For Sandy Bonds, a vacation does not mean finding a roadmap. Instead, what is most necessary is a passport. Ms. Bonds, USITT's first Vice-President for International Activities, finds joy in the connections made between different countries and cultures both at work and at play.
Ms. Bonds, professor and costume designer at the University of Oregon, has strong feelings about primary research. Shortly after arriving in Oregon in 1979, she spent two weeks in Italy gathering background for Merchant of Venice and went to Reims, France searching for material related to Saint Joan. In the 1980s and 1990s she worked with scene designer Jerry Williams on "fusion" pieces which he co-directed with Janet Descutner.
For a Balinese dance drama, she spent a month in Bali absorbing the culture and watching the dances. She also bought fabric for her designs in Bali. Ms. Bonds, known professionally as Alexandra, has a special interest and expertise in the costumes of the Beijing Opera. Her research was fostered by a fellowship from USITT's Edward F. Kook Fund, and her published work on the subject has earned her both a Herbert T. Greggs Award and a Greggs Merit Award.
The focus of her "free" time for the past 10 years has been Beijing Opera Costumes: the communication of character and culture through costume in traditional Jingju. The final manuscript is currently with the University of Hawaii Press.
From early childhood (she spent two years in Egypt starting when she was only three years old), Ms. Bonds has had unusual connections with international activities. Cherished souvenirs of trips to Europe in 1964 and 1966 are Beatles fan magazines in a multitude of languages.
After earning a undergraduate degree at Syracuse University and a master's degree at the University of Denver, she spent time as a stitcher and cutter at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and then as costume designer at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. It was at Duluth that her life intersected with Dick Durst, creating a lifetime friendship and a common bond in the promotion of international activities related to USITT and the world theatre community.
Ms. Bonds originally may have taken part in USITT because of its focus on designers and technicians, but her involvement has steadily increased. From "presenting a session or two," her role has evolved. She and Bruce Brockman are Co-Commissioners of the United States exhibits for the 2007 Prague Quadrennial (a role she served solo in 2003), facilitator for sessions which blend the interests of Commissions with international experts; catalyst for encouraging OISTAT participation, and shepherded the selection jury for the inaugural World Stage Design exhibit in 2005. All those activities, plus fostering USITT's international travel grants for students and individual members, have been incorporated into her role as VP-International Activities.
Ms. Bonds seeks to make connections between international guests and individuals or groups within USITT. "International activities are not just for people who carry passports," she notes, "I look forward to developing ways to provide further integration into conferences and Commissions and not have it be seen as a separate entity."
In the meantime, Ms. Bonds is keeping her travel documents handy. She and husband Joseph Gilg, a lighting designer and director who serves as director of development for theatre arts at the University of Oregon, just returned from an extended visit to Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands. Keep watch to see how ideas garnered from that trip become integrated into future design projects.