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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

An Amazing Experience

Each year the Rocky Mountain Section of USITT provides scholarship funds to one of its student members to assist in attending the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo.

In 2004 Amy Struebing, who is attending the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, was selected to receive that scholarship and has written about her experiences.

This successful RMUSITT program provides a significant incentive for student involvement.

Amy Struebing
RMUSITT Scholarship Recipient

Long Beach, California ­ what a great place to spend spring break! And even better than being in California was the chance to attend the 2004 USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo.

Although this was not my first time at a USITT conference, it was my first time in California. Thanks to the generous support from the Rocky Mountain Section of USITT, I had the opportunity to attend sessions, workshops, and the Stage Expo. It was an incredible experience and a very educational one for a student.

I arrived in Long Beach after a two-day drive from Greeley, Colorado. Five of my friends and I piled into a minivan and road tripped to California via Las Vegas. What an experience! Once we arrived in Long Beach, we got checked into the hotel and headed for the beach. It was beautiful to walk the sand in the moonlight. We spend the two days prior to the conference exploring Long Beach and getting to know the area. I had the opportunity to help with the set-up of Stage Expo. That was a totally separate experience that I am so grateful I had. I met the vendors as they were setting up their booths and got to see the “behind-the-scenes” of Stage Expo.

On Wednesday the conference officially started. Tony Walton was the keynote speaker. What an opportunity! Each year, a professional from some area of theatre is invited to give the keynote address. This year, we were fortunate enough to hear Mr. Walton speak on the death of the theatre and his encouragement to each one of us to keep it alive.

I also attended the Stage Manager's Forum. I am studying to be a stage manager, so most of the sessions I attended focused on management. For me, the forums are incredibly important and very interesting because it gives me an opportunity to hear advice from professionals working in my field and to meet those professionals. It is a great networking tool. Wednesday night is Opening Night, a chance for conference attendees to gather, socialize, and eat and drink. It's another great place for students to network and meet professionals.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are also filled with sessions in every area of theatre. Some are hands-on, some are discussion panels, and others are lectures. Thursday morning all the sections have meetings where the members gather for breakfast and to discuss what is going on within the section. Although it is really early ( 8 a.m.!), it is definitely worth getting up for. Thursday also means the opening of the Stage Expo. This is a huge event that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a mad rush to the front doors. Once inside, you are sucked into the flashing lights, haze, talking, swag (free stuff vendors give out), and so much more.

You have the chance to play with new equipment, see new products, ask questions, order items, and register for information. Graduate schools are also set up to talk with students, like myself, who are looking for schools. They are very talkative and very informative. It's a great way to make face-to-face contact with people who may be reviewing your application and résumé at a later date.

After all the excitement of the opening of the Stage Expo, you will definitely want to attend the New Product Showcase Thursday night. Vendors come and give presentations on new products and throw swag into the audience. It's a great party!

Friday is more sessions. I attended a session titled Stage Managing Beyond the Borders. It was a great session because it was a panel discussion on other venues where stage management skills are used. It was very helpful to me because one thing I wanted to get out of this conference was a direction for my career. This session was informative and gave me some things to think about. Friday night I attended the Yale Alumni Reception. I had spoken with Ben Sammler, head of the Yale tech department, and he encouraged me to come and talk with current students and alumni to see if Yale was a school I should be looking into for graduate studies. It was an interesting and informative experience.

Saturday was more sessions and packing up to go home. Saturday night I attended the Awards Banquet. This was a first time experience for me. The banquet is formal, the food was wonderful, and the awards were interesting to see. It was another chance to hear noted professionals speak about their craft.

This conference was a wonderful experience for me, especially as a student. It was a chance for me to network with professionals, talk with vendors, and learn new techniques. I believe every technical theatre student should have the chance to attend the USITT conference and network with professionals in their fields. The sessions were informative and gave me a chance to question people actually working in my field.

For any Rocky Mountain Section students reading this, I encourage you to apply for the scholarship and attend at least one conference while you are still in school. You may also want to check with your school to see if they offer grants or other assistance for educational conferences.

For anyone from another Section reading this article, I would encourage you to offer scholarships to students in your Section. Money is a problem for most students, but this conference is too valuable to miss. It was an experience I will remember always. Thank you to the Rocky Mountain Section for making it possible for me to attend it.

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