When Marc Friedland and Matthew David Hopkins come together for an event, there’s a unique synergy and unparalleled level of creativity that can only stem from an 18-year friendship.
As Marc puts it, the celebrations they create represent “the power of collaboration and good friends,” and how the two industry professionals complement each other in the work they do.
After deciding on the concept of “Surreal at Sixty” for a client’s birthday celebration—an event that would involve cocktails, dinner and an afterparty— Marc brought Matthew of 360 Design Events onboard as the Executive Producer. From décor curation to costuming, there were countless moving parts to manage and he knew he needed a trusted partner.
Matthew brings art into production,” Marc states. “The partnership and collaboration was so great, because he understood what I was trying to achieve creatively and was able to do the production exquisitely from a technical and artful perspective.”
Rather than focusing solely on aesthetics, the dynamic duo approached this event with the intention of creating a fully immersive experience for guests. “It’s about finding what the story is, what we want the client to feel and how to deliver beyond the materials to create an overarching, integrated experience from the beginning,” Matthew describes.
“We’ve all been to enough parties and celebrations,” adds Marc. “It’s really important to look at these events as a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you want to gift your guests who come out to celebrate.
Most people don’t approach their parties that way. It’s usually about how lavish it is. Regardless of how much was spent on this event, not one person there thought it was over the top. The currency here was measured by the degree of thoughtfulness and joy.”
The idea behind the party’s design was heavily guided by surrealism and the goal of transporting guests into another world where they could “expect the unexpected.” Invitations were presented on canvas with a Salvador Dali-inspired painting of the guest of honor, which alluded to Marc and Matthew’s process of bringing a surreal experience to life.
“We looked at this as a performance art piece that was done as an event,” says Marc. “Think of it as a painting, and all these elements were paints on the canvas. It wasn’t an event for event’s sake. It really became about how all these pieces fit together like an orchestra.”
Choreographing the night so each moment transitioned smoothly into the next was a production masterpiece in and of itself. For dinner, Marc brought in “ballet service,” which involved a line of costumed waiters filing into the room, surrounding the tables, and placing the course before each guest at the same time.
There was also a full waitstaff to monitor the mise en place, water and wine; and Matthew was tasked with timing everything down to the minute, so the aisles were clear when the ballet servers were ready to bring the next course.
“We created this whole thing as if the entire venue was the stage, and the guests were onstage with all the performers,” he says. “The guests became a character in the show, and that’s the exciting part that truly makes a difference.”
As a three-course dinner was served over a span of two hours, guests were treated to one incredible form of entertainment after another.
For each course—or “movement”—the waiters’ costumes, live performers and visuals were coordinated to match the storyline that was unfolding. Even the famous Rockettes appeared in lobster costumes for a showstopping performance during the “Nautical New Wave” dinner movement, which was lobster served in a watermelon. To conclude the meal, a synchronized confetti blast by the 40 waiters took place around all 160 guests.
By venturing away from the idea of “this is how it’s supposed to be,” Marc and Matthew designed and produced a wildly creative event. Whether they were hanging pasta from hands or hiring four actors to be nuns who sat and played poker all night, their imaginations were truly limitless.
> Written by Lauren Malamala