June 2017

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June 2017

Thoughts From Mark Shanda

USITT's President

When in doubt, pitch it out!

Yesterday was our end-of-the-year clean up. This year was extra special because we also declared it “The Purge.” We over-hired some help, ordered a dumpster, and got really serious about cleaning out our trap room and some newly acquired studio space. We sorted through several years of accumulated stage properties, outdated lighting and sound equipment, out-of-date computer components, yards of donated fabric, scenic elements that we thought we might use again, and many “valuable treasures” that were saved.

Initially, the task was overwhelming. There was barely a path through the trap room and our first step was to move some things on wheels out-of-the-way to a temporary location, which invariably would soon turn into an in-the-way location (often several times throughout the day). Our team nearly got everything we wanted accomplished, and although everyone was quite tired, we left satisfied that we had made a significant difference in our work environment and the start of our next season would be that much easier because of our work today. We also learned some things along the way.

Sometimes you hang onto things for way too long.

Suspended from a pipe, we uncovered a 15-foot length of Unistrut with a series of pulleys and motors that flew the bat in our production of Dracula, back in 1987! It had not seen the light of day since and the motion control technology used at that time has been far surpassed. In hindsight, the rig was not worth saving, and that mistaken sense of value is often a discovery for things we hold onto.

Saved plastic shopping bags often contain the detritus of a single project.

I was surprised by the number of plastic bags that I would open, only to discover just fabric scraps, dried out bottles of glue, worn out markers, and occasionally a missing tool. These treasure bags could bring back fond project memories, but that joy would then turn to resentment for the designer or technician who left this mess for our clean up. Always, clean up after yourself and avoid plastic bags.

Store things in containers that show their contents.

The number of poorly labeled cardboard boxes, black plastic garbage bags, and opaque Rubbermaid containers, that I opened revealed many a theatrical treasure (that only props folks can appreciate) but had these materials been within line-of-sight, they could have been put to use. Keep that which you value in sight to make it that much easier to use.

And finally, when in doubt, pitch it out.

Given the premium on space in any theatre, critical decisions need to be made about what to store. Applying this rule causes you to seriously consider the consequences of your choices and creates the open space for creativity to happen.

So, take some time this summer to conduct your own studio or office cleaning or “Purge.” The results are worth the effort and your next project will be that much easier to complete with the necessary space for creativity. Happy sorting!

Mark Shanda

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