July 2011

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July 2011

The Last Word:

A Swan Song

Reflections by Kim Williamson outgoing Vice-President for Commissions

The "candy" car from Cincinnati's A Taste of Cincinnati

Photos/Barbara E.R. Lucas

A short while back, I was queried by Barbara Ellen Lucas about my interest in writing an article for Sightlines which might reflect upon the six years I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving USITT as VP for Commissions. I pondered where to begin in describing what my role has been over six years of the most exciting, inspiring, and challenging changes for USITT; how the Commissions have moved forward to offer the membership opportunities to investigate the disciplines of our craft; and how the collective work of the Commissioners, Board of Directors, Officers, and USITT Staff has delighted, inspired, and humbled me.

To get a perspective on what began six years ago, I referred to the first article I authored for Sightlines as a newly elected VP. Barbara Ellen had interviewed me and asked about what I envisioned as the future of the Commissions of USITT. Not intending to be flip, I cited one of my favorite analogies of the perfect ham and egg breakfast...the chicken is involved, but the pig is really committed! I continued "...this is, I believe, the future of the Commissions: the perfect combination of people who are both involved and committed and the structure to help make their ideas happen." If the remarkable accomplishments of the Commissions can be over-simplified, their collective successes are evidence of what I envisioned six years ago; if you give dedicated people the resources they need to implement their great ideas, they will go above and beyond.

From the first Commissioners Retreat that was held following my election in 2005 to the Commissioners III Meeting in Charlotte in March, the list of what the Commissions initiated, envisioned, and developed has been remarkable by every measure. The Vice-Commissioners for Programming continue to raise the bar on the quality of the work that is inherent to programming; the Commissioners Manual is a working document which continues to evolve as a tool for the Commissioners; the YD&T award nominations have seen an increase of nearly 100% over five years due in part to developing the online submission process and the identification of adjudicators through the commissions.

Programming is and continues to be the heart of the work of the Commissions and their constituents. However, the allocations from the Commissioners Fund, under the recommendations of the Commissioners Steering Committee, brought some of the most innovative and long-lasting projects to USITT.

  • Scene Design Commission: 5D Immersive Design Initiative
  • Technical Production Commission: Destructive Testing Rig for Stage Rigging Hardware
  • Health & Safety Commission: OSHA Training Certification course
  • Costume Commission: Database Development for Costume Storage Solutions
  • Architecture Commission: AIA/CELU Certification
  • Architecture Commission: The Student Architecture Competition-The Ideal Theatre

In the challenging moments to what USITT's future could become, the Commissions engaged fully in the implementation of the bridge model. Among the many opportunities were those developed by connecting the Management Commission with LORT and the Health & Safety Commission with OSHA. The Education Commission, in conjunction with EdTA, presented the first Professional Development Institute for High School Instructors at the 2009 Cincinnati Conference & Stage Expo. The sessions provided Continuing Education credits certified by the American Council on Education and forged a much-needed link between the Institute and our colleagues in high schools across the country.

No reflection on the six years as VP would be complete without a few musings on some of the more individual moments:

  • The annual summer visit to the national office Syracuse, ostensibly to "plan" which was merely a clever disguise to chow down at Dinosaur Barbecue!
  • An armadillo, with light-up eyes, in Texas.

    Photo ops with Houston's giant armadillo and Cincinnati's Candy Bar Car.
  • Pat Dennis' Roberta's Rules as an oft-needed and much appreciated moment of levity during the board meetings.
  • My frequent visits to the conference office to chat with Monica Weinzapfel about our "four-legged babies" a.k.a. our horses that we both held as being far more important than any Conference details of the moment!
  • The deft skill I developed of making it to nearly all of the food and beverage receptions among all of the Commissions on the same evening!

Finally, the charge and challenge I had as VP was realized more completely by the unequivocal support and assistance of the USITT Staff; the vision, dedication, and friendship of the Officers and Board of Directors; and the enthusiasm, knowledge, and camaraderie of the Commissioners.

What next? It is my goal to find another excuse to get to the Syracuse office on an annual basis! Hmmm, not sure what that will be yet, but the possibilities are endless, and it is my desire do as much for USITT as USITT has done for me in my six years as VP.

Thanks for a great ride!