TEA Connect Blog

11 September 2019

Speakers, sessions, schedule and more: TEA SATE - Seattle, 26-27 Sept 2019

Sessions and speakers announced for TEA SATE - Seattle, September 26-27, 2019. The TEA SATE - Seattle theme is "Embracing Diversity." Get your tickets now! We welcome Neiha Arora, Senior Recruiter, Starbucks, as keynote. The conference program will also spotlight the new slate of TEA Masters. Special activities include a visit to the Space Needle on Thursday (9/26) and Seattle Underground tour on Friday (9/27). If you can, plan also for the Welcome Mixer on Wednesday evening (9/25) and optional post-conference TEA Seattle Saturday Experience (9/28). TEA SATE is the Themed Entertainment Association's signature international conference on #ExperienceDesign, bringing together the brightest minds and top decision makers to explore what's next in #Storytelling, #Architecture, #Technology, and #Experience (the four pillars of SATE).  #TEAsate



“We all have a responsibility to uplift one another in the workplace,
and within our communities - and to listen, and to be a voice,”
says Neiha Arora, Senior Recruiter, Starbucks. Neiha is dedicated
to connecting people and building inclusive, supportive communities.
As an advocate for people of color, Neih also sits on the board
for Upwardly Global, striving to help immigrants and refugees
succeed professionally. A third-culture child, Neiha was born in India,
lived in Bangladesh and grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. She emigrated
to the US and earned her undergraduate degree at
Savannah College of Art and Design. "I am forever thankful
to my family for these experiences, as I bring them
to my everyday life," she says.
Neiha has been active in recruiting for 18+ years.








Congratulations to the 2019 TEA Masters! They are: ADAM BEZARK, Writer/Creative Director; ZSOLT HORMAY, Rockwork/Sculptor/Painter; WAYNE HUNT, Graphic Designer; LISA PASSAMONTE GREEN, Lighting Designer; PHILIP VAUGHAN, Artist/Creative Designer. These honorees will be celebrated at  TEA SATE - Seattle and will make up an educational panel. View photo gallery

The TEA Masters Program, officially launched in 2018, honors masters of their craft in the global visitor attractions industry.TEA Masters are creators, developers, designers and producers whose body of work has made a significant and sustained contribution to the growth and development of the industry through innovation, design, craftsmanship and artistry. For background, read about the 2018 TEA Masters here.


The TEA SATE - Seattle vision: Read interviews with the conference co-chairs

Click to see Co-chair bios

TEA event guidelines

TEA leadership

Conference schedule

Photo: SounderBruce,

Being green, getting around and enjoying the Emerald City

Seattle is nicknamed “The Emerald City” in reference to its greenery, which is usually quite lush in September.

TEA is taking steps to make this a green conference, and conference delegates are encouraged to do the same; for instance by taking advantage of Seattle's excellent public transportation system.

You can ride Seattle's monorail between the conference hotel (The Westin Seattle) and the conference venue (Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center). Westlake Center Station is directly across the street from The Westin Seattle. Trains run every 10 minutes and the trip takes less than two minutes. Seattle Light Rail can be used to travel between SEATAC Airport and downtown near The Westin or Seattle Center. Seattle transit will also facilitate the trip to Pioneer Square for the Friday night Seattle Underground tour. There is an app enabling you to buy transit tickets on your phone. Trolleys such as the one pictured above run along Seattle's historic waterfront.


Find it on the app

The Themed Entertainment Association has its own Events App, and it will be a resource for TEA SATE - Seattle delegates to check in, access program details, learn about other TEA events and connect with fellow TEA members. Available for iOS and Android at the App Store and Google Play. Many thanks to our app sponsor, X-Studios.

(Printed conference materials will also be available.) 





Networking session at TEA SATE Europe - 2019.
The special setting for this conference was Parc Asterix near Paris.
TEA organizes TEA SATE conferences in Europe, Asia
and North America.

List of Sessions - TEA SATE - Seattle

Below are confirmed speakers and sessions for TEA SATE - Seattle 2019. Check back for more information soon, and get your tickets now! The TEA SATE - Seattle theme is "Embracing Diversity." #TEAsate

Click here for speaker bios   Click to purchase tickets

Click for conference schedule

  • Go Beyond Being an Ally. Be an Accomplice - Allies work on the individual level. Accomplices help dismantle oppressive and inequitable structures. This session will present immediately actionable steps that can be taken to move beyond diversity and towards meaningful inclusion, equity, and justice for all marginalized communities. - Cynthia Sharpe, Thinkwell Group

  • Dive into Equitable EduTainment: Communicating Culturally Responsive Conservation - This presentation features the Seattle Aquarium interpretive dive program as a model to highlight culturally responsive steps that communicators from all industries can embrace. These practices have been shown to promote inclusive narratives that both incite wonder and invite community action. - Lindsay Holladay Van Damme, Seattle Aquarium

  • Culture War: What Experience Designers Can Learn from Special Operations Training - What does it take to teach twenty-four soldiers fourteen languages and deploy them to ten countries? It’s not just time and money. Learn how soldiers build teams, master cultural awareness, and develop critical thinking skills by combining storytelling with a complex adaptive training environment. - Daniel Gomez, First Person Xperience, LLC

  • A TEA SATE conference is two days of sessions, discussion and
    networking, complemented by opportunities to explore the local 
    setting. TEA SATE Orlando 2018, graciously hosted at SeaWorld,
    welcomed a full house of several hundred delegates.

