Stage Managing Intel’s Keynote at CES 2018

I recently stage managed a very special corporate event – Intel’s Opening Keynote at CES 2018 (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. The show, which took place at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, was a very big and ambitious production showcasing cutting edge Intel technology that the world will most likely be seeing in the near future. The show was produced by Halloran Associates and Clarity Creative in collaboration with Intel Corporation’s own internal events division. As always, we had many groups contributing elements, the more traditional such as: WorldStage for video, Tait Towers for automation, Nautilus Design for lighting design, OSA for audio, Strictly FX for lasers, Mystic Scenic, etc; and then the unusual: Name The Machine, Soundvision, Nerdmatics, Aerodrums, MobilEye, e-Volo, iQ (drones), etc.

Many modern productions already involve enough high-level technology to challenge a stage manager. Given that this production was all about the technology of the future, learning enough about who and what I was working with to call the show was a true adventure. As CEO Bryan Kryzanich and Intel’s vision of the story they wanted to tell at CES (and to the world) grew, so did the production’s scale. Months before the event, it was decided that we needed much more time then we would have at the venue in order to get the show figured out (Bruno Mars was scheduled to perform a New Year’s Eve concert at the Park Theater – our load-in would commence at 12:01am New Year’s Day  for a performance 7 days later), so Intel rented the Cow Palace, a venerable old arena in Daly City, south of San Francisco proper, where the production would load in and technically rehearse in advance of the January dates at the Park Theater.

As always, my job as the Production Stage Manager, was to learn about all the contributing parts and people and blend them together to form the show that the creative team had dreamed up. Deck Stage Managers Lisa Deer, Emi Aramendia and Clay Francis along with my personal assistant Hannah Evans were my appendages, extending my reach to the far corners of the stage and beyond! After so many meetings, drawings, revisions, showflows, scripts, additions and cuts, there is nothing like that moment when you first get everyone on headset and actually put together a string of cues that look like a piece of a show. Those first moments in the birthing process of a production are my most cherished. Whether or not the final product ends up looking like that first pass, that moment when all the team and all the parts come together is unequaled. I never stop appreciating the opportunity to be in this business at that moment. I try to convey that appreciation to all my colleagues in the hope that it inspires us all to continue doing our best work throughout the challenging (sometimes grueling) process of creation.

With performances by musicians, drones, dancers, acrobats, an autonomous car, a Volocopter flight and human guests such as Tony Romo and Jim Gianopolus it was a fun filled event. Ken Stanford, our camera director and his team of camera operators did a breathtaking job of capturing the entire event. Have a look at the web stream of the production.

Big Wish Comes True with “The Lion King”

Zeke with his mother and Matt Shiner

My sister, Julie Johnson, works for some very special clients. One night she called to ask, “Do you know anyone who works with The Lion King?”  It turns out that she had been in communication with a family from Ohio whose young son, Zeke, had a BIG WISH: to be able to go and see The Lion King.

I thought of Zoya Kachadurian, a stage manager who had sent me a “headshot shot” taken backstage at The Lion King I emailed her and she sent me contact information for the tour stage manager, Matt Shiner. It just so happened that the tour was going to be performing very nearby where Zeke and his family lived so I put the two in touch and frankly, I forgot about it: in this business it is just what you do.

A couple of months later, my sister called a second time. Matt had contacted Zeke and made arrangements with him to attend the show.  Zeke has a condition that makes necessary special accommodations for him to attend this sort of public experience but Matt was on it; he met the family before the show, gave Zeke a sort of a preview of what he was going to experience and gave Zeke his biggest wish.

I received this note written by Julie and photos from the family:

Zeke with his mother

This was a fantastic experience and we could not thank you enough for introducing us to this wonderfully accommodating man!

Zeke has wanted to do something like this for a very long time – really his dream! With his challenges related to his disability, the over stimulation issues; any change in a routine schedule can be very difficult for him to overcome.  He needs to prepare and be made comfortable with any change to allow him to participate without a great deal of anxiety.  The way he was treated, helped to transition and know what was coming was an amazing experience that we have not had before. We were not only amazed by what a wonderful person he is (Matt Shiner) but the show was incredible.  This was a life moment that will never be forgotten.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen created an amazing memory for Zeke and our family that we would have never had without you.

Zeke with his father

This is the truth about show folks. A person in Minnesota finds out someone in Ohio needs help, people from NYC make it possible. There is no folk like show folk, they are some of the best people in the world, willing to share the great fortune we have to work in this special business.  Thank you to Matt, to the Company of The Lion King and to Zoya for making this possible.