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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

Opening Night was again a great success, with an opportunity to meet and mingle in the wonderful Kentucky Center lobby areas.

Photos/Tom Thatcher

by John S. Uthoff
USITT President


Thanks for the Memories!

As I write this, the Conference in Louisville has been over for about a week. Since the conference, I have opened and closed a dance concert, am preparing for technical rehearsals for Metamorphoses, and am planning to leave for the Kennedy Center on April 20 for KCACTF. Yet, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on this year's USITT Conference & Stage Expo and think about all the wonderful sessions and events.

Prior to the Conference, many of us had the opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of the Actors Theatre of Louisville and catch one or more wonderful productions of the Humana Festival. I was able to attend The Scene by Theresa Rebeck; a well acted and exciting production. Other members were busy participating PDWs, extended workshops dealing with such diverse topics as stage rigging, costume drawing and rendering, indoor pyrotechnics, leadership trends, performer flying effects, hat construction, color rendering, light and shadow, LD Assistant, and sound reinforcement.

The conference kicked off at the Kentucky Center's Whitney Hall, home of this year's Light Lab, with a wonderful Keynote Address by Jon Jory, founder of the Humana Festival and former artistic director of the Actors Theatre, which kept all attending laughing with joy and thinking about the important part that design and technology has in our shared art. This was followed by a moving tribute by Ming Cho Lee, our Distinguished Achievement in Education Award winner, to this year's USITT Award Winner Zelda Fichandler that left us all appreciative of her work with the Arena Stage and the establishment of the regional theatre movement in America.

The Light Lab and all the other programming at the conference started immediately after the Keynote, and the large assembled group dispersed throughout the conference center. Exciting sessions sponsored by the Commissions and our exhibitor members covered the full spectrum of our activities and were available to all. That evening we all returned to the lobby of the Kentucky Center for our Opening Night party. All who attended enjoyed the food and drink, and all rubbed elbows and talked into the night.

Thursday marked the opening of the largest Stage Expo in our history. Vice-President for Conferences Joe Aldridge cut the USITT Gaff Tape and everyone descended on Syracuse Scenery & Stage Lighting Co. Inc. for the mandatory velour bag prior to spreading out through all the exciting booths and exhibits. Then there were more sessions, book signings, design exhibits, the Art Auction, and more.

That evening we were all moved by the funny and touching address by USITT Fellow Rick Stephens that left us all thinking about the important role that USITT has played in our lives. This was followed by naming Steve Terry as our newest Fellow, and honoring those will that succeed us with Awards for Young Designer & Technician. The evening wrapped up with the ever popular New Products Showcase, and just a few more programming sessions that needed to be worked in.

Friday marked the opening of the Young Designers' Forum, more sessions, more Stage Expo, and an evening where the alumni of our many theatre programs get together and catch up on what happened last year and old times. The last event of the day is the Tech Olympics where teams of students compete and test their skills in events such as quick changes, shifting props, and wiring a connector. Three teams from the North Carolina School of the Arts made a clean sweep this year, challenging us all to do better next year.

Saturday is the last day of the Conference. There were still plenty of sessions, the Stage Expo Continental Breakfast, and other events. Stage Expo was still available to get that last glimpse of the newest equipment, or to place the last order, but the work on next year's conference in Phoenix has already begun. The programming for Phoenix is being considered and will be set in May. The Conference Committee looks for improvements, or new events for next year. But this is not just a time of looking ahead. Many exciting and important sessions are scheduled on Saturday each year.

The end was near. Stage Expo closed at 3 p.m. The last programming sessions ended at 5:20 p.m. By 6 p.m., the All Conference Happy Hour had begun, and it was soon time to start the Annual Awards Banquet. USITT honored those who helped make this year's conference a success, honored the winners of Design Expo and Tech Olympics, awarded the grants, recognized those who won the Distinguished Achievement Awards and the Special Citations, and highlighted those who have given their talents to make our art and our business a success.

After the last of the applause, and much more conversation and toasts of good cheer with our friends, it was time say farewell to the 2006 version of the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo. We soon have to return to the realities of our jobs, and soon start to think about that time when we meet again in Phoenix in March 2007.

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At the New Products Showcase it's all about the swag and new toys. Disney created a wonderful offering which got the crowd reaching for wallets.