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New USITT Fellows
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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

Bobbi Owen, left, was named a new Fellow of USITT during the 2008 Annual Conference. Larry Hill, right, introduced Ms. Owen and presented her with her Fellows plaque. Six new fellows were announced during the event.

Photo/Casey Kearns


Bobbi Owen, New Fellow

Larry Hill
USITT Fellow

I first met our next inductee in a New Orleans Conference hallway when a close friend introduced us as they rushