December 2017

Print this page ›

December 2017

Thoughts from Mark Shanda

USITT President

For me, a blank stage inspires a combination of fear and excitement. I am fearful at times, for I know that filling this expansive blank stage with a successful production is a daunting task. I am not always sure where I am going to go in the journey to eliminate the blankness, and as a technical director, I am often not in control of many of the decisions that will establish that path. I also know that I will have to work with others, the majority of whom I enjoy, to achieve success. And finally, my definition of success and that of others is not always the same. I have cherished many a box office flop that forced the audience into confronting vexing issues, offered an artistic/technical opportunity that was truly educational for all involved, or challenged my energy enough that satisfaction was gained just by surviving the experience.

The excitement for me comes in the discovery of new ways to achieve the articulated goals, leveraging the talents of others that help achieve far more than I could on my own, and in taking on something new that advances my own development as a person and theatre artist. The very best production experiences on which I can reflect captured all the elements: clarity of goals, strength of the production team, and positive impact on my own approach to production. Much like the theme of USITT’s annual report, the project undertaken was “better together.”

As we near the end of 2017 and anticipate the “blank stage” of 2018, that same combination of fear and excitement is palpable as I look ahead. Despite the speed and quantity of information that is now available at our fingertips, there remain so many unknowns about the future. In fact, there is so much unknown that I sometimes visualize the future as the edge of one of those early maritime maps that simpley stated of the undiscovered world, “There be dragons there.”

What I can celebrate is that the excitement of what is next is far greater than the fear caused by being unable to completely know the future. As entertainment students and professionals, we face a great deal of unknown and uncertainty on a daily basis. In fact, many of us are drawn to this world just because no two days are alike and we get to take on new challenges each and every day.

Since most have shifted to electronic calendars, the physical act of turning the page to the new year may no longer be required. But in this last month of 2017, I challenge each member of the Institute to take a brief pause to reflect on your personal accomplishments of what you have achieved over the last 12 months. Celebrate what went well and analyze what did not. Then, look ahead at all of those unfilled days in 2018 that remain open with nothing but possibility. Think about what a blessing all of that unallocated time represents, and commit to fill it to the best of your capacity with projects that result in success and have impact on both you and your community. Take on the new year with gusto and know that you have the support of USITT in taking on the calculated risks and opportunistic challenges that you will face.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

Mark Shanda

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Mark at