    Blurring Realities: What Drives Us into Other Worlds - For as long as we’ve been human, we’ve attempted to immerse ourselves in other worlds prompting us to ask ourselves whether this is “hard-wired” by our evolution or some function of our cultures. A diverse panel of experience creators will explore the psychology of immersive, aiming to understand this human need as it relates to our work across industries, from retail to theme parks and social justice to theatre. - Trent Oliver, Blue Telescope; Mark Harris, Second Story Interactive Studios; Aisha Hauser MSW, East Shore Unitarian Church; Jess K Smith of ARTBARN, and University of Puget Sound Theatre Arts; Monica O. Montgomery of Monica Muses. and Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center; Illya Szilak, Interactive Storyteller

  • Folktales and Bedtime Stories: How Cultural Perspectives Shape Creative Teams and Their Work - Three female artists from the US, Pakistan, and Iran explore the role cultural perspective plays in making authentic, exciting work for an increasingly sophisticated audience. With credits in television, advertising, and spectacle theater, each artist brings a unique set of experiences working inside and outside her culture. - Lacy Katherine Campbell, Freelance Writer & Director; Aisha Malik, Researcher & Writer; Nazanin Mehraein, Creative Director & Visual Artist

  • Click here for speaker bios   Click to purchase tickets  Click for conference schedule

  • Art and the 3D Artifact: Makerspaces and Value of Collective Curiosity - The maker movement influences a broad spectrum of activity including education, commerce, and entertainment. Imagine an attraction (Story) where an artifact you created was essential to the enjoyment of that attraction. Now imagine a makerspace (Architecture) where such an artifact can be created using new tools (Technology) while gaining the (Experience) that comes through creative process. Hear how makerspaces bring people together to explore the profound experience of making things that will affect our future in ways we can only begin to envision. John D. Hogan M.Ed., JDH Design

  • TEA SATE - Seattle conference sessions will take place
    in the Cornish Playhouse in Seattle Center, a legacy structure
    of the 1962 Century 21 Exposition

    Come to Your Senses: Improving Access for Guests with Vision or Hearing Disabilities - With the onset of technologies such as 3D, VR, and AR, entertainment and cultural attractions are pushing the boundaries of experience in unprecedented ways. But as we create immersive environments that are increasingly visual and auditory, are we creating unintended barriers for visitors with vision or hearing disabilities? This moderated panel discussion will explore how, through universal design practices and thoughtful U/X interfaces, we can engage one sense to compensate for another. The result? Memorable experiences that can be heard, seen, felt and enjoyed by visitors regardless of vision or hearing ability. Clara Rice, JRA (moderator); Joe Fox PMP, EXP; Shannon Dedman; Vince Fung, Ultraleap; Stephen Thomas Cavit, Iconic Sound & Music; Kathryn Woodcock, PhD, CCPE, ICAE, Peng, Ryerson University and Thrill Lab 

  • The Greatest Story Ever Told - What’s the number one tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi? Hint: it’s not a theme park or museum. From the Grand Mosque to the Vatican and from the Museum of the Bible to Singapore’s Haw Par Villa, when it comes to cause-driven experiences, faith is arguably the biggest cause of them all. This session brings together a marketer, architect, writer, and number cruncher to spark a conversation about what the themed entertainment industry can learn from those who strive to tell the greatest stories ever told. - Geoff Thatcher, Creative Principals (moderator); Yael Coifman, Leisure Development Partners; Jonathan Alger, C&G Partners; Andrew Bagley, Boncom

  • POSE: Personal Opportunity to Strengthen and Empower, A DEI Conversation - What does the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion look when considering one’s personal, professional, and organizational life? As someone who lives and leads in the DEI space, Coalman approaches this question from a personal perspective, addressing its relevance to all and how FareStart’s culinary and foodservice programs work to solve some of our society's most pressing challenges—homelessness, joblessness, poverty, and hunger. - Troy Coalman, Farestart

  • Click here for speaker bios   Click to purchase tickets

  • Seattle skyline photo: Ron Clausen
    [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

    When the World Came to Seattle: The Inspiration and Impact of World’s Fairs - A panel of subject matter experts revisits the Century 21 Exposition whose legacy endures and continues to influence the themed entertainment industry even as TEA SATE Seattle 2019 takes place in shadow of its icon, the Space Needle. Beyond the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962, panelists will examine how the aspirational ideals and cultural impact of international expositions have inspired experience creators throughout history and how through our work we might live up to the best visions of the world set forth by these events. - Gary Wichansky, Hotopp (moderator); Fri Forjindam, Mycotoo; Knute Berger, Crosscut; Carissa Baker, UCF College of Hospitality Management, Alan J. Stein, HistoryLink.org

  • TEA/AECOM Spotlight on Observation Experiences - The top 20 observation experiences worldwide had aggregate attendance of 53 million in 2018, according to the special feature on observation experiences in the most recent TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. As Seattle’s newly renovated Space Needle looks toward the next century, Linda Cheu looks at global trends in observation deck experiences. - Linda Cheu, AECOM

