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NAIAS is business theater at its best

Covisint takes it "Back to the Future" with this famous Delorean.
Covisint takes it "Back to the Future" with this famous Delorean.
Photos by P. Nolan

Today, we visited the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at COBO, and it was fun to see Detroit’s business theater community in full swing.

An animated Hoberman Sphere crowns the Lincoln display area.
Photo by P. Nolan

“Business Theatre?” you might ask.

Yes, if you grew up in Detroit as part of the theater/film/production community – with either talent, design, script or production credentials – odds are you’ve done corporate work. It’s not for pansies, mind you, but it pays pretty well.

Compared to when I started in this business (shortly after crank-starters were dropped in favor of Boss Kettering’s new gadget) most of the actors who staff the exhibits actually get to keep their dignity. In exchange for just being beautiful people who stand by the cars and look superior, today’s auto show talent have to actually know a few things about the product or technology they represent, they need to be able to think on their feet, and they need to be friendly. Go figure.

As for the design and production people – this is where they get to play with the big budgets. Giant LED screens with projection mapping, animated Hoberman spheres, near-proximity sensing – it’s all part of the experiential marketing fun that comes to Motown once a year. And if you happen to be working on the press previews – with the elaborate car reveals – you know that the competitive pressure is intense. When the CEO’s of the world’s biggest auto companies are waiting in the wings for you to make them look like heroes, there is no margin for error.

No doubt, there are some people who feel that doing corporate work is equivalent to slumming or, perhaps, selling out. Assuredly, these are people who haven’t done any actual corporate work; those who have know that this is a great place to hone one’s craft, learn what it’s like to interact in an immersive and often chaotic environment, and do it for hours on end without a break.

Friday evening's Charity Preview “black tie” event is the Detroit equivalent of senior prom and opening night combined. Everyone puts their best foot forward and hopes for kind reviews. Then the doors open to the public on Saturday morning and the circus begins in earnest.

Many of our area theater professionals will be represented. Consider this the first of what we hope are many “shout outs” to all the theater peeps represented at the auto show. Bravo!

If you’re a veteran of the business theater scene, or have something to share about NAIAS, feel free to leave a comment!