August 2013

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July 2013

News From Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT President

On the Road Again for USITT

Zhong Rui with Lea Asbell-Swanger at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

Photos/David Grindle

As August begins, I'm starting to realize that summer is waning, and I'm not ready for that. There is always so much that I want to accomplish during the summer months when, in theory, my work schedule is not as hectic. There is no question that this summer was full of interesting experiences and accomplishments, many thanks to my role with USITT.

The "summer reading list" that I mentioned in June has progressed nicely, in part due to an unusual amount of travel for me. It's amazing how much reading I can get done on a 12-hour flight, which was exactly how long it took to fly from Detroit to Beijing. David Grindle and I were invited by the China Entertainment Technology Association (CETA) to attend the China International Entertainment & Technology Summit in conjunction with the China international Exhibition on Pro Audio, Light, Music & Technology held in the capital city.

At DTHQ's trade show in Berlin.

Last year, Joe Aldrige and David attended and began to build a relationship with CETA's leadership, so I was honored to be asked to continue that dialogue. We also had the opportunity to visit the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing and meet with Mr. Wang Zhengming, vice president of NCPA, and Ms. Xu Qi, deputy director of the Stage Technology Department, who are very interested in learning about USITT's education and training programs.

Overall, the Chinese are thoughtful and attentive hosts. I appreciated their patience as I attempted to navigate within a culture I know little about.

Once back from China, I had two days back at my day job before departing for Syracuse and the June board of directors e-meeting (that's only a four-hour drive) where I was joined in the USITT office by Secretary Sherry Wagner-Henry. The June board meeting always includes the approval of committee chairs and commissioners since those are annual appointments, and the term of service begins on July 1. Additionally this year, the board approved the new strategic plan which has been in process since last August.

By the time you read this, the strategic plan document should be available on the USITT website. I would like to thank the members of the Committee – Chair Joe Aldridge, Dan Culhane, Ben Gasper, David Grindle, Tim Kaufmann, David Krajec, John Uthoff, and Sherry Wagner-Henry – for their commitment to this endeavor, and to our consultant, Leslie Marqua of Hathor Associates, for her guidance and support.

More detailed work will follow now that a strategic plan is in place with some of that process beginning at the August board meeting this year, so look for an update in the September Sightlines.

I returned home long enough to pack again and then travel to Berlin to participate in the international trade show and conference of the German Theatre Technology Association (DTHG). DTHG has sent representatives to our last two conferences and is very interested in building a mutually beneficial relationship between our organizations. They instituted an International Pavilion at their conference this year in which USITT participated, along with representatives from associations around the globe.

It was very interesting to meet the leadership from those other associations and discover that organizationally we are all very similar in terms of member needs and desires. The executive directors agreed that regular dialogue could be very beneficial, so monthly conference calls are being planned among that group.

The highlight of this trip, however, was the addition of Lauren Wilde to our entourage. Lauren was the winner of the 2013 USITT Makeup Design Award sponsored by Kryolan Corporation, and she was able to join us in Berlin. There was a heavy emphasis on make-up techniques in the sessions provided at the DTHG conference and Lauren had the opportunity to show her portfolio to a number of guest artists as well as some student and young designers that stopped by our booth.

It was inspiring to watch this incredibly-talented designer engage individuals from a variety of countries, make connections that will potentially lead to amazing career opportunities, and represent USITT in such a positive way.

Finally, David and I took a train to Prague where we connected with Marketa Fantova, VP for International Activities. Marketa is from Prague, so often spends some family time there in the summer. We took advantage of that and with her help arranged to meet with representatives from the Arts and Theatre Institute, the organizer of the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) as well as the Cultural Attaché from the US Embassy. Both meetings were very informative with exciting opportunities for USITT's members, both as part of PQ in 2015 and with the American Center at the embassy on a more regular basis.

I often hear members say that the one of the best benefits of a USITT membership is the connections one can make and I heartily agree, but after this summer, I submit that those connections, if they don't already, must include colleagues from places beyond our borders.

Back to my summer reading list, I must borrow a quote from Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series, in support of expanding our network internationally, "Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical..."

Loren Wilde shows her design portfolio at USITT's booth in Germany.

Lea Asbell-Swanger

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