  • The Future, Now Open: Reimagining and Rebuilding the Space Needle for the 21st Century - Its debut for the 1962 World’s Fair instantly put Seattle on the map, and forever linked the city with an innovative spirit that has become its global identity. Learn how the icon totally transformed during its historic renovation, and how the Space Needle used technology, creativity, and a passion for the guest journey to create an all-new experience for visitors. - Randy Coté, Space Needle + Chihuly Garden and Glass

  • Following Her Lead: A Conversation with Female Industry Leaders - Hear from industry leaders as they share their personal career trajectories, describe hurdles overcome, and define what embracing diversity means to them. These inspiring women will pass on invaluable, practical insights from individual and business perspectives, especially relevant for the next generation of the themed entertainment industry. - Linda Hung, Forrec (moderator); Marie Crotty PE, EXP; Linda Dong, China Leisure; Susan Beth Smith, The Bezark Company; Colleen Bonniol, MODE Studios

  • Equality is Good Business - The LGBTQ community across the United States has over $900 Billion in buying power. LGBTQ tourists and those in local communities spend money with intention at businesses and attractions that more closely align to their values and are proven to be more brand loyal than almost any other demographic. As demonstrated in Seattle, and across Washington, building diversity, equity, inclusion, and equality into your business model is not only the right thing to do, but is good for business. - Eric Moss, Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), Washington’s LGBTQ and Allied Chamber of Commerce

  • Pioneer Square, Seattle
    Photo: PioneerSquare.org via Facebook

    Pioneer Square and the Making of Queer Seattle - Discover new ways of encouraging the public to engage with local history vis-à-vis architecture and neighborhood exploration through stories and historic images that illuminate the vibrant experiences of Seattle’s queer community dating back to the 1890s. In addition, we will discuss the story map technology used in his research and give a preview of his walking tour available to attendees of the TEA SATE Seattle Saturday Experience. - Julian Barr, PhD candidate, University of Washington Dept. of Geography

  • Let's Go to Camp! It's hard to think of camp as an example of “themed entertainment”. The trees aren’t cut off at the ceiling. The staff are people you’re expected to actually get to know. That smell of wet grass in the air is, in fact, wet grass. But there are lessons about experience design to be found at camp. With a shared passion for this timeless institution, this wife-and-husband duo examine ways in which camp is and is not like themed entertainment and demonstrate how designed experiences can be more than just the sum of Story + Architecture + Technology. - Jordan Coleman, WDI; Jessica Coleman, JB Coleman LLC

  • Click here for speaker bios  Click to purchase tickets  Click for conference schedule

  • TEA Masters Awards and Panel - Details TBA - Moderator: John Lindsay, The Companies of Nassal

  • We Over Me: Building a Culture of Coaching (Interstitials) - Ping pong tables and bean bags are out. Coaching is in. In four short sessions, learn how to strengthen your organization, improve productivity, and boost employee morale by creating a culture of coaching.- Arielle Rassel, Creative Producing and Design Management

  • The Power of Pageantry: Spectacle as a Force for Good - Spectacle can fill our senses with symphonies of color, light and sound designed to awe, yet spectacle can be so much more than the sum of its parts. By examining different components of spectacle and potential combinations thereof, attendees will appreciate how storytelling of scale might create spontaneous bonds among audiences, connections between people and place, and community across cultures. - Kile Ozier, The Guy

  • How to Talk Nerdy with Jazz Hands - Nothing holds a project back from success more than an inability to communicate, yet effective collaboration between designers and engineers is essential to achieving that goal. This joint presentation will highlight differences between two modes of problem solving, dispel myths about how we think, and offer insights into how these perspectives can work together for optimal results. - Paul Osterhout, Century Culture & Tourism Co. Ltd.; Paul Kent, Electrosonic

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conference schedule




TEA SATE - Seattle is taking place on land that was originally settled by the Duwamish Tribe, who are indigenous to the area. In honor of that, TEA welcomes First Nations representative The Hon. Cecile Hansen, Chair of the Duwamish Tribal Council, who will open the conference with a ceremonial statement. Land acknowledgement is a centuries-old, traditional custom of many Native communities and nations.


Wednesday night Welcome mixer, 6:00 - 9:00 pm

Welcome to the Emerald City! RSVP/Separate ticket required. Open to conference delegates and guests.

The TEA Western North America Division invites you to kick off your TEA SATE - Seattle visit with an evening of networking, refreshments and camaraderie at the FareStart restaurant, located close to the conference hotel.

Wednesday, Sept 25, 2019. More info/tickets here.


The Loupe, a revolving glass floor, is one of the new experiences
at the Space Needle. Photo: John Lok and Space Needle

Thursday night Space Needle visit, 5:45 - 9:00 pm

FREE to all ticketed TEA SATE - Seattle delegates. Check out this classic observation experience first built in 1962 for the world's fair, recently renovated and re-opened with such features as a redesigned observation deck; The Loupe, a transparent, revolving floor; and other new experiences. Staggered entry times, first come first served: Guests can stay to experience the Observation Deck Level until 9:00 pm closing time. More details TBA. Thursday, 26 Sept 2019.


