May 2013

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May 2013

News From Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT President

Reflecting on Milwaukee Moments

President Lea Asbell-Swanger took advantage of Flying by Foy's offer of a ride on a Harley to get an overview of Stage Expo 2013.

Photo/Eric Rouse

Happy May Day, everyone! I hope by now spring has actually arrived for all of us; it sure took its time getting to central Pennsylvania (as of this writing, there’s little evidence that is had arrived, but I’m forever hopeful).

I know that the USITT Conference & Stage Expo ended weeks ago, but I want to share some thoughts about it with you. As my first Conference as your president, I had a somewhat different experience this year than I’ve had at previous conferences. First, there was the inability to actually attend sessions. I knew this was the reality and that I wasn’t alone in this disappointment. 

A huge number of members who serve in a variety of volunteer roles for USITT haven’t seen an entire session in years, but that’s often how their affiliation began, so they know what they’re missing. For those of you that had the frustration of trying to choose between two simultaneous sessions, know that it is an “embarrassment of riches” that some of your colleagues have given up in order to provide you the opportunity. The great news about this year was that sessions were very well attended and the feedback on content has been very positive.

The responsibilities and duties that kept me from attending sessions, while numerous, were personally rewarding. Introducing Rob Goodman, our keynote speaker, was an honor. His remarks were energizing, passionate, and an excellent way to kick off the Annual Conference. Recognizing his accomplishments and the success of First Stage Milwaukee with the Thomas DeGaetani Award is central to our value of “honoring the best” as well as a Conference tradition of featuring regional excellence.

Perhaps the most emotional moment was sharing the stage with Tom Young and presenting him with the Joel E. Rubin Founders Award. Named in recognition of our second president, this award is meant to honor one of our own members for “outstanding and continued service to the Institute.” I’ve had the great fortune to work with Tom on various USITT committees for many years and realized in that moment that without USITT, it would have been unlikely that we would have ever met, let alone become friends. This is an example of the immeasurable benefits of our Institute. Congratulations again, Tom and thank you for allowing me to share the moment.

Of course, there were plenty of other moments, both formal and informal, that I appreciated and won’t soon forget – the gift of the Chinese English Theater Words book presented by our Chinese guest Dezhoung Feng; attempting to polka as part of the opening of the Stage Expo; riding the flying Harley courtesy of Flying by Foy; checking in at the Conference Office each morning so that I could read the sign they posted announcing what day it was; drawing the names of the two Find a Fellow winners, both of whom could not have been more excited to win. But the most amazing moments happened when members would stop me to thank me for the experience they were having. It was wonderfully heart-warming, but I felt guilty each time, since I was the recipient of appreciation that belonged to so many others.

With that in mind, please indulge me this public opportunity to direct that thanks to the folks that actually deserve it, starting with the Conference Committee. This group was led by David Will and his lieutenants, Tom Hackman, Dan Denhart, and Kasey Alley-Forman and included dozens of others all of whom worked throughout the year as well as on-site in Milwaukee to make the Conference happen. Responsible for all the sessions and programs that are the heart of the conference is the leadership of the Commissions, so thanks to the Commissioners and Vice-Commissioners and all the panelists and presenters for excellent offerings. To our exhibitors, gratitude for creating an impressively varied exposition of the technology, products, and services that are available in our industry and for the financial and in-kind support that fuels the conference.

Thanks, also, to the USITT Staff – David, Barbara, Carol, Janet, Jim, Monica, Ron, and Shannan – for caring about this organization beyond levels of job requirements. Finally, to my colleagues on the Board of Directors, sincere appreciation for all your efforts on behalf of the membership of USITT all year long.

The Annual Conference & Stage Expo will always be our flagship event even as we continue to add events and activities at other times of the year, but expand we must because we simply have too much fun together to limit it to a week!

Lea Asbell-Swanger

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