The 2018 iteration of the Stage Expo will be my sixth time as the Expo Director of this amazing event. In its 58th year it’s hard to believe that it’s still getting bigger, more vibrant, and more engaging. My days have more phone calls, emails, and planning meetings than ever before, and that is certainly because of what we have in store for Fort Lauderdale. But what makes this year more special than others? Isn’t this like picking my favorite nephew?
Push aside that it’s in South Florida in March — home of palm trees, beaches, spring training baseball, and cruises to the islands. The Stage Expo in 2018 is bursting at the seams. To date, USITT has a record number of exhibitors surpassing our 307 from last year just this week. We’re filling over 200,000 square feet of exhibit floor space with manufacturers, production companies, universities, and distributors who all want to meet our membership. So, it’s big … but what makes it special?
Not only will USITT have one outdoor mobile stage provided by Stageline Mobile Stages Inc., but there will be a second mobile stage on the Stage Expo floor serving as our Innovation Stage. In 2013 when we first brought this stage to life, it was slightly more than a 12 foot by 12-foot soapbox. This year demolishes the scale. A 32-foot mobile stage from MobileStage Network Inc. will open up in the space. It’s part of USITT's new Dark Zone, so of course it needed lighting by Chauvet Professional! RCF will continue to provide a sound system.
But the coolest piece of all is that it will have projection as a backdrop for each session on the stage provided by Grosh. This stage will have presentations from exhibitors showcasing their new products as well as conference sessions. A giant mobile stage on the Expo floor with rotating backdrops for sessions is definitely pretty special. But it takes more to knock people’s socks off, right?
What if we turned the lights off? What if 50,000 square feet of the Expo hall was dark, so that the beams of light, projections, and special effects really popped? What if we built a themed lounge in that dark zone that has chandeliers and amazing lighting in a lush environment? That sounds pretty special.
And how about a bunch of interactive areas that we have taken to the next level? Console Demos with more training and even higher caliber consoles. What if we add an area for you to make stage weapons, use 3 - D printers and play with stage blood? Maybe we’ll create a TV studio with Stage Directions Magazine for live streaming and interviews with people from the event.
Did you know there’s a virtual reality special exhibit on the floor that will take you inside a stage rendering environment? And have you’ve heard about the Costume Stage with fashion shows happening throughout the event from our costume rental companies?
Looking back six years, these ideas wouldn’t have been possible or even imagined. What makes 2018 special? The fact that we’ve pushed the envelope of what we can offer YOU in a matter of three days. It’s a one-of-a-kind event that I am honored to be a part of and am proud of the experience you’re about to see.
Get ready for something special!