Seattle Underground
photo: -JvL- creativecommons.org

FRIDAY NIGHT  Seattle underground tour, 6:30 - 8:00 PM

FREE to all ticketed TEA SATE - Seattle delegates (first-come, first-served - there will be an opportunity to sign up during the conference). This adventure - literally underground - takes you through an old section of the city preserved beneath the rebuilding which followed the Great Fire of 1889. There will be two groups, one at 6:30 pm and one at 7:00 pm. Pioneer Square is easily reached by riding Seattle transit - walk with your fellow TEA SATE delegates to the station after the conference closes. Friday, 27 September 2019.



Four-hour cultural trip, cruising from downtown Seattle to nearby Blake Island State Park, a 475-acre island with beaches, trails and Mt. Ranier views. Includes a visit to Tillicum Village (on the island), traditional fire-roasted fish buffet, Native American storytelling session, and time to explore. (Read about Tillicum Village in this glowing review from USA Today.) Prior to boarding the cruise, check out Seattle's famous Pike Place Market!

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Speakers - TEA SATE - Seattle (alphabetical order)

Jonathan Alger, Managing Partner, C&G Partners - A multi-specialist designer with a focus on interactive public space, brand and digital with 20+ years’ experience, Jonathan is a dedicated advocate of strategic thinking and thoughtful use of technology. Clients include American Express, Bronx Zoo, Holocaust Museum, Japanese-American National Museum, JPL, Library of Congress, NASA, National Museum of American History, NYU, US Department of State and Voice of America. He was a National Design Award Finalist and received two AAM Muse Awards. He served two terms as national President of SEGD. Before co-founding C&G Partners, Jonathan was a Principal at Chermayeff & Geismar Inc.

Andrew Bagley, President, Boncom - Bonneville Communications is a full-service marketing and advertising agency serving caused-based organizations, including Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Zero Fatalities for Utah Department of Transportation, Stop the Opidemic for Utah Department of Health, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Andrew is a creative strategist who employs the best practices of human-centered design, neuromarketing, behavioral psychology, and design thinking, focusing on both quantitative and qualitative research of human behavior and beliefs. Andrew’s previous roles include chief strategy officer at Audacious Studios, managing director of Cast & Hue and vice president of strategic planning at Sitewire.

Julian Barr, PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Washington Seattle - Julian has a BA in history and a MS in geography both from the St. Louis area. He is interested in queer-feminist geography, qualitative methodology, and cultural geography with a focus on place studies and popular culture. His research is focused on the historical geography of lesbian and queer women in Seattle with a focus on place/community development. His secondary research interests include researching issues of representation of identity and place in popular culture. 


Knute Berger, Editor-at-Large, Crosscut.com -  Award-winning columnist for Crosscut, Seattle’s non-profit Northwest news site affiliated with Seattle public TV station KCTS9, and Seattle Magazine where he writes the monthly “Gray Matters” column, Knute hosts a series on Northwest history for KCTS, “Mossback’s Northwest,” and is a regular commentator on KUOW, Seattle’s NPR affiliate. He’s author of two books: “Pugetopolis” and “Space Needle, Spirit of Seattle,” a history of the landmark. He serves as consulting historian for the Needle. Berger has a passion for world’s fairs and has attended 10 in 10 different countries, beginning with Seattle’s in 1962.

Dr. Carissa Baker, Assistant Professor of Theme Park and Attraction Management, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management - Dr. Baker received her Ph.D. in Texts and Technology from the University of Central Florida (UCF). She has a literature and writing background, with degrees in literature from Chapman University (BA) and UCF (MA). Her primary research focuses on narratives in the theme park space. She publishes academic articles in this area and presents at conferences and universities on aspects of themed entertainment. She has twice been a Visiting Scholar at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. 

Colleen Bonniol, Listener, learner, leader, beach camper, and Founder/CEO - MODE Studios - "My business motto… my creed, has been to ‘work my way through the entertainment industry.’ Be it theatre, rock-n-roll, or film. MODE is an amalgam of all these experiences over many years, rolled into one fantastic experience. The last 22 years have been epic. My favorite part of being on Team MODE - the people we work with, & moments we get to create and share. There is nothing better than watching an audience react to the magic of the whole experience!"

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Lacy Katherine Campbell, Freelance Writer & Director -  Lacy is a multi-disciplinary director and writer with a focus on cross-cultural storytelling. After graduating from Emerson College, she moved to Chicago, where she divided her time between theater and TV, film, and voiceover. As a writer and director, Campbell has created original, animated shorts for B2B clients across the world as well as expressive, lyrical puppet shows for theater. She is currently based in Seattle.


Stephen Thomas Cavit, Composer/Principal, Iconic Sound & Music - Stephen is a two-time Emmy Award winner and Sundance Composers Lab fellow. Iconic created original music, sound design, and technology for attractions such as: the permanent WALKING DEAD attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood; ICE AGE: NO TIME FOR NUTS  for 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios; THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX; ALIEN V. PREDATOR, for USH and USJ; ELECTRIC OCEAN, SeaWorld San Diego & 2017 IAAPA Brass Ring Award winner; Zero Latency's OUTBREAK ORIGINS; and, ALIEN: DESCENT for 21st Century Fox.



Linda Cheu, Vice President at AECOM - Linda is a leader in AECOM's cultural attractions practice group, an advising museum, science centers, specialty attractions, performing arts organizations, and cultural institutions of all types on development, expansion, and business planning issues. She has been with the firm for over 22 years and has served as a board member for multiple cultural attractions and civic organizations in San Francisco. Her expertise includes business planning, earned income strategies, market-based concept development, attendance and audience analysis, facility usage projections, physical planning parameters, feasibility analysis, economic impact, and the development of cultural districts and anchors.  

