By Joe Kleiman, InPark News Editor
The annual TEA Thea Awards Case Studies will open August 6, 2020, showcasing Nancy Seruto (Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering) the recipient of the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. The session will take the form of a conversation between Seruto and Phil Hettema of The Hettema Group, and be followed by a live, online networking, Q&A and chat session including some of Seruto’s colleagues sharing anecdotes. The session is sponsored by The Bezark Company.
Subsequent Thea Case Studies sessions will go on to showcase other projects in the global slate of 26th annual TEA Thea Awards, with presentations given by the project owner together with members of the creative team. But instead of taking place over the course of a single day with hundreds of people together in a conference room at the Disneyland Hotel, TEA has adopted an online format for its 2020 Thea Awards Case Studies. The sessions will be spread out over several months, available sequentially “live” and then on-demand. One ticket buys the full package of seven sessions.
With travel restrictions and health concerns due to COVID-19, companies and individuals – and the associations that serve them, such as TEA – have had to quickly transition to virtual meetings and working from home. And with projects postponed or cancelled and economic uncertainty, within the industry, the need is greater than ever for networking and professional development. These are the factors that led to re-conceiving Thea Case Studies in an online format.
“TEA is a mission-based organization and our mission is to serve members, which includes helping them stay connected and facilitating networking, education and professional development,” says TEA Chief Operating Officer Jennie Nevin. “Thea Awards Digital Case Studies will help do all of that, as well as provide the uplift of celebrating some of the greatest global achievements in visitor attractions, and shine a light on industry superstars such as Nancy Seruto.”
TEA had already changed to cloud-based, team software systems in mid-2019 and built a robust social media presence over the past decade, so was in a good position to take the necessary next steps when the pandemic hit. “The TEA Headquarters staff were able to quickly and effectively transition to working from home,” says Nevin. “We launched TEA Digital in March 2020, rolling out a full schedule of mixers, webinars, watch parties and online chats, while preparing for the possibility that TEA’s tentpole conferences, such as Thea Case Studies, might also need to be part of the package.”
It was important to the community to keep as much continuity as possible around the annual TEA Thea Awards. Since their introduction in 1994, the Theas have become a very prestigious honor, recognizing both the project owner and the creative team. A key component of the Theas is that the project owner supply comprehensive credits, which are published in the official TEA Thea Awards Program. The credits engender better dialogue between owners and creatives as well as a more complete picture of the many disciplines, trades, artists, artisans, technicians and specialists that collaborate to produce a project.
TEA International Board President Michael Blau of Adirondack Studios and TEA COO Jennie Nevin in November 2019 at the official announcement of the 26th annual slate of TEA Thea Awards recipients, which are being showcased at the 2020 Thea Awards Digital Case Studies launching August 6, 2020
The elegant, black-tie TEA Thea Awards Gala presented by Chimelong could not be scheduled to take place in 2020, but new dates have been set for April 2021. And the Thea Awards cycle is being continued in two other ways: 1) a submissions period was opened (and closed on July 31, 2020) so that the Thea Awards Nominating Committee could proceed with judging for the 27th annual Thea Awards, and 2) the slate of 26th annual Thea recipients are showcased in the digital case studies opening August 6, 2020. “Michael Blau, our International Board President, was a big advocate for finding ways to move forward, and to celebrate and honor the projects this year,” says Nevin.
What will Thea Digital Case Studies be like? “This is a professional online series production with a full production team, including editing,” says Nevin, “well beyond your typical webinar or video conference. We’ve created this full virtual universe – a realm where you can access everything in one place. There will be curated Q&A’s with the project designers, lounges you can visit based on theme, such as the Christie tech lounge, and lots of cool opportunities for networking.”
Nancy Seruto and Pluto present Phil Hettema with the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements, 2018
Hettema, who will be participating as a moderator of two sessions including the conversation with Nancy Seruto, shares, “I’m hugely impressed with the production team and how organized they are. Jennie and her team of TEA staff working with the presenters and moderators have done a phenomenal job in putting this event together.”
“Providing this continuity to the TEA membership and the global attractions industry that TEA serves is especially important in regard to the Thea Awards, which go to the heart of what our worldwide association is about: celebrating excellence in the creation of compelling experiences and places,” says Michael Blau. “The TEA Thea Awards acknowledge the contributions of our unique industry, and provide a forum for important and influential dialogue within our international community. Whether online or in person, TEA and the TEA Thea Awards bring us together to learn, network and celebrate.”