August 2016

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August 2016

News From Mark Shanda, USITT President

Two Conferences, One Commonality

Mark Shanda USITT President

On behalf of the Institute, I had the pleasure of attending two very different conferences this summer. The first was the Educational Theatre Association’s International Thespian Festival, held in Lincoln, Nebraska. With over 3500 high school students in attendance, the week of workshops, auditions, interviews and performances was energy filled. There appears to be no more an appreciative audience than an auditorium filled with high school thespians. The support that they offered their colleagues on stage was palpable; cheering entrances, applauding solos, and rising to their feet to recognize a job well done.

High school productions were featured from locations near and far, coming from some who had worked in fully equipped stage houses with robust production budgets, contrasted by those who produce in infamous gymnatorium or cafetorium spaces with not much more than enthusiasm and drive. During the week, students and teachers alike learned about the Institute’s support of the Rigging Safety Initiative (RSI) which offers competitively awarded grants to enable rigging inspections, as well as the opportunity to integrate our developing Essential Skills for Entertainment Technicians (eSET) resources into the classroom. Our Board of Directors as well as the Fellows of the Institute are committed to expanding our outreach into the secondary school market.

The other conference, roughly 10% of the size of the ITF, was the recent North American Theatre Architecture and Engineering Conference (NATEAC) held in New York City at the Roosevelt hotel. Just over 300 architects, engineers, consultants, and industry suppliers gathered together to share information about current building trends, technology advancements, and the challenges of equitably serving the client and the budget. Networking opportunities were paramount, with a steady schedule of mealtime sharing, including a harbor tour, around the city and near the Statue of Liberty, that opened the conference.

Conversations in the event rooms and hotel hallways sometimes featured teams who are currently partnering on construction projects taking advantage of the chance to have some face-to-face time. Occasionally folks who had made mistakes in past architecture projects owned up to their errors, sometimes only after some severe needling from their colleagues, yet all celebrated the continued pursuit to seek improved creative solutions to architectural challenges. Individuals now representing their fourth or fifth company affiliation shared updates on their whereabouts, but worked hard not to advocate the quality of their current product line, focusing more on the overall issues facing theatre engineering and architecture projects.

While the beverages of choice as well as the age demographic of these two events stand in contrast, all who attended these gatherings shared a common bond – a significant PASSION for live performance and the arts. All wished to bring their very best to the stage to enhance the story telling experience of the audience as well as improve the working conditions for performers and technicians. PASSION is the drive that gets us engaged early in our career and sustains us through retirement. May each one of you be passionate about your daily work.

Mark Shanda

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