Troy Patrick Coalman, Director of Annual Giving and Community Engagement with FareStart in Seattle, Washington - Troy’s position marries his passion for philanthropy, the foodservice industry and uplifting those in our community who are rising above adversity and marginalization. His over two-decade career in fundraising and nonprofit leadership has spanned all facets of the sector,  and causes ranging from the workforce development, social enterprise, the arts, domestic violence to LGBT activism and community development. Within his work at FareStart he is the Director lead for the organizations Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative which has become part of the non-profits long term strategic plan. 

Yael S Coifman – Senior Partner, Leisure Development Partners (LDP) - LDP is a specialised consulting practice focused on the worldwide visitor attraction and leisure industry. Prior to founding LDP, Yael was a Director at ERA based in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and London. During her 20+ years in the industry, Yael has completed projects in 60+ countries, in Europe, the Middle East, Americas, and Asia. Yael has worked with major players in worldwide attractions operations, including Six Flags, Fox Studios, SeaWorld, Universal, Parques Reunidos, Dreamworks, Disney, Warner Bros, and KidZania, as well as museums, corporate brand centers, investment groups, developers and public sector organizations. 

Jessica Coleman, Organizations and People Consultant, JB Coleman LLC - Jessica has an extensive background in seasonal and family-oriented businesses. Starting in the world of children's summer camps, she expanded her influence to organizations in such fields as hospitality, entertainment, and technology.  An acclaimed “people expert”, she works with business leaders to boost team productivity and worker satisfaction in a way that is authentic and comfortable for everyone involved.  Jessica coaches and mentors managers one-on-one; she also partners with executives to intentionally set and strengthen their company’s internal brand (its culture).  Her mantra is:  When people know they matter, organizations succeed.

Jordan Coleman, Executive Show Systems Architecture Imagineer, Walt Disney Imagineering - Jordan helps oversee engineering strategy and systems design for new attractions headed to Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. As an experience industry veteran, Jordan has contributed to a wide range of projects, including rides, shows, and spectaculars, as well as keystone entertainment technologies, such as animatronic systems, advanced show and ride controls, and precision time synchronization. Beyond his work in theme park attractions, Jordan has backgrounds in computer science, telecommunications, and youth development. Prior to joining the entertainment industry, Jordan and his wife, Jessica, owned and directed one of America’s premier summer camps.

Randy Coté, Director of Business Development, Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass - Born and raised in Seattle, Randy first joined the Space Needle team in 2007 and has been sharing his passion for the city and structure ever since. During the Space Needle’s historic renovation, he worked closely with the project team to tell the story of the renovation to guests visiting from around the world. When Randy isn’t overseeing ticket sales, promotions, and partnerships for the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, he enjoys hiking, playing hockey, traveling, and eating his way through Seattle.  

Purchase tickets to TEA SATE - Seattle  Click for conference schedule

Marie Crotty PE, Project Manager, EXP - Marie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering, and is a licensed engineer with experience in mechanical, plumbing, and fire protection systems.  For over a decade, Marie has enjoyed working on themed entertainment projects in Orlando and around the world such as coasters, dark rides, 4D and live performance theaters, character meet and greets, round rides, and flume rides - highly themed work for zoos, aquariums, aviaries, retail and restaurants. Each project comes with an array of new learning experiences and unique challenges that require creative solutions.

Shannon Dedman – Shannon designs objects that connect people to unique experience technologies, and is conversant with code compliance for physical accessibility. Through digital and physical prototyping, vendor sourcing, specifying materials and managing fabrication, she supports collaborative design processes. Shannon holds an MFA in Props, Design and Fabrication from CalArts. Her background in props and puppetry fuels her curiosity about how people interact with objects and environments. As an advocate for accessibility and universal design principles, she believes that inclusivity, compassion and empowerment are primary benchmarks for innovation.


Linda Dong, President and Chairman, China Leisure - Linda founded China Leisure, which develops and operates international branded parks and attractions in China, in 2015. She started her career in finance and has held positions across investment banking and private equity investments at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and China Investment Corp (CIC). Linda found her passion for the theme park industry through her first project developing the Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park in Chongqing, China. Since then, China Leisure has expanded into development of water parks, FECs and culture tourism attractions across China. Linda holds a BS in Economics from the Wharton School. 

Purchase tickets to TEA SATE - Seattle

Fri Forjindam, global business development, branding and communications, Mycotoo, Inc. -  Fri brings passion and enthusiasm to the art of creative placemaking across industries for Mycotoo, an experience design firm designated a “top media” company by Inc. 500.  She has created distinctive guest experiences in film, theatre, publishing and special events. From theme parks to science centers, seasonal events and brand activations,  Fri brings her rich background in content development and experiential marketing strategies to regional, national and international projects. She was named a “Top 50 Influencer” by Blooloop.com, and she sits on the board of the Ryman Arts Foundation.

