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WORLD FAIRS

 

Century 21

The Kennedy Administration had just introduced the Peace Corps.  IBM donated funds and space within their pavilion to mount a series of huge photographs produced by Dramaturgy.  As the youngest and least experienced member of the Dramaturgy production team, Romm was given the task of managing the exhibition

 

The evocative photographs vividly depicted the needs of third world nations and how volunteering in the Peace Corps could make a difference.  Although modest by World Fair standards, the presentation was nevertheless very well received.  At the close of Century 21 funds were provided to tour the presentation to college campuses as part of the Peace Corps’ initiative to find volunteers to join-up.  Romm was responsible for mounting the tour and its field operations.  The recruitment tour was wildly successful and the Peace Corps went on to make history… an example of a lemons-to-lemonade experience.

 

New York World Fair

Romm served as a creative consultant to the  Fair, working on children’s issues directly for the Office of Robert Moses, the President of the Fair.  Romm’s role was to devise practical ways to make visits to the fair by young children more enjoyable for themselves and less stressful for their parents.  His remit covered a wide range of tasks such as meeting with and encouraging exhibitors to include children’s presentations in the pavilions, dealing with lost children, overall security, and producing guides that targeted families with children. 

 

Expo ‘67 Montreal

Romm won the competition to build and produce Expo ‘67’s US promotional tour.  With funds provided by the Canadian Government and American Express (exclusive US ticketing agents), Romm designed and built his second air structure theatre, the first having been built for IMC and the USDA to tour state and county fairs and agricultural shows.  This theatre was a 5/7th sphere, was six stories in height and was completely self contained.  The actual show had a French Canadian cast of actors/singers and toured the US for six months.  At its conclusion the theatre and its equipment were sold to Marshall McLuen for his The Media is the Message Tour.  As a result of the tour, Romm was asked by the Fair Corporation to produce a number shows within the La Ronde Entertainment Zone:

 

Le Cirque Aux Merveilles (Circus of Marvels) - Children’s Show as  an Introduction to the Ballet

Le Jardin des Etoilles was a 1700-seat theatre with a triangular shaped stage.  Its purpose was to present children’s theatre during the day, teenage disco in the afternoon, and adult theatre in the evenings.  This required setting up and striking the stage sets three times each day.

 

Le Cirque Aux Merveilles, written and produced by Romm, was loosely based upon the ballet Copelia.  The story takes place backstage at a circus and opens as the circus performance is just coming to a close.  The storyline is conveyed without the use of words, and evolves around a circus clown who surprisingly remains a clown even after removing his stage make-up.  He is in love with a ballerina doll from the show which the ringmaster magically causes to come to life through harnessing the talents of a wizard.  The conflict is found between the ringmaster and the clown, their mutual love of the doll and how the situation is resolved.  The animals from the circus are actually skilled, costumed acrobats who use gymnastics in working the house and helping advance the plot.

 

Although nowhere the genius of Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil, Le Cirque aux Merveilles similarly combined ballet and acrobatics in a theatrical production presentation three decades earlier.  The original musical score was composed by Stephan Venne, winner of the Expo '67 song competition and was performed by members of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

 

Romm’s staging style required less than 30 minutes to set-up and strike.  The UV painted canvas floor covered the entire stage and was rolled up and stored out of the way on the edge of the stage.  The circus tent and acrobats’ rigging were all stored in the flies and props were built to nest within a small compact package that could be wheeled off stage in a matter of moments.  The 30-minute show played four times a day, six days a week, with two casts. 

 

Soapy Smith’s - Medicine Show & Wagon Stage

This was an outdoor stunt show presentation staged in Klondike Square.  The story was based upon a real life historical character, Soapy Smith, who hauled a medicine show wagon on skis to the Klondike in the gold rush of 1905.  The stunt show revolves around Soapy, his girlfriend (a dance hall floozy from San Francisco), her boyfriend and a stoic Indian Chief who does what he can to keep combatants at arm’s length.  In addition, a supposed member of the audience feels compelled, as a gentleman, to protect the virtue of the floozy.

 

Although the show had a small cast of five "actors", it was a big hit.  Contracted to play four times a day, it attracted audiences of up to 10,000 per show.  This success caused village retailers concern that Soapy and Co. was robbing the stores of custom because they were buying his snake oil instead of shopping.  Playtimes were reduced, to quell the retailers, to two and three time a day.

 

Le Village - Dance Company and Street Players

Le Village was an authentic recreation of a 17th century French Canadian village.  Romm was contracted to animate the village with a 15-member company, 12 dancers and 3 musicians.  Research of authentic dance routines of the era were identified and learned by the dance company.  With no particular schedule, members of the company roamed the village in costume at will.  They dialogued with guests, sharing stories of life in French Canada 150 years previous.  The dance captain scheduled when and where dance recitals would occur.

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