October 2011

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October 2011

News From Joe Aldridge, USITT President

Following Up on a Busy August

Spectators waiting for the lava to flow outside the Syracuse University Arts Facility.

Photos/Barbara E.R. Lucas

August has come and gone and with it many pleasant memories. As planned, I attended the CITT Rendez-vous in Victoria, British Columbia. Since I had never attended a CITT conference, I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised with the experience, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Our colleagues in Canada certainly know how to host a conference! Everything is centered on the attendees having a good time, and I was no exception. I was honored to have been invited to participate. While Rendez-vous is nowhere near the scale of a USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo, it was every bit as interesting, entertaining, and fulfilling as ours. In some ways, it was even more so.

Of course, this was my first opportunity in over 15 years to attend a theatre conference where I had absolutely no obligations or responsibilities. With the exception of a two-hour meeting with the current and immediate past presidents, I was free to fend for myself. In fact, I had the distinction of being a first time attendee! There were somewhere near 120 people registered, and I was definitely in the minority, because only a handful had come from the U.S.

Having been involved in conference planning for so long, I was glad to have the opportunity to actually attend sessions and learn from our colleagues. With so few attendees, programming is limited to themes for each day. For instance, on Thursday, all sessions concentrated on education. Friday's programming centered on the business of theatre in the morning, and the trade show floor opened in the afternoon. Saturday programming revolved around health and safety matters.

Each day had sponsored events, usually involving food and beverage…. lots of beverage! CITT has some unique traditions, similar to our USITT traditions. On Wednesday evening, I attended the first timers reception where I, and others like me, were warmly greeted with malt beverages and good conversation. On Thursday, Rosco sponsored an offsite event at a local prop shop. The evening's festivity was a time-honored "Junkyard Challenge." Attendees were divided into nine teams and issued a challenge. Each team had an hour and a half to construct a miniature golf obstacle with a par three hole from a pile of discarded materials and materials furnished by Rosco. Each team had to develop a story for their obstacle, assign someone to narrate for the judges, and incorporate Rosco products into the finished project.

It was through theatre ingenuity, gaffers tape, and liquid refreshments that the evening was deemed a success. I'm still not sure how many of the teams were able to meet the par three challenge, but, ultimately, I don't think that it really mattered. Our CITT colleagues have offered the idea to us for use, should we choose to do so.

The unique difference between the CITT show floor and our show floor was that swag was not offered to attendees. Rather, each exhibitor offered bingo cards which were used Friday evening for another of their traditions, Swag Bingo. It is similar, but absolutely nothing like our New Products Showcase. It is similar in that swag is given to attendees and different in that no new products were introduced. The bingo cards handed out during the day were used to try and win swag. When the bingo game was called, due to having too much fun, a live auction ensued. This is the first time in my life that I can recall having seen someone pay $2,000 for the privilege of serving as guardian over a rubber chicken for a year. In all seriousness, Swag Bingo is a huge fund raiser for CITT and more fun than the law should allow!

My time at the CITT Rendez-vous was well spent. I made friends and persuaded (hopefully) a number of our colleagues to join us in Long Beach next year. In exchange, I promised to attend the Rendez-vous in London, Ontario next year. I am certain that I will be ready to have more Canadian fun with my friends.

On August 25, I traveled to Syracuse to host a retreat for elected officers prior to the Board meeting on August 26. The reason for the retreat was to help the newly-elected officers to become familiar with the business of the Institute and to become better acquainted with the Staff, on whom we all heavily depend.

We were able to cover a great deal of information and gained some valuable insight through the meetings. We continued with staff meetings on Friday, and on Friday afternoon, we were joined by the rest of the Board members for our online meeting.

It was a short agenda, and we were able to move through it in quick order. Several of the officers were able to remain in Syracuse for the evening and join us in a visit to the Art Department at Syracuse University where we were treated to a private, man-made lava pour. A former colleague of mine is head of the sculpture program at SU and is engaged in research with the Earth Sciences program in studying the effects of lava on materials under controlled conditions.

We were fortunate to have one of these experiments conducted for us while we were visiting. It was fascinating and exciting to witness. Basalt is heated to 1500° C for 30 minutes and then cooled to 1050° and then poured from a crucible. The effect is incredible. Something that you don't often have the opportunity to witness. It was almost as hot as some of the board meetings that we used to have as the Institute was growing. Once again the staff stepped up to the plate and were the perfect hosts to the members.

In November the entire Board will meet in Syracuse for the fall board meeting.

Joe Aldridge

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