Joe Fox PMP, Integration Manager, EXP - Joe's work in themed entertainment has taken him all over the world as a seasoned project manager, show control project engineer and team leader. He’s worked in theme parks, casinos, and other themed entertainment venues. The teams he’s managed have also developed interactives for the most immersive lands in all of themed entertainment. His experience prior to themed entertainment was in education and software development/implementation. Joe is a recipient of TEA's Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award recognizing exceptional service to the organization, managing technology for TEA's tentpole events every year.

Vince Fung, Director, Product Marketing, Ultraleap - Vince joined Ultraleap (formerly Ultrahaptics) as Director of Product Marketing in 2017, bringing 20+ years' experience in marketing, strategic partnership and the technology industry. He oversees all marketing for North America and is also responsible for the location-based entertainment sector. Previously, Vince worked at Intel, AMD, Analog Devices and multiple venture-funded startups in Silicon Valley, where he marketed innovative technologies and solutions for digital content creation and consumption and mobile communication. He holds an MBA in marketing and general management from Columbia Business School and an MS and BS in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University.

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gomez, Founder, First Person Xperience - During 16 years with the military, Daniel, US Army Veteran and Instructor, Joint Special Operations University (Tampa) commanded elite Special Operations teams in humanitarian, disaster relief, and counterterrorism missions worldwide. Daniel also served as a scenario designer for US Army Special Operations, using storytelling, role-players, and special effects to create realistic and dynamic immersive training scenarios. In 2016, Daniel founded First Person Xperience an immersive entertainment consulting company in New York City and produced the revolutionary live-action game and post-apocalyptic thriller, RED: An Immersive Experience.

Mark Harris, Creative Technology Lead, Second Story Interactive Studios - Moving seamlessly between creative and technology, Mark is an experiential leader who works at many scales. Mark was technology lead for the ACMI Renewal Master Plan. He’s worked on experiences for Westworld, The Man in the High Castle, Sense8, Pandemic 1.0 at Sundance and ITVS’s Futurestates. Mark created Film Society of Lincoln Center's first immersive theatre production, "The Hierarchy.” He wrote the collaborative narrative game CURRENT:GOOD, where audiences teach morality to new-born A.I. Mark’s newest immersive piece “Madam Gaia” workshops this summer. Campaigns awards include: Cannes Lions, Clios, World Press Photo and an interactive Emmy nomination.

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Aisha Hauser MSW, Director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue WA - Aisha is an accomplished religious educator, facilitator, author and advocate. While Aisha started her professional career in the field of social work after earning an MSW from Hunter College in NYC, she quickly became involved in the religious education program in the first Unitarian Universalist congregation she attended and there found her love of religious education. Her experience includes serving three UU congregations on both the East and West coasts, and working for the Unitarian Universalist Association serving as Children and Families Program Director. 

John D. Hogan, Designer/Educator, JDH Design - John has design experience in Themed Entertainment, Toy, and Animation industries in the US and France. His educational experience covers both coasts, (NYC, LA, and SF) and oversea studies (Japan). His career has been, at times, a lucky combination of experience, training, and ability to allow him to work on some wonderful projects with many remarkable individuals. His talk will be about the Maker movement, and the community that has arisen from that movement.


Lindsay Holladay Van Damme, Marine Science Interpretive Diver, Seattle Aquarium - Whether she is interpreting the behavior of a giant Pacific octopus from land or introducing a hungry wolf eel 20 feet underwater, Lindsay champions the Seattle Aquarium mission: “Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.” As a scientific diver, she works with cutting-edge SCUBA technology and a culturally responsive team to empower diverse, global audiences to embrace the narrative of our one world ocean ethic. Lindsay’s passion for marine science education and interpretation has been recognized by a Women Divers Hall of Fame Underwater Education Award and an Ocean Exploration Trust Science Communication Fellowship.


Linda Hung, Vice President at FORREC - Linda and has been with the firm for 20 years. She has successfully managed numerous projects from concept to reality including significant branded theme parks. Linda also managed the Theme Park Sector for five years. Her strategic, logical approach is highly regarded by Forrec's clients who appreciate Linda’s patient, guiding hand, listening skills and problem-solving abilities. She is an expert master planner who likes to find creative solutions that meet and exceed clients’ expectations.


Paul Kent, Senior Consultant Entertainment, Electrosonic - Paul's early career was spent working in theatre, live events and touring shows. As a creative, with a technology base, Paul has lived and worked on projects around the world, that have won industry awards and acclaim from the millions of guests that have experienced them. More recently Paul has had a role of Executive Consultant, working as part of multiple creative teams on show concepts, conceiving blue sky technology concepts and technical direction, to produce projects that are innovative and can be successfully operated, for new and yet to be seen parks and entertainment attractions.


Aisha Malik, Researcher & Writer - Aisha is originally from Lahore, Pakistan. She did her Bachelors in Law, but found her passion in television writing when she started working for the Pakistani version of Sesame Street after graduation. Malik holds an MFA in writing for screen and stage from Northwestern University as a Fulbright scholar and is currently a PhD student at the University of Sydney, studying the cultural and gender roles propagated by Pakistani television.



Nazanin Mehraein, Creative Director & Visual Artist - Nazanin was born in Tehran, Iran, where she received a BA in Puppetry from the University of Tehran. Mehraein is currently based in Vienna, studying Transarts at the University of Applied Arts. Her primary focus is in live multimedia events, with an emphasis on painting, sculpting, and installation art.



