I had the pleasure of working with a great client from Canada. We provided a variety of Destination Management services for them while they were in Boston, with a final awards ceremony gala highlighting outstanding employees.The program was filled with various speakers and a plethora of lighting and AV cues throughout the evening. This usually would have been a walk in the park for us, but this time, the entire program and script was in French!
During pre-production we received scripts in both French and English to be able to build out a full cue to cue show flow. We discussed in detail that I, nor the AV crew, spoke French so the client's technical directors (who was bi-lingual) would call the show understanding what was happening on stage in French, while calling cues in English to the crew.
The night of the Awards show, there were flight delays and the technical director was not going to make it. I was assured someone from the organization would be on headset calling the show. About a half hour before show time, the client asked if I would call the show. I reiterated the language barrier, but they felt it would be just fine!
Headset on, (8) AV techs waiting for my calls, and off we went. I was pleasantly surprised how glimpses of my grade school French came back as a word or two here or there triggered a remembrance allowing me to loosely follow along with the program and keep up with cues. All was going well thanks to my 8 th grade French teacher... until the end.
The last speaker said something we didn't understand, and two people came up on stage out of the audience. This was not in the script. Now usually "ad libs" or off script moments are easy enough to follow… as long as you speak the same language! With this unexpected surprise, my cue to AV was… "if you see something that should be lit, light it! If you see someone talking into a mic, make it live, Imag anything important and go to logo slide!"
At what seemed like the end point, everyone in the audience began to laugh and clap at a final joke we clearly did not get. Sensing the end, we ballyhooed the lights for a grand finale, played an upbeat stinger and went to walk out music. The client loved the effect and said it was a great way to end the night!
I still never knew what the joke was, but lesson learned, trust your instinct of what will make a great effect no matter what the language.. oh and don't skip out on French class in grade school!
Event Nightmare: Mary Douglas