Thursday, August 28, 2008

Light show to honour WWI dead

Actor plans to project 68,000 victims' names on public buildings
Actor R.H. Thomson calls his latest endeavour "a white-knuckle project."
He and lighting designer Martin Conboy want to project the name of every Canadian who died in World War I in public spaces over eight nights in November.
They want to project the names – more than 68,000 of them – in Ottawa, London, England and every Canadian provincial capital.
Now all they need are firm locations in most of the provincial capitals; a bunch of specialized projectors that rent for up to $3,000 a night; local organizers to help out; and some technical wizardry, including an atomic clock, to co-ordinate the display across nine time zones and an ocean.
That, and $100,000 or so.
Yesterday, Thomson and Conboy were at Toronto City Hall, where they've been granted permission to project the names onto the façade of the east tower.
Checking out the site involved clambering through the mechanical room at the top of the west tower, where Conboy found a spot to mount his projector.
Conboy and Thomson have lined up firm locations in Ottawa, Halifax and London; they're still working on locations in as many other provincial capitals as possible.
They've already carried out a similar project on a smaller scale: In April 2007, they projected – on the National War Memorial in Ottawa – the names of all 3,598 Canadians who died taking Vimy Ridge in 1917.
Thomson said he wants to do the larger project because the living connection with the war is fast dwindling. Only a handful of veterans remain anywhere in the world.
"The First World War, to kids in school, is like the Battle of Hastings," Thomson said.
Thomson has his own personal connection. Five great-uncles from Brantford, Ont., went off to war. Two didn't come back; two others, badly injured, died in a sanatorium in Gravenhurst, Ont., in the 1920s.
Thomson wrote a one-man play, The Lost Boys, based on their letters home.
Now, 90 years after the end of that terrible war, he and Conboy want to display the names of each of the dead, including members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the merchant marine, the Newfoundland Regiments (at that time Newfoundland had not joined Canada) and the nurses who died in the conflict.
"We're personalizing it; it becomes somebody's moment," Conboy said.
It will take eight nights to project all of the names, starting Nov. 4, with the final name appearing at sunrise, local time in each location, on Nov. 11. The names will also be projected on the Internet with an atomic clock controlling the timing of each name's projection.
The names will appear, in pairs, in prominent type for about eight seconds.
Each pair of names will then shrink in size, but remain visible for 30 seconds longer as other pairs of names appear.
Veterans Affairs Canada has provided what Thomson calls "keystone funding" for the project, but money to support the local projects is still needed. Donations can be made through the website at Canada's National Historical Society,

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