“We’re not much interested in talking about the good old days,” said CommuniLux’s Director of Scenic Production, Joe Kaplor in reference to his and his wife, Suzanne Kaplor’s longevity in the scenic arena for events over the past forty years. “For us, it’s about what is new and fresh at 7:00 tomorrow morning. The inclusion of technology, lighting, and sound in today’s scenic staging makes the scenic of tomorrow boundless, exciting — full of promise and innovation we haven’t even considered yet.”
But when pressed, the stories of the good old days are entertaining, to say the least.
Back in the day when trade show venues were on the dark side of town and corporations needed seating for hundreds for meetings for sales teams and shareholders, they used to go to the theaters, where seating was already in place.
“We came out of the theater community at Carnegie Mellon, and it was a natural fit to work on events and meetings in the theaters we were so familiar with,” Suzanne said. “But it was all about staging a show, and when you see McDonald’s french fries dancing on the stage with a full orchestra playing an original score written specifically for the event, you are reminded that entertainment has always been important to corporate brands.
“I remember the Wendy’s annual meetings. The day before the meeting, the store managers would assemble and be entertained and invigorated by a 40-piece orchestra and inspiring messages from management. It was something that sent them back to their locations motivated by the Wendy’s brand, their team, and their importance to it all. I believe they looked forward to it all year, and that it created connection for stand-alone stores that might otherwise have not felt part of the bigger picture.”
And, it wasn’t just Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and Hardee’s doing the dancing. Pharmaceutical companies took to the stage with dancing pills and rewritten pop songs. Sadly, when we asked for images to prove they weren’t on drugs themselves, Joe and Suzanne put forth that it was a different time; cameras and flashbulbs were not part of the culture for these types of gatherings. The experience was what it was all about, and it had to be strong enough to last long after the event was over.
CommuniLux’s Suzanne and Joe Kaplor are considered two of the best in the industry. Each day means lots of conference calls, email messages, and shop visits from the client’s designer, producer, and/or technical team to review the fabrication of the scenic product to bring their vision to light.
“Our team in Dallas is composed of the best talent in the industry,” according to Suzanne. “And us? We are carpenters. We learned to build on the theater stages, and we bring that to the event, whatever it might be.”
Combining lighting, sound, carpentry, and vision to the messaging is what they consider the most important element of all things scenic.
“Scenic is no longer a curtain with a logo; it’s a complete package that lights the way for an experience with pizzazz and artistic creativity,” said Joe. “It’s the movie version of ‘West Side Story’ rather than the stage version of old.”
In the last few years, Joe and Suzanne have gotten back to their theatrical roots by building and refurbishing theatrical shows such as “In the Heights,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Memphis,” to name a few, all the while continuing their day-to-day work with corporate clients, including giants like Walmart, Heineken, and Novartis.