October 2014

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October 2014

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Using the Box – In New Ways

If you've ever spent time with kids at gift time, especially little kids, you see the moment that both fascinates and frustrates parents. The kid unwraps the gift, opens the box, and loves the gift. Ten minutes later the gift is lying aside and the kid is playing with the box and the paper. Why bother with the gift? Just give the kid the box is the frustrated moment that comes to the adult.

It took me many years to realize that to the kid, the container and wrapping were just as much a part of the gift as the contents. The child isn't ignoring the gift, the child is playing with all of the aspects of the gift.

Our lives backstage really should embody the perspective of the child with the gift. Each day we are surrounded by opportunities to be creative. We are asked to create worlds that aren't real on a very tight budget. That means using materials for things that they weren't intended. That requires us to see the complete uses for things. Think about how we use backer rod, hot glue, blue foam, and other things. The typical use of these materials isn't what they were created to do. They are like the box in the story. The original intent was for one thing and yet we use them for another.

Many years ago there was an article in TD&T written by a costumer who realized that the cardiac lead connectors used in hospitals were identical to a certain size of male snap. By using them with a female of the same size, suddenly a costume piece could "magically" hang from someone's body. That's another example of the mind of the child seeing something for a new purpose that was never the intent of the item.

2015 is the next Tech Expo. This biennial expo celebrates the ingenuity and excitement that comes from this open minded discovery. It features unique solutions and innovative approaches. Every day our theatres are solving problems. The challenge is, we don't always see the innovation, we just see the item checked off. Look back through recent productions and ask yourself, has someone solved something in a way that others could learn from and be inspired. Submit that item to Tech Expo.

The beauty of our work is that it really can be so unbelievably innovative. Theatre practitioners don't make widgets. They get pushed to redefine the widget each time because each time it needs to do something new.

I once found myself talking to someone in the concrete industry. They were astounded to know that concrete forms are used every day in theatre to make columns and other things. We take that for granted. But even amongst ourselves there are creative solutions that deserve to be shared. I hope you will consider it. It's not just about scenery. Tech Expo is about sharing innovation and solutions from all areas of our creativity.

I encourage you to show the world how you can be like the child and share your creative solutions. Just because it is an every day solution where you are, it may be ground breaking to others. Be a part of Tech Expo in 2015.