Monica O. Montgomery, co-founder of Museum Hue; founding director, Museum of Impact - Monica is an arts and culture powerhouse, using creativity and social change to bridge the gap between people and movements. As a sought-after speaker, trainer and professor, she uses her platforms (museums, universities and public speaking) to build power and be in service to society. She is a winner of the 2016 Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Fractured Atlas and a Fund the Change recipient. Museum Hue is a platform for multicultural diversity and creative economy. Museum of Impact is an innovative, mobile social justice museum.


Eric Moss, Director of Communications for GSBA, Washington state’s LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce - A long time resident of Seattle, Eric finds joy in working with businesses and individuals to develop their story, and to craft experiences that create powerful moments. A Navy veteran, Eric has spent the bulk of his career in government or nonprofits. When not at work, he enjoys traveling, theater, concerts, and spending time with his partner and three dogs.

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Trent Oliver, Principal, Managing Director, Blue Telescope - Blue Telescope expands the human experience through design and technology. Trent’s storied career embodies the circuitous path so many of us take. After starting in theatrical production, migrating into film and digital creation, she co-founded her own company, Blue Telescope. Trent has overseen the company to grow and become respected and lauded, guiding an in-house team that’s won more than 100 awards for creativity for their engaging, boundary-pushing interactives.


Paul Osterhout, Executive Vice President / Executive Producer, Century Culture and Tourism – Paul brings 40+ years’ multi-national experience in design management, concept development, design, art direction, producing, product branding and master planning. Paul has held creative executive positions with Universal Creative and WDI. He has played an integral role in creating a variety of world-renowned venues in themed entertainment, museums, resorts, retail and interactive gaming. He is able to liaise between creative, production, architecture, construction and business units, and was on the team of two projects honored with TEA Thea Awards. He serves on the TEA International Board of Directors.


Kile Ozier, The Guy - A nimble, collaborative producer & show director, Kile brings a career in creation of Resonant Audience Experience: offering effective new approaches to show, spectacle and ceremony. He has an innate ability to create live, one-off and long-run production at any level of magnitude with Experience that stirs and offers personal richness for each audience member. Be it Civic Ceremony or Inaugural, Stadium Show or Sports Celebration, Theme Park Installation or Product Launch; on Ozier’s teams it’s never Just a Job. Everyone learns, everyone teaches; the best work of all is achieved. And The Guy can roast a chicken!

Arielle Rassel, creative producer and design manager - Based in Orlando, Arielle Rassel has experience in team leadership, management, and design, and a passion for building collaborative, effective teams. Her project experience is diverse - including theme parks, zoos, brand centers, aquariums, museums, retail, dining, and attractions. She has participated with and overseen design and production teams from the concept phase through opening day and has managed both domestic and international projects ranging from the most minimal of budgets up to those with multi-million dollar capital expenditures for clients that include Disney, Universal, and Google.


Clara Rice, Director of Communications, JRA - Clara brings two decades of theatre, project management, marketing and public relations experience to her work. Clara enjoys sharing stories of JRA’s projects, people and insights with the press, potential clients, and the industry at large. For TEA, she serves as Vice President of the International Board of Directors and is a past Divisional Board Member and Committee Chair. Clara has presented at conferences around the world and is a regular contributor to several attractions industry magazines. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Management from Yale School of Drama.


Cynthia Sharpe, Principal, Cultural Attractions & Research, Thinkwell Group - Cynthia’s 20+ years' experience spans museums, zoos, aquariums, theme parks, live events, and more, combining creative directing, behavioral theory,educational pedagogy, and strategic thinking. Prior to joining Thinkwell, Cynthia worked for the Museum of Science and Industry. She currently serves as a member of the TEA Eastern North American Board. She co-founded Harriet B’s Daughters, an industry group dedicated to improving inclusion,diversity, equity, and access in themed entertainment. Cynthia is the recipient of the 2018 Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for executive leadership from the Association of ScienceTechnology Centers.

Jess K Smith, Founding Co-Artistic Director of ARTBARN, freelance director, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Puget Sound - Jess directs original site-responsive immersive performances in non-traditional spaces such as woods in upstate New York, the historic Georgetown Steam Plant, and a decommissioned military fort. She holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, trained with SITI Company, and interned with Punchdrunk and Seattle Repertory. Her chapter, “The Hero in the Human” was published in Deja Donne: Dance in Action; her essay “Women Directors: Language Worth Repeating” was featured on Howlround. Her TEDx talk, “The Seeing Place,” addresses site-specific theatre.

Susan Beth Smith, Executive Producer, The Bezark Company - With 25+ years of producing successful extraordinary projects all over the world, Susan Beth Smith orchestrates the multifaceted components of visual media and experiences. With extensive knowledge of artistic, cultural, and technological trends, she enjoys balancing the tried-and-true with the brand-new. In addition to theme parks and museums, she has broad media and visual effects production experience including commercials, documentaries and special venue films. She has collaborated with the likes of Barack Obama, Ray Bradbury, Frank Gehry, and Michael Eisner.

