Master of illusion

Bob Leon was bitten by the theatre bug when he was 15. He landed a job as an apprentice at a summer stock theatre, building and painting scenery during the day and running lighting boards and fly rails at night.

Today, he owns Colortone Staging and Rentals, an audiovisual company with locations in Cleveland and Salt Lake City, more than 50 employees and more than $3 million in high-tech equipment. He staged the 2002 Winter Olympics and 2002 Para-Olympics in Salt Lake City and is booked for events well into 2005.

But Leon is more comfortable rolling up his sleeves and getting involved with his staff than with managing his growing business.

“I am the guy who would much rather be loading trucks and hanging lights than sitting at a desk pushing paper,” he says.

Leon’s approach to staging events is far different from that of his competitors.

“We all own the same equipment,” he says. “And we all produce presentations that are informative and hopefully entertaining. What I bring to the table is the aesthetic training that the theatre teaches you. It’s the use of imagination. It’s the ability to focus someone’s attention where you need it to be. It’s the look of the entire room, not just the stage where the presentation is taking place.

“It’s how we tape our cables to the floor. It’s how we hang our drape. It’s how we set up our control areas in view of our audience. It’s the little things that make the big difference.”

Colortone’s Olympics work spanned more than three years and included pre-event conferences and workshops for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. During the Olympics, Leon staged more than a dozen events, including theatrical lighting on Historic Main Street in Park City, Utah, theatrical lighting and sound systems on the streets around Olympic Medals Plaza and the executive committee meeting for the International Olympics Committee.

Leon also oversaw VIP hospitality staging for the IOC, NBC and the athletes’ party after the closing ceremony.

Closer to home, Colortone stages Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Award banquet in the Northeast Ohio region. It also handles the event in eight other regions, for a total of 25 percent of Ernst & Young’s national programs. How to reach: Colortone, (216) 741-9600

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