Life of the Party

I love everything about throwing parties. The planning, the cooking, the decorating…maybe not the cleanup, but I enjoy nearly every aspect of entertaining. I can’t wait until I’m all settled in to my new place so I can invite my friends over for a housewarming or “spring is finally here” soirée.

I’m not so naive to assume that having a few dozen friends over to my apartment is the same as a large-scale corporate event, but seeing that I have an affinity for entertaining, I set out to learn how it should be done from some experts!  Enter the incredible team from Corinthian Events. The Corinthian team has been planning spectacular corporate and non-profit events in Boston for the past 13 years.

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The Corinthian team re-groups just before the Banned in Boston event begins

Corinthian allowed me to observe and help them with “Banned in Boston,” an annual event to benefit Urban Improv. “Its’ truly one of the most fun fundraisers in the city,” said Elizabeth Iannessa, the Corinthian team leader for this event. The non-profit Urban Improv uses improvisational theater workshops to teach young people violence prevention, conflict resolution, and good decision-making. Urban Improv’s actor/educators lead interactive workshops that offer Boston Public School students the opportunity to explore their own solutions to challenges though acting out real-life situations.

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Banned in Boston has two dynamic components. First, cocktails and dinner at the Lansdowne Pub which is nestled in the shadow of Fenway Park. Some of Boston’s best chefs serve their favorite dishes to attendees. Later, guests make their way next door to the House of Blues for a glorified talent show featuring some of the city’s biggest personalities. Governor Deval Patrick sang, Emily Rooney acted out a skit modeled after “The Dating Game,” and City Councilman-at-Large Mike Ross was dressed up as Dennis Rodman.

While I was only on-hand the night of the event, the planning of “Banned in Boston” began eight months prior. This was the sixth year that Corinthian has planned this event, so one of the earliest stages of planning involved developing and implementing new ideas to improve upon last year.

While the look and feel of this, or any event, is important, the devil is truly in the details. “We take the time to really wrap our heads around the logistics and the nitty-gritty details that are sometimes overlooked,” Elizabeth explained. The planning of the event starts on a macro level, and then goes micro; the so-called “run of show” schedules the event down to the minute. Members of the team have copies of the “run of show” and referred to it throughout the night. This micro-focus sets this experience apart from many of my past adventures. In this instance, being Type A is not a bad thing…in fact, it’s a job requirement.

The Fireplace chef Jim Solomon

The Fireplace chef Jim Solomon

Solomon's meaty masterpiece

Solomon’s meaty masterpiece

When I arrived at the Lansdowne Pub to help the Corinthian team set up I was delighted to see that they were all wearing earpieces. It was like a scene out of “The Wedding Planner.” Nothing says “I am a big deal” like an earpiece, and the event’s dual locations posed a Jennifer Lopez movie-worthy challenge. Elizabeth and her team had to make sure guests moved easily and seamlessly from one to the other at the appointed time. The kicker: they had to break-down the party and clean up before the Lansdowne Pub opened its doors to the public approximately 30 minutes later. That is where I would come in.

Before the doors officially opened we were all given our marching orders. I was to roam around the event, making sure none of the trash cans got too full, and generally helping guests with anything they may need. While it’s clear that planning a party is not the same as attending a party, I can’t imagine a better work environment! Everyone is having a great time and Boston’s top chefs like Lydia Shire dished out their favorite recipes.

Lydia Shire from Scampo and Towne prepares her pork buns

Lydia Shire from Scampo and Towne prepares her pork buns

The eight-person Corinthian team (your’s truly included) was in constant communication, face to face and over their nifty earpieces and microphones; adjusting elements of their plan as needed. Another member of the Corinthian team, Laura Keeler, told me they plan everything they possibly can and then roll with the punched during the event, because you really don’t know what will happen.

After nearly two hours of mingling and merriment (during which I may have snuck an Island Creek Oyster to two) it was announced that the main event, the show at the House of Blues, was about to begin. As is common with any great party, guests just didn’t want to leave. We had to politely and gently herd guest towards the door.

Island Creek Oysters...impossible to resist

Island Creek Oysters…impossible to resist

Once the guests were finally finding their seats next door I really sprang into action, feverishly helping the chefs and their staff break down their tables and stations, clean up their equipment, and get the Lansdowne Pub ready for their regular Friday night clientele. It felt like a race against the clock, but the entire team divided and conquered the tasks and got the space ready in time.

I figured this adventure would be fun and I would get some tips on my own entertaining, but what surprised me was that for the last year I had been trying to slough-off all my Type A nature, but with this experience I saw how control freak tendencies can actually be an asset. Elizabeth, Laura and the rest of the team had to pay attention to, and obsess over, every tiny detail in order for the event to be the success that it was. Maybe I need to stop looking at things – and myself – in black and white…laid back or ramrod straight. Maybe all the shades of grey create a tapestry of skills and experiences that help us handle a myriad of situations. Maybe I should be less focused on my Type A rehabilitation and just be more open to whatever comes my way.

Some of the children who participate in Urban Improv programs perform for the audience

Some of the children who participate in Urban Improv programs perform for the audience

With my hard work over, I made my way to the House of Blues to enjoy the show, something that the real Corinthian team was not able to do. They were still in position, making sure the event went off without a hitch. The show was hysterical, I laughed out loud, and learned that Governor Patrick has a pretty good singing voice. I was able enjoy it a little bit more than I think I would have had I not been a witness to all the hard work and attention to detail that went into this fantastic night.

Many thanks to Elizabeth, Laura, Courtney, Ben, Chris and the entire Corinthian team for letting me observe and help them execute a great event for a fantastic cause. I was not compensated in any way for this post.

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