October 2016

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October 2016

News From Mark Shanda, USITT President

There’s Always More to Do

Mark Shanda USITT President

Shortly after I was named theatre department chair in 2005, I walked past our main acting studio before evening rehearsals and noticed the trash can was overflowing. I knew the building janitorial staff would not be back until morning, so I grabbed the can and took it out to the loading dock to empty into the dumpster. As I carried the full can out, I ran into a student who asked me a question that has stuck with me ever since.

He said, “Hey Mark, do you have to take out the trash because you are the new department chair, or are you the new department chair because you take out the trash?”

The collaboration necessary to produce live entertainment requires a careful choreography of individuals with specialized skill sets to work together towards a common goal. Along the way, each contributes from their personal perspective the very best they have to offer to make the resulting event the best it can possibly be. Throughout the production process, a variety of opportunities arise to make the work easier for someone else.

Making sure the rehearsal studio had an empty trash can was just such a simple act. It wasn’t my job, but I chose to address that simple need, so that others would have a more pleasant and, hopefully, more productive experience the rest of the evening. Looking ahead and out for the needs of others is one of the obligations all designers and technicians bring to the production process.

Also several years ago, during a round table at the Annual USITT Conference & Stage Expo, the question was proffered, “What is the most important skill set that we should be teaching our early career designers and technicians?”

Initial responses included topics such as carpentry, rigging, welding, safety, design principles, and many more. But the conversation ground to a halt when one of our more seasoned members simply stated, “Always assume there is something else to do.”

How many times have you seen a production crew get assigned a task and that group works effectively to get that portion of the job done, but then just stops and waits? While we often need to break larger jobs into smaller segments, there is always more to do. When we recognize that our current effort is only a portion of a larger goal, and we work effectively to complete our task so we can rapidly move onto what is next, the work becomes more dynamic and the achievement even greater.

To directly respond to the student’s question about the trash, I am pretty sure the answer is both parts were true. Part of the reason I was selected by the department to serve as chair was because people had regularly seen me do things like take out the trash. And as any administrator can tell you, even with that job, there remains much trash to take out. Keep up the good work everybody!

Mark Shanda

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