September 2017

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September 2017

Thoughts from Mark Shanda

USITT President

“How will this benefit our members?” That was the primary question asked as the Board gathered for their annual retreat in early August at Sparkspace... a retreat center in downtown Columbus, Ohio that promised to “provide our group with the Best Meeting Ever” and they delivered on that promise. Over our two days together, the Board spent some time looking backward at our roots, focusing on the legal charter for the Institute, and looking forward, thinking about the factors that are affecting our industry and the world, and how the Institute should respond.

Our Charter, last revised in 1966, provided a welcome touchstone from which to analyze all our various endeavors. The Charter states the purposes of our corporation are:

  1. To conduct research and investigation in the field of theatre planning and design, construction, equipment, presentation, and operation.
  2. To combine and conserve the results of such research and investigation and make the same available to the membership of the corporation.
  3. To publish without profit and disseminate the results of studies undertaken within the scope and purpose of the corporation.
  4. To assist in the establishment of contact between members for the better interchange of knowledge in the field of theatre technology.
  5. To recommend practices in the field of theatre planning and design, construction, equipment, presentation, and operation based on the experience of those engaged in living theatre, both dramatic and musical, on all levels as developed by research and investigation in those fields.
  6. To provide representation and participation in conferences, assemblies, and other gathering where matters of theatre planning and design, construction, equipment, presentation and operation are discussed.

I think that I can safely say, that no one on the Board had ever actually read the Charter before, but despite our lack of knowledge of this seminal document, we celebrated how closely all of our Institute’s activities mirrored what our founders had envisioned.

Once that brief celebration of our success at “staying on course despite not looking at the map” was over, our attention turned to thinking about the future. What are new benefits that we could provide? How should we structure our membership in a time when “joining’ is no longer very much of a priority? What could our Annual Conference & Stage Expo look like if we changed up the schedule, the program content, the focus, and the venue requirements?

These were not questions that were answered directly, rather they were thought exercises where there was a certain freedom in not trying to solve but rather taking the time to discuss from various points of view brought forward by the diversity of our Board to the retreat.

I admired the passion that each Board member brought as all wrestled with that very first question listed: “How will (this) benefit our members?” The Sparkspace retreat was just the first step in an anticipated 18-month journey crafting a new strategic plan for the Institute. Watch for ways in the not-too-distant future for you to become involved in this process.


Mark Shanda

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