February 2015

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February 2015

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Minding Our Ps and Qs

The Prague Quadrennial (PQ) – anyone who has been part of USITT long enough has heard the phrase. This world expo of design has been going on since the depths of the Cold War. USITT has produced the U.S. exhibit since the 1970s.

PQ is an honored event to some of our members while others find the expense a hard pill to swallow. So why do we do it? What value does it bring?

USITT is a documentary organization as defined by its mission. For many, this mission is achieved through the Designs of… series of books or TD&T. But PQ is part of that documentary mission as well. At Prague Quadrennial, the best of American theatre for the previous four years can be showcased.

Let me say, I believe showcasing the best of American theatre in 28 square meters of space is an impossible task to achieve with any sense of completion. We are a nation that takes six hours to fly across and a population of 300 million. Finding all of the theatre and anointing the true "best" is a whale no person can eat, even one bite at a time. However, we try because we should show that American theatre design is innovative and progressive.

On a world stage, our nation should be represented. If USITT doesn’t do it, there isn’t a line of people waiting to take on that mantle.

The cost of PQ is another issue. Many people see the cost (currently budgeted at $160,000) and can’t fathom what that money goes to. I was one of those people when I came to this job. The answer is shipping. Shipping is the single largest expense in the PQ budget. The costs of the exhibit, travel, and other things are there, but nothing compares to the cost of shipping things there and back.

Another challenge is currency fluctuations. The Czech Republic is not a part of the Euro zone, but they peg their prices to the Euro. In 2011 the exchange rate was $1.60 for 1 Euro. At the time I’m writing this, its $1.18 for 1 Euro. That makes our budget go further, and our leadership is working to stretch those dollars and bring us in under budget.

Finally, there is a feeling that the PQ is an exclusive group. People may argue perception all they wish. This I can tell you: the 2015 Prague Quadrennial exhibit has been open and advertised. Designers across the nation are encouraged to participate.

Members have the chance to see this exhibition in Salt Lake City in 2016 if they can’t make it to Europe this summer. We are working to make it available to people for quite some time after that.

PQ is a part of USITT that helps us meet our mission, and I hope my words help people understand why it has been such an important part of the Institute for many years.