Alan J. Stein, Senior Historian, HistoryLink.org - Mr. Stein is the award-winning author of five HistoryLink books, "Safe Passage: The Birth of Washington State Ferries, 1951–2001"; "Bellevue Timeline: The Story of Washington’s Leading Edge City from Homesteads to High Rises, 1863–2003"; "The Olympic: The Story of Seattle’s Landmark Hotel"; and, with Paula Becker, "Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington's First World's Fair"; and "The Future Remembered; The 1962 World’s Fair and Its Legacy." He is past president of the Association of King County Historical Organizations, and is Ex Noble Grand Humbug of Doc Maynard Chapter 54-40, E Clampus Vitus.

Illya Szilak, writer, director, artist, and interactive storyteller - Shaped by her experiences as a physician, Ilya's artistic practice explores mortality, embodiment, identity and belief in a media inundated and increasingly virtual world. Her long-time artistic partner is Cyril Tsiboulski (Cloudred). Their online interactive narratives Reconstructing Mayakovsky and Queerskins: a novel are included in The Electronic Literature Collection.Their first VR, Queerskins: a love story was awarded a Peabody Futures of Media Award in transmedia. They are the recipients of grants from The Sundance Institute/Arcus Foundation and The Tribeca Film Institute/MacArthur Foundation and The Peter S. Reed Foundation.

Geoff Thatcher, Founder & CCO, Creative Principals - Geoff is an experienced creative leader in the journey from concept to world-class experience - in theme parks, museums, brand experiences and live events. Projects include the grand opening of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, American Airlines Museum, opening ceremonies of the Rio 2007 Pan American Games and consulting for the General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia. Geoff began at Lagoon Amusement Park and is completing a book about growing up at a theme park. He spent seven years as a creative writer with JRA and has since partnered with JRA on various projects around the world.

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Gary Wichansky, Owner and Head of Creative at Hotopp Associates - Gary grew up as a theater kid, obsessed with design and production, a foundation that set the stage for his belief in collaboration and a love of the craft. After receiving a master’s degree in Theatre, Gary worked across multiple industries as a designer, fabricator, and leader and joined Hotopp, an entertainment design firm, in 2003. Gary has been proud to work with many great partners at SeaWorld, Gaylord Entertainment, WowWorks, NBC Sports, the NHL, Walt Disney Entertainment, Immersive Artistry, and more over his 25-year career.


Dr. Kathryn Woodcock, CCPE ICAE PEng, Professor, Ryerson University - Dr Woodcock is involved in unique extracurricular training, research, and knowledge mobilization activities focused on human factors of amusement rides and attractions pertaining to guests, operators, and inspectors. Her work has been presented in over 75 peer-reviewed publications and over 200 industry and professional publications and presentations. Dr. Woodcock is also a member of TEA, ASTM Committee F24, Ontario TSSA Amusement Devices Advisory Council, IAAPA Global Safety Committee, IAAPA Foundation Academic Advisory Council, and Board of Directors of AIMS, and consults to designer/manufacturers and owner/operators.

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Co-chairs, TEA SATE - Seattle 2019

Nathan Jones, President, Park Attractions Division, WhiteWater - WhiteWater is dedicated to innovative attractions in the theme park sector. Prior to joining WhiteWater, Nathan held executive management roles with major ride and attraction providers, including Vekoma Rides and Brogent Technologies. Since starting his career in 1998, Nathan has led the development of some of the most eminent themed entertainment experiences around the globe. Nathan serves as an International Board Director for the TEA with the responsibility to guide and organize through thought leadership and professional collaboration with industry peers. Nathan holds M.B.A. degrees from Cornell University and Queen’s University.

Ian Klein, Founder, Vizir Productions - Ian heads a multidisciplinary creative consulting practice devoted to maximizing the potential of storyworlds through experiences and other narrative extensions. Ian combines the theatrical art of dramaturgy with concept development, show writing, and creative direction to create authentic brand encounters. His passion for research and commitment to effective storytelling has informed his work in developing attractions and experiences of all kinds and in creating the definitive brand guides for two of the world’s highest-grossing film franchises. Ian is also a frequent contributor to academia and popular culture studies as a writer and speaker.

Shannon Martin, Director of Business Development, Color Reflections Las Vegas - Shannon has spent over half her life in the graphics fabrication and production industry and prides herself on her attentiveness to the needs, trends, and emerging technologies of the museum, event, and themed entertainment industries. Shannon is also a passionate advocate for domestic violence victims and previously served on the Executive Board of Directors at Safe Nest. She is currently serving as President of the TEA Western North America Division Board. Her greatest joys are her three children and husband Dave, who support everything she dreams.


TEA leadership

Michael Mercadante, President, Main Street Design, TEA International Board President - Michael is a registered architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and earned his degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame, where his studies included a year abroad at the University’s architecture program in Rome, Italy. In the last three decades he has worked exclusively in the field of interpretive exhibit design, creating experiences that engage guests at visitor centers and museums, nature centers and wildlife reserves, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and select themed environments.


Jennie Nevin, Chief Operating Officer, TEA - Now in her sixth year at the executive helm of TEA, Jennie Nevin has become a familiar face in the attractions industry while stepping up as an effective leader. She has helped the Association reach new milestones on many levels including membership expansion, member services, brand identity, financial stability, internal organization, staffing and global growth. Previously, Jennie served as Director of Operations and Development and Deputy Executive Director for the Hollywood Radio & Television Society in Los Angeles. Based in TEA’s Burbank headquarters, Jennie’s dedication to TEA also takes her into the field to know and represent the industry first-hand.

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