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For the Record
Compelling Research

Tim Kelly
Chair, USITT Grants & Fellowships Committee

The Grants and Fellowship Program continues to be unique in the entertainment industry by providing funds for a range of research limited only by the imagination of its investigators. The curiosity that drives theatre practitioners to explore, discover, criticize, conceive, reinvent, document and amaze seems to be insatiable.

It is that Pied Piper of unquenchable curiosity that led Michael Ramsaur, the Institute's most recent Fellowship recipient, on an international quest. His research topic, What is Lighting Design? An International Perspective, seems to pose questions for which there are as many answers as there are lighting designers. It was a leap of faith by the G&F Committee to believe that any one person could develop comprehensive documentation on this subject.

What qualifies a USITT member's project or proposal to receive funding from this program? It's a hard call, as all of the Committee members will attest, because of the extraordinary scope, range, and creativity of the proposals. To calculate the individual merits of each application and then to be required to judge one against another can be trying. The basic premise of the research or project must be intriguing. It is imperative the applicant has the ability to present the material in a clear and concise manner that readily permits the committee to know what the intended body of work entails.

It is not an absolute prerequisite, but it weighs in favor of a proposal if the applicant is an actively involved member of the Institute. It is imperative to demonstrate in the applicant's own writing, as well as in letters of support, the applicant's unique ability and experience to work in the proposed subject area. Another key component of the program is to disseminate the information to USITT members so they can benefit from any new developments or accumulated knowledge.

The Committee found that Mr. Ramsaur had precipitated a perfect storm of circumstances to make him and his proposal one the Institute believed worthy of funding. For years he has worked in the area of lighting design and is considered an expert nationally and internationally.

A 30-year member of USITT, he has been involved in regional, national, and global activities including his current post as President of OISTAT. Mr. Ramsaur is a scholar, researcher, and prolific author with an impressive body of publications which assured the Committee he could carry out the proposed work.

Michael Ramsaur as an extraordinary example of an individual who put together a proposal that was compelling, submitted by a proven researcher. The Institute has, however, invested in proposals by members who are new to research and invention.

Funding has gone to institutions as well as individual members, and the resulting work has been seen in books, articles, program sessions, and a general advancement in all areas of the industry. Since 1985, the Institute has provided well over $200,000 in funding for the Grants & Fellowship Program. The mission of USITT is to actively promote the advancement of the knowledge and skills of its members and this program is dedicated to supporting that mission.

Deadline for the 2008 round of Grants funding is January 10, 2008. More information and applications will be available later in the year.

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Tim Kelly, chair of USITT's Grants & Fellowships Committee, announced the awarding of a major USITT Fellowship to Michael Ramsaur at the 2007 Awards Banquet. Deadline for the next round of funding is January 10, 2008.

Photo/R. Finkelstein