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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

USITT's 2005 Awards Banquet brought smiles to the faces of this group of friends -- Pat Larmer, Donna Parsons, Sherry Linnell, and Donna Ruzika. All acted as troubleshooters assisting to produce the Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Toronto March 16 to 19.

Photo/R. Finkelstein


Donna Ruzika
Lighting Designer & USITT Conference Committee

When I joined USITT, it was because I had to. Our college was searching for a design professor, and a colleague and friend of mine knew that the USITT Job Placement Service would be a good place to meet and interview designers. So I joined.

We flew to Boston. We spent our time interviewing many candidates. In our free time we explored the city. We saw many museums, walked where Paul Revere had ridden his horse, and dumped tea in the harbor as a tribute to those early, rebellious Americans. Oh yeah, we also explored the Conference Expo floor, went to a few seminars, and "dabbled" in the conference experience.

While "dabbling," we ran into some friends from California whom we hadn't seen in about a year. We agreed it was rather silly that we had to leave our state to see one another.

The following year we decided it would be fun to go to Fort Worth. So we renewed our memberships and trekked to Texas. This time we didn't have to interview anyone, so we had contacted our friends from California and other states in advance, and made plans for dinner and drinks. We also attended the conference for real. We went to a variety of seminars (some great, some not so great).

We scoured the Expo floor looking for new kinds of equipment and gathering up all kinds of swag, putting them in the most popular of all swag…the bags by Syracuse Scenery & Stage Lighting Co., Inc. We saw faces that looked familiar but only because we had seen them the year before in Boston.

One night we drove to Dallas almost by way of Abilene (don't ask), saw where Kennedy was shot, and returned to Fort Worth. The highlight of Fort Worth was going to Billy Bobs, drinking beer, and enjoying our ever-expanding group of friends.

The next year, I was somehow given a position on the newly organized national Conference Committee. My response of "why me?" didn't get answered, so I stumbled blindly into meetings in Pittsburgh with complete strangers who, I thought, knew what was going on. Much to my surprise almost everyone on the committee was new and thinking exactly what I was: "What am I doing here?" The conference in Pittsburg was a complete blast.

Since I had to promote the following conference, which was to be in Long Beach (the first time), I decided that my friends were going to join me, too. So "the girls from Long Beach" set up a table, hung beach balls, and had a hilarious time meeting new friends and watching people count gold fish crackers.

That year, the highlight of the conference was the banquet. We all sat at the big round tables in the back of the room with the members of the Conference Committee and the fabulous USITT staff from Syracuse, happy and excited that we had done such a great job and had made so many new friends.

Each year I renew my membership with a smile on my face. I have the good fortune to still be on the Conference Committee, and each year we gather together happy to see one another. Friends. Who would have guessed that by joining USITT I would have the pleasure of becoming friends with so many people from theatres and schools across the nation?

When anyone asks me about the value of USITT, I list all the perks of being a member…and there are many. But I always end by saying that the real value of being a member and actively participating in USITT is the wonderful people you get to meet - who become your friends.

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