Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal
From Broadway performer to Six Flags and Corporate Magic producer, Stephen Dahlem’s career has been a wild ride.
His latest project with the Dallas-based event production and messaging company is a major production at the State Fair of Texas this fall celebrating the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary. The $2 million exhibit will have events staged over 30 days at the Texas Hall of State.The exhibit has been two years in the making. Corporate Magic is in pre-build for the exhibit. It will be installed at the Hall of State on Sept. 10. The company is expected to spend 10 more days or so perfecting the exhibit on-site.
Other productions masterminded by Dahlem, Corporate Magic’s senior creative director, include Rose Parades, the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th Anniversary Jamboree, the 2002 Oklahoma Centennial and more than a dozen Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Game halftime shows.Staff Writer Bill Hethcock chatted with Dahlem to get a preview of the Girl Scouts exhibit and learn more about his work.
What is your background? My background is a Broadway performer. I was in New York for about 13 years and did a bunch of shows. While I was backstage, I started my own company that started producing convention shows for the education market. That was my first foot in the water for producing, and that led to what I’m doing now.
How did you move into producing? I was producing a show with a magic theme, and I had rented some illusions from a magician. The magician came up and said, "Hey, I’m not just a magician, I am the vice president of entertainment for Premier theme parks. Would you like to start producing and writing shows for our theme parks on the eastern seaboard? I said, "Sure. That goldfish of a company, Premier Parks, swallowed the whale of Six Flags. Because of that transition, I become the senior show director and director of live entertainment for Six Flags.
What Broadway shows were you in? The Who’s Tommy, Cats and The Will Rogers Follies.
How did you get from Premier to Corporate Magic? By random happenstance, my dentist, Dr. Wayne Peavy(of Arlington), is also the dentist of the president and founder of Corporate Magic, Jim Kirk. Wayne Peavy said, "You ought to meet Jim Kirk.
What are some of the favorite events you have produced? The culmination of the Oklahoma Centennial project. That was a five-year project with four different shows. It was a two-hour, live, no-commercial television show that we ended up being nominated for seven Emmy awards and winning two of them personally. Another would be the Boy Scouts of America 100th anniversary. It was 65,000 young men on the side of a mountain in Virginia, a stage and a (huge) fireworks show. We’re currently working with the Girl Scouts on their 100th anniversary.
Cool. Tell me more about that one. We do a lot of production that is very temporary. It goes up, it’s big, it is spectacular, and as fast as it goes up, it evaporates. What’s so fun about this Girl Scouts exhibit is not only is it a grand gala opening night celebration with some very high-profile guests, (but) what’s going to be more permanent is this walk-through exhibit. You can’t have a better venue than the Texas Hall of State. If you compare it to Disney, it is the Cinderella castle of the State Fair of Texas. It’s going to be very interactive, very high tech. It’s going to be a fun, never-ending photo-op moment. You become part of the Girl Scouts’ history as you make your way though the different sections of the exhibit.
In what ways will it be interactive? There’s going to be QR codes present everywhere that will interact with your smartphone. With AT&T being our partner in sponsoring this, we’re working with them and their technologies. One (part of the exhibit) gets girls to imagine themselves in positions of power — heads of companies, Supreme Court justices, head of surgery. You’re able to step into a green-screen scene and have a photo opportunity moment where you can see yourself in one of those situations and then share that virally on the Internet. We’re going to have a virtual troop — sort of a choir of Girl Scouts through the years, with projected faces, all reciting the Promise and Law. It shows the Girls Scouts then and the Girl Scouts today hold the same values and promise for young women.
What is the message you’re trying to convey with the exhibit? We want to educate people about the breadth and depth of all of the programs that the Girl Scouts have to offer, so it dispels that myth that Girls Scouts is mainly about cookies and crafts. We want to make sure that people walk away with the call to action to either join or volunteer or donate. If we get the attendee, Joe Turkeyleg, to say, "I’ve got to get my daughter involved in this organization, then we’ve won.
But surely Girl Scout cookies will be a part of this? There will be deep-fried Girl Scout cookies — a Samoa, topped with coconut and brown sugar.
Will geocaching be part of the exhibit as well? Yes. Girls with smart devices, and not, can go on a scavenger hunt that takes Scouts into the fair on an educational journey. They can actually earn a state fair of Texas centennial badge.