One of the best parts of walking into a music festival is being immediately transported into a fairytale world filled with magic, bass, and bright lights. Part of what makes the festival experience so encapsulating is the feeling of stepping out of our regular lives and diving headfirst into a completely new, glorious world: a world filled with unique characters and creatures that take us by the hand and welcome us into a new oasis.
Who is responsible for creating the inhabitants of this fantasy world? Who turns dancers and performers into pieces of human magic?
For the deep sea wonderland of Imagine Music Festival (IMF), one of those magicians is Colleen Naughton; the Director of Team EZ.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Team EZ is a performing arts collective filled with a talented team professional dancers, eclectic costuming, circus arts, models, stilt-ers, airbrush artistry, choreographers, fire performers, themes, aerialists, clowns, burlesque, hair and makeup stylists, walkabouts, sideshow acts, and more. With their unique talents and fantastical energy, they are the entertainment crew responsible for turning Imagine from a music festival into an underwater fairytale.
I had the honor of chatting with the creative mastermind herself, Colleen Naughton, to discover just how she turns human beings into mythical creatures, and all of the magic we can look forward to at Imagine this year.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
The first time I attended an event was when I was 17. I was so enamored by the whole experience that I started performing at the EDM nightclub and events with a small team in Seattle, Washington. As a result, I got the opportunity to audition for a well-known team out of Denver, Colorado—Team EZ. I was excited to make the cut and joined the team to perform all over the country at some of the biggest festivals in the world. I was thrilled and excited to be part of this team. More importantly, through my association with the team, I found an incredible mentor in Team EZ’s creator, Ms. Easy. She took me under her wing and encouraged me to take on more and more of a leadership role in the team. She taught me the ins and outs of festival performing including festival management and pushed me to learn how to design and create costumes. As fate would have it, she took over the Entertainment Department at Insomniac Event and handed Team EZ off to me. Without Ms Easy’s guidance and support, I would not be where I am today. I will be forever grateful that she saw something in me that I didn’t see necessarily see in myself at the time, and trust me to not only carry on her legacy but to make it my own. Team EZ has been my family for 10 years now and it will always be in my heart.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
How long have you been a part of the performing/music festival industry?
I’ve been [a]part of this scene for about 16 years now.
How did you get involved working with Imagine Music Festival?
I was recommended by some of the existing IMF staff with whom I had worked for many years. They were familiar with my work and when an opportunity came up, they put my name forward.
What's it like being part of a nationally-recognized music festival?
Humbling. I am grateful every day for all the opportunities I've had to bring my team and my vision to events like IMF.
What aspects of dance and performer design are you most proud of with Imagine Music Festival?
Watching dancers/performers get on stage and do what they love in my costumes is a pretty amazing feeling. It makes all the long hours, frustrations, late nights, and yes, blood, sweat and tears, so worth it to see the performers and costumes come to life on stage. I'll never get sick of that feeling.
Where do you get your inspiration for costumes for Imagine Music Festival?
It always starts with the theme of the festival. I'm lucky enough to work with a team that trusts me to give me some basic ideas of what they would like to see, and then lets me run with it. I would say the thing that inspires me the most is spending time looking for just the right fabric, or the right materials. Once I see a fabric or a trim that catches my attention, the design quickly falls into place.
What do you think makes the performers and dancers at Imagine Music Festival unique from other festivals?
I think the commitment to the characters is what makes them unique. Performers are not just there to look pretty in a costume. They really throw themselves into their character. They give them life by giving their characters names and coming up with elaborate backstories so that when they're interacting with the guests, it’s a fully immersive experience.
Take me through a day in the life as a performer at Imagine. What is their routine from when they wake up to when their head hits the pillow?
Our days are really long. Performers usually show up 3-4 hours before doors open at an event, at which point they start the long process of getting into hair/makeup/costumes. Once everyone is fully in costume and ready to launch, they separate into their teams and hit the stage/grounds of the festival. Once they are on the clock, not only are they required to dance/perform on stage, they also spend hours on the grounds taking pictures and interacting with attendees while never breaking character, to create an immersive experience for them. Each team will perform [for] a total of about 8-10 hours per day, aside from lunch/dinner/rest breaks. Once the show is over, performers must turn in their costumes, take off their makeup, and head home for as much sleep as they can get before they wake up and do it all over again. I will always be so proud of how committed my performers are to creating special moments for the attendees, even when they're dealing with uncomfortable costumes and blistered feet, crazy weather, and long hours on very little sleep. Festival performers are the toughest in the business.
Can you tell me about the tryout process for the performers, please?
Because Team Ez is a national team with events all over the country, the best way to apply to be a part of it is to email me with your performer resume, up-to-date pictures of face and body, and a recent video of you performing.
Can you describe the sense of community between the dancers and performers?
Team Ez has been, and will always be a family. I’ve always wanted everyone involved with each show to feel that. It has always been a safe space for performers to come and work together to create our unique brand of magic, and because of that, the bonds that are created and the memories that are made, are unforgettable.
What has been the biggest struggle you’ve faced as a woman working in the festival industry?
It will always be a challenge to be a woman in a male-dominated industry and to feel like your voice is being heard and that you are getting the respect you deserve. Luckily, for the most part, I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing men in the industry, that have always been open and welcoming of my contributions to these events.
What are you looking forward to most at IMF 2019?
My favorite part of any festival, and I’m sure will apply to IMF 2019, is working with a team that really is truly supportive [of] me and and celebrates my vision for the performers. [That’s] always such a positive experience for me and everyone in the cast.
Can you tell us any hints about what we can expect to see from dancers/performers?
This year the costume design is focused on the creatures that live in the deep, dark sea; so expect an edgier vibe for this year.
I am so excited to dive into this deep sea adventure, and I cannot wait to see all of the magic at Imagine come together this year! What lies deep at the bottom of the ocean? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out. The countdown is on...see you in one week!