Profile: John S. Uthoff
On July 1, 2004 John S. Uthoff will have a new title as USITT President, but the title is just a reflection of this ardent volunteer’s increasing involvement with the organization.
Mr. Uthoff has developed deep roots both with USITT, where he has been a member and leader for many years, and at Kansas State University, where he has taught and served over the past 28 years in capacities from technical director, to lighting designer, to sound designer. “I’ve never found a reason to leave,” he joked, noting that the opportunities to serve as a consultant to theatres in the area helped keep his interest.
The path that led him to Kansas was quite interesting. Its windings included stops as varied as Michigan, Iowa, Washington, California, Wyoming, and even Southeast Asia where Mr. Uthoff served as an “entertainment specialist” for USO shows in An Khe and Cam Rahn Bay, South Vietnam courtesy of Uncle Sam.
In Kansas, he is surrounded by a family which shares his interest in theatre. His wife, Linda, is head of drama at Manhattan, Kansas, High School and a freelance actor, who is very busy with the Thespian State and International Conference, and has been a member of VASTA. He has two adult children in Iowa and three approaching adulthood who are based in Kansas. One daughter is a freshman in the Pre-Health Professions Program at Kansas State, another is a high school junior who is active in Thespians and dance, and his son, a junior theatre major at Kansas State, is currently studying in Germany.
Four-legged household members, Stormy the dog, along with Black Cat and Striped Cat, are being watched for signs of latent stagecraft ability.
Mr. Uthoff’s family has also been part of his involvement with USITT. Linda Uthoff was the complete Conference Office staff for the Wichita Conference.
“I first heard of USITT in 1967 from David Thayer at the University of Iowa. I got involved in 1974” while at the University of Wyoming, Mr. Uthoff said. Once he moved to Kansas, he became involved in the Heart of America Regional Section providing programming, and then serving as Section Chair.
He was asked to serve as Programming Chair for the 1993 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Wichita, then stayed involved with the Conference becoming National Programming Chair, serving as the first Vice-President for Programming, and then Vice-President for Conferences, a position he held until becoming President-Elect in 2003.
Awards are only one indication of Mr. Uthoff’s involvement in the Institute. In 2000, he was named a Fellow of the Institute, a singular honor bestowed on a limited number of members based on their service to the Institute and the industry.
That honor may have been overshadowed in 2002 when Mr. Uthoff received the Joel E. Rubin Founder’s Award, which he described as the highlight of his USITT career.
With so much history behind him, what are his plans for the future? Mr. Uthoff’s philosophy is not to change the parts of the Institute that work, but to provide the flexibility to identify and take advantage of opportunities.
During his first year as President, Mr. Uthoff will preside over a number of projects which have been germinating for a long time – such as the first World Stage Design exhibit in Toronto – and help make sure these are done well.
Looking farther into the future, he sees the 2006 Conference & Stage Expo in Louisville, Kentucky as an opportunity to do something different, and to start the process of getting ready for the Institute’s 50 th anniversary. And maybe, if time permits, he would like to take a breather and “define what we’re doing so well.”
Whatever the future brings, it will be a busy two years at the helm of USITT.