July 2015

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July 2015

News From Mark Shanda, USITT President

New President Looks Forward to Changes, Challenges

Mark Shanda accepts the king-sized version of the Presidential gavel from Lea Asbell-Swanger during a visit to the USITT office in June.

Photo/Barbara E.R. Lucas

July 1 not only marks the beginning of my term as President of USITT, but it is also the start of my 30th year on the faculty of The Ohio State University.

I had the good fortune of being hired into a tenure-track assistant professor job as the resident technical director for the department of theatre in the summer of 1986 and planned to stay two or three years. Since that start to my career in Ohio, I have progressed to associate and then full professor, served as associate chair and then chair of the theatre department, and most recently completed a five-year term as the dean of arts and humanities in Ohio State’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Through these years I have had the pleasure of serving with six different college presidents. One of those presidents had a very large sign hanging in his office which said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” Despite my nearly 30-year tenure, I have indeed experienced a variety of great changes at work and certainly throughout the entertainment industry.

Much is written about how to cope with change and every organization, including USITT, at times wonders about what to retain from its past while moving forward into a changed future. Fear of change is often a limiting factor for individuals as well as organizations because of the difficulty shifting from the comfortable known into the potentially less comfortable unknown.

One definition of that fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Often in hindsight we can look back and realize that so much of what was holding us back from change was indeed false evidence. However, one must realize that there is no group better prepared for change than those of us in the design and technology fields of the entertainment industry.

Our whole substance is based on projects that have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. We regularly open productions and close productions as part of our rhythm of life and are more often than not ready to move onto the next project even slightly before the current one is completed. Even within our production efforts, we celebrate change through executing different lighting, sound, and projection cues as well as orchestrating scene shifts to transport our audiences from one location to the next. In fact, one could argue that the most successful designers and technicians are those who master the ability to change to effectively tell a story.

I have no fear that what we do will ever become irrelevant, for we embrace change. That attitude is good for the projects that we work on and is particularly good for the vitality of our Institute.

Officers’ terms come to an end; new ones start afresh. Anniversaries are celebrated and new challenges are envisioned. Programs which remain effective are sustained, and those that have lost their luster are often changed into something new.

Our process for making these changes is usually pretty smooth, and our engagement with our members throughout the year is ever increasing. I am thrilled to be able to take temporary custody of this great organization, and I look forward to partnering with you on many adventures and changes that lie ahead over these next three years.

Mark Shanda

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Mark at Shanda.1@osu.edu.