America's Got Talent features some of the most talented, creative people in the world. From acrobats to magicians to musicians to dance groups, this season has featured so many different groups with unique visions that it is truly extraordinary how, week to week, these performances are executed. Unlike any other show on television, AGT is all about variety.
Every week, contestants meet with producers and the art department to create a performance as soon as they hear they are moving on to the next stage. An AGT act presents an initial idea, explaining what they are hoping to bring to the AGT stage. With the help of producers, the idea is molded and shaped to work for AGT and, more specifically, the AGT stage itself, which can be slightly limiting. While acts rehearse, rehearse and rehearse, the baton of creating the show is handed off to the art department - who are the unsung heroes in a performance, responsible for everything you see on stage besides the people performing.
Consisting of up to 10 people, the art department has a lot to do. Working with producers, the production designer John Gilles is the department head and oversees that every item needed for the performance is gathered, from a small, fake Piers Morgan cutout for Gabe Rocks to lift his leg on to a small house for Avery and the Calico Hearts to sing from. An art director works with the crew to figure out how items will be built and assembled onstage between commercial breaks, while a decorator and buyer are always on hand to dress the set and grab needed set pieces in a pinch. Along with assistant art directors, a few drivers and a coordinator, the art department is a full team of people who sometimes have to do a full week's work of show preparation in just three days!
Of course, everything does not always go as planned for either the art department or performers. In some cases, the stage is too small and oriented differently from what an act hopes for, which means the art department and the acts have to improvise as the stage is only so big. For example, Silhouettes had to have their screen tapered down because it was larger than the stage. Steven Retchless hoped to have his triple pole dance routine oriented in a triangle, but because of how the stage is laid out, the poles had to go in a straight line to ensure their safety. Seth Grabel's wild card performance and reveal of the DeLorean had to be modified because the car was so heavy that it broke the stage at a rehearsal. And, Professor Splash, AGT's largest scale act to accommodate this season, was too large for the stage, so a performance space, lighting and sound rig, and audience seating had to be prepared outdoors.
These changes to a performance are not bad things and add to the excitement of the show's production. Sometimes the art department gets to build and create some really, really cool stuff for performers. For Scott Alexander, the art department was an integral part in helping build the platform Scott used to make his choir vanish. POPLYFE's semifinals performance required a cool, double-decker venue for them to perform in that was created just for them. The Smage Bros., who constantly have to resize their act to fit the AGT stage, are fun to create set pieces for as they frequently use found items to jump off of.
Think that the art department's job ends with simply getting AGT contestants' acts off the ground? Wrong! They are also responsible for executing concepts celebrity performers want for their AGT performance. A few of the department's favorite acts they created performances for were Susan Boyle, Les Miserable and Demi Lovato. For Susan Boyle, they had to create a set for an orchestra, a choir and Susan herself, turning the AGT stage into a concert hall. Les Miserables was a treat for the art department to work with because they are all big theater enthusiasts. But, out of all of them, Demi Lovato's performance was the most fun as they were single handedly responsible for creating the amazing "pile of memories" that Lovato started her performance from.
The art department is proud to be a part of AGT and is very lucky to have gotten the chance to work on a show that requires dual roles. On one hand, the department provides a space and the tools AGT contestants need to show the world that they are superstars, while on the other, it gets to help some of the world's most respected performers put on great shows on AGT. America's Got Talent is unlike any other show on television. With so many unique acts and celebrity performers, the AGT art department truly gets the best of both worlds.