Paragon 360 provided lighting design & support, technical direction, and production management for the annual Dallas Christmas Festival & Gloria productions produced by Todd Bell at Prestonwood Baptist Church for over ten years.
During the Dallas Christmas Festival Era, the 7,000 seat Prestonwood worship center was transformed into a theatrical 15,000 sq ft stage over 160’ wide. The show featured a secular Christmas tribute, a choir concert from the 550 person choir, and 70-piece live orchestra, and a theatrical story of Christ. The shows see seven flying angels, over 10 elaborate, 100’ long sets, 1,200 lighting fixtures, pyrotechnics, snow, and confetti effects, elevator lifts, nitrogen fogging system, and a crew of over 100. Over 70,000 people saw the show in 13-14 performances over two weeks with over a month of setup and rehearsals.
“Brawner was brought initially to accomplish two main objectives from a lighting standpoint which was to add a new dimension to the theatrical lighting of the show and to work at building a lighting design that would match the strength, power and magnitude of the production while creating multiple lighting moments throughout the show” stated Todd Bell, Worship Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church.
“There were two big challenges in the Christmas Festival days,” said Donnie Brawner. “One was in building almost the entire show with no cast and only half the set in place. With the volunteer base on a 500 person cast, they rehearse in very small segments. You never really get a chance to see the whole thing until the night of dress rehearsal. It’s not like theatre where you step through the whole show with the cast and build it cue by cue. The second thing is to create those small, intimate moments that Todd likes to see with a 150’ wide stage with over 100’ depth and a cast of 500. That does not immediately say intimate. However, we got creative and were given the tools to work with and made it happen. It’s just a big show and there is a lot to manage.”
During the “Gloria” days, the goal shifted into creating more of a video-driven production that would be televised. The show featured more media-driven content and less drama. The lighting focus shifted to more of a television style production. Due to a more limited setup and programming time during the Gloria productions, the majority of the lighting system went to moving lights including the majority of the key light working the 500-person choir.
“The one thing that had to stay the same however, anytime we are dealing with Prestonwood, is that we have to over-exaggerate the lighting to keep up with the power of the music. The musical arrangements created and produced by Prestonwood are hard to keep up with sometimes and you have to consider that in the design process” says Donnie Brawner.