Craig Kapitan, News Service (650) 724-5708;
Eighteen months of planning for campaign's road show
It's 8 a.m. Thursday morning and a trio of 53-foot-long tractor-trailers bearing California license plates pulls up to the Oregon Convention Center. Fifty-nine hours to go.
By Friday afternoon, their contents an array of extravagant sets including two movie-theater-sized screens, a full-scale plaster recreation of an arch on the Quad and a sound and light system befitting a Broadway show are unloaded. The wizards behind the curtain are still exposed and working away feverishly to get their virtual version of the Farm ready for its premiere. Twenty-four hours to go.
By Saturday evening, approximately 50 dinner tables are decked out with chocolates and dinner rolls, sound checks are completed and 14 boxes of plastic palm trees have been assembled and dispersed throughout the cavernous dining room.
"It's show time," says Kile Ozier, creative producer of Stanford's "Think Again" tour.
Ozier's vision for bringing alumni back to the Farm by way of a high-tech visual experience while they're consuming a four-course meal originated 18 months ago with a five-page conceptual pitch. That vision was realized Saturday night in Portland, Ore. the first stop of the 12-city tour.
Although not an alumnus himself, Ozier learned the ins and outs of Stanford in 1987, when he was hired to produce the three-year National Centennial Tour. That show included a 360-degree recreation of the Quad and a scale replica of Memorial Church.
"Last time we took the alumni to Stanford in a physical way," he said. "But this time we decided, 'Let's do this in a more evocative way, a more virtual way.'"
After recruiting professional filmmaker Richard Quigley, Hollywood composer Patrick Williams, a consortium of three entertainment and media companies and the entire Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Ozier went about recreating the undergraduate experience using custom-made sets and a groundbreaking two-hour film. The movie, which features more than 200 students and faculty members, was filmed on campus last spring.
"We wanted to come out of this with a national network of alumni reconnected to Stanford," he said of his inspiration for the setup. "It can't just be a spectacle. It has to be something compelling."
One device used to create a compelling spectacle was the construction of two movie screens separated in the middle by a stage. The images on the two screens play off of each other, sometimes portraying one wide panoramic shot and at other times providing two different angles. At one point Saturday evening, members of the Stanford a cappella group Talisman were spread out on film across both screens while, live on stage, student Nalini Calamur accompanied the group's rendition of "One on One."
"That's really never been done before," Ozier said of the tandem filming process. "It was all theoretical until we started projecting it."
The Portland event was not wholly dependent on cutting-edge technology, however. One day after the arrival of the new sets, a dozen Stanford faculty members deplaned at Portland National Airport, poised to provide a less virtual aspect to the daylong affair. Their job was to help recreate the undergraduate experience in person by giving abbreviated one-hour versions of their freshman and sophomore seminars inside convention center rooms.
As the road show moves on, each stop will require approximately four months of advance planning. The work includes deciding which faculty members to send to each city (depending on the characteristics of each region and its pool of alumni) and recruiting local volunteers to scour the region for fellow alumni. In addition to using email trees and calling campaigns, Portland's alumni volunteers were encouraged to find former classmates and to approach acquaintances one-on-one.
"It's not just Stanford working, but friends pushing their friends," said Michelle Cline of the Stanford Alumni Association. "If someone tells one other person about it and that person comes, they've done a tremendous job. It really is a grass-roots campaign."
By Craig Kapitan <