A chat with Michael Blau – incoming TEA International Board President
interview by Judith Rubin
Michael Blau, Principal, VP Business Development at Adirondack Studios, LLC will be officially installed as Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) International Board President in November 2019 during the annual TEA Members Meeting at IAAPA Expo Orlando. He will succeed Michael Mercadante of Main Street Design, who steps into the role of TEA Immediate Past President. Adirondack Studios is a scenic design and fabrication house doing business for some 45 years. The company is globally active, headquartered in Upstate, NY, with offices in Orlando, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Singapore, Osaka and Dubai.
Tell us about your involvement, and your company’s involvement with TEA over the years.
I first got involved in the TEA as an avenue to network in the industry for Adirondack Studios. My colleague Louis Allen [VP Adirondack Studios] had already been volunteering with TEA for many years prior to my jumping in. I was active in the TEA Eastern North America Division, and served for three years as VP of the Eastern Division Board. One of the contributions I’m proud of from my time there was having helped to bring more events to the New York region and helping attract more members in that area as well. I was subsequently elected to the TEA International Board where I have served three years, most recently as Vice President.
For its part, Adirondack Studios has increased its participation and support of the TEA, not only as a sponsor but also as a company that has supported many of our company employees being involved in serving and attending TEA events.
Tell us about your transition to business development.
At first, I was tentative about taking on the role of business development after being a Creative Director and Designer. But I enjoy solving problems. Business development is being able to discover needs, listen to what people really want and then seeing if you can help. If you can, then conversations move forward. If you can’t, help them to find the person or company that can. Learning and then teaching. People, including myself, learn with every interaction.
What do you see as some of TEA’s landmark achievements in its 30-year history?
The founding members of TEA really set the association in motion toward fostering and recognizing excellence in the entertainment industry. The TEA Thea Awards, the TEA Masters program and the TEA SATE conferences on Experience Design are excellent examples. As the association has grown, its members have become more sophisticated. I believe without the TEA, the world would not have created the terrific experiences that exist today.
Many of our industry’s creatives and creative leaders have theater backgrounds, as you have. How does that help prepare you for this business?
There is such a long list of benefits of coming from a theater background. Here are a few:
• Collaboration: it takes many areas of expertise to put on a show. Everyone needs to work together toward the common goal.
• Opening night: You promised a great show; you had better deliver it!
• Listen: To be able to explain, you need to listen to what others are telling you – not just the words, but what they are really telling you. This is true of every interaction in this industry whether you are designing a waterpark, creating a new story or solving an installation issue on site.
• Create emotional journeys: Audiences (Guests) want to experience different perspectives in safe environments. Theater allows audiences to make these leaps for a short period of time and then go back to their daily lives, hopefully better for the experience.
How do you view the role of TEA within the industry? What are its strengths?
TEA is the place to go when you want to learn, grow, meet interesting people and experience the world. We offer access to world class professionals through formal presentations and informal events. We foster opportunities for our members educate our members. As such, we recognize that the stronger our members get, the better the industry gets. Our job is to help that happen. • • •
Image courtesy TEA