segment of the night and was the backdrop to an aerialist performance set to the song “Come Alive” from the film The Greatest Showman. A video curtain began the scene and gave way to the four murals appearing on the video wall. The normally motionless birds in the background of the mural began to fly between panels, the boats in Boston Harbor began to bob back and forth to the music, the panels went from daytime to nighttime and fireworks appeared in the sky along with a shooting star. The quality of the video wall made it seem like a three dimensional image.

Another production heavy event held in Constitution Hall right on the heels of the Horatio Alger dinner was a filmed special for comedian Samantha Bee’s TBS television show. This dinner event required the platform over the seats to be reinstalled three weeks after it was removed following the Horatio Alger event, a labor intensive14 hour process.

The greatest challenge at the end of April was juggling multiple high production events in a very limited time schedule. Our first step was to persuade the TBS producers to do the show the night before their preferred date due to another scheduled event. Once the new date was confirmed, our team at Constitution Hall worked hard to compress an intensive production set-up within the confines of two other confirmed events. These events included a Nick Mason rock concert on a Monday night and a talk by former President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton on a Saturday night. This left the Constitution Hall staff and stage crew with  four days of set-up for the Friday night TBS special filming, a job that in the past took seven days to complete, and then only 12 hours to break it down to prepare for the Saturday night event. As we closed out the month of April, it was a very busy, but successful, week of events at the Hall.

With DAR Continental Congress right around the corner at the end of June, Constitution Hall will continue to stay busy hosting 35 graduation ceremonies, as well as an assortment of concerts, comedy shows and corporate events.

Productions in DAR Constitution Hall have certainly changed over the last 90 years. The space has evolved from a static one dimensional performance venue to a multi-use auditorium that is only limited by the imagination and creativity of our clients. We are excited to see what is next for DAR Constitution Hall!

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