A moving experience behind the scenes

SETTING THE STAGE: Gareth Conner, left, founder and president of Creative Conners Inc., talks with automation technician Josh Stoller about a product Stoller is working on. It’s a Spotline Practical hoist used in theatrical shows.    
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
SETTING THE STAGE: Gareth Conner, left, founder and president of Creative Conners Inc., talks with automation technician Josh Stoller about a product Stoller is working on. It’s a Spotline Practical hoist used in theatrical shows. 
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

2019 PBN Innovative Companies: Arts & Entertainment
Creative Conners Inc.


NEARLY 20 YEARS AGO, having seen the limitations of existing solutions, theater tech Gareth Conner developed his own idea – an affordable and modular motion control system for live theater that would bring the scenery automation and computer-controlled mechanical effects typically seen only in large-scale, big-budget shows to regional theaters and universities.

Conner tested his first prototype scenery motion controller at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in 2003. A year later, he founded Creative Conners Inc., unveiling his innovative Stagehand motion controller and Spikemark software to the entertainment industry.

Since then? Well, let’s just say that Conner and his idea have made it … in a big way.

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By 2015, Creative Conners products were in use in more than 50% of the regional and community theaters across the U.S. and this year – the company’s 15th – revenue is expected to reach $5 million.

“Creative Conners provides a system of scenic automation that is affordable and approachable,” Conner said. “In the past two years, we have released more than eight new products – hoists, winches, motion controllers, turntable system, and others, added more than two dozen features to our software platform, and added eight new staff members.”

This summer, in addition to creating custom-designed scenic rotators to help the Theater Calgary in Alberta, Canada, upgrade its annual Christmas production, Creative Conners also completed a $500,000 project for the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire, Ill., replacing its obsolete stage lift system, as well as its outdated hoists with Creative Conners’ new Spotline Mini hoist.

“When you boil down what Creative Conners provides, it’s tools for artists to make art,” Conner said. “The tools we manufacture help directors, designers and actors tell stories that are engaging and meaningful. Our scenic automation products unleash a new and powerful way to add motion and energy to stage productions. We do the work we do because an artist needs a paintbrush and the audience needs a story.”

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