April 2011

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April 2011

News From Joe Aldridge, USITT President

Another Series of Outstanding Experiences

There was so much happening on all four days of the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo, some people might have missed USITT Fellow Bill Sapsis, dressed as a pirate, helping raise money for Behind the Scenes.

Photo/Tom Thachter

Charlotte provided the backdrop for an incredible conference experience! At least that is the prevailing comment from conference attendees who have sought me out personally and shared their thoughts. We always hope that the conference will provide a positive experience for everyone, because it is an expensive activity for almost all of us. I hope that everyone had a safe journey home without too many delays at the airport. Most of us had to be back at our desks bright and early on Monday morning and should get caught up on our rest very soon.

Bob Theis, left, of J.R. Clancy; David Grindle of USITT, Mike Murphy of Clancy, and Joe Aldridge discuss details of the new Rigging Safety Initiative at the 2011 Annual conference.

The conference had many highlights for me. Being able to announce the new Rigging Safety Initiative was exciting. Attention will finally be paid to a segment of our industry that is often overlooked. Most of us began our theatre training in high school and a lot of those facilities still stand and serve as laboratories for the new theatre practitioners. What better way to prepare them than in a "Safe" theatre? We need to start at the beginning teaching safe practices so that good working habits can be formed.

Secondly, being able to announce that we now have four of the YD&T awards endowed was exciting. Thanks, once again, to Zelma Weisfeld and Bernie Works for making this happen. In case you didn't know, we now have the following awards that are fully funded: KM Fabrics Technical Production Award, Robert E Cohen Sound Achievement Award, Zelma Weisfeld Costume Design and Technology Award, and Frederick A. Buerki Golden Hammer Scenic Technology Award sponsored by Bernhard R. Works.

This leaves only five to be funded, and from what I am told, the list of awards not fully funded may soon drop to three! How exciting! It is great to be able to honor deserving students in this way each year. The competition is stiff, but the rewards are substantial and this adds an impressive line to any student's resume.

In addition to students, USITT honors outstanding contributions in our field to recognized leaders in several categories through the Commissions and their Distinguished Achievement Awards. Congratulations, once again, to John Scheffler, Cesar Pelli, Dennis Dorn, Carrie Robbins, William Byrnes, and R. Craig Wolfe as recipients of these honors this year.

I was especially proud to have been able to introduce this year's Joel E. Rubin Founders Awards recipients Dr. Bernhard Works and Richard (Rick) Stephens. Both are very deserving of the honor and recognition represented by this award. They have both been great contributors to the health and success of USITT over the years. Similarly, I was blessed to have the honor of announcing Tim Kelly as the recipient of the USITT Lifetime Membership Award. Tim has worked tirelessly and selflessly to raise money for the Institute to be able to continue to grow its various funds.

As you may remember, the conference in Kansas City last year was a total departure from the normal format. You were very receptive to the notion of change, and we took advantage of that this year in Charlotte. Programming session times were slightly altered as were the Stage Expo Only times without many complaints. We added the plenary session on Friday with a great degree of success. The keynote address, the opening night activity, new products and the closing party were new incarnations of old events that, by and large, seem to work better than the previous format.

All in all, it was a great experience, and we will continue to take feedback, process it, and refine what works well until the time for change comes once again.

A great big thank you to our many sponsors, our multitudes of volunteers, our staff, and our contractors, and to you, the members of USITT for making Charlotte the successful conference that we knew it could be!

Joe Aldridge

We'd like to hear your comments on this story. 
Please e-mail Joe at joe.aldridge@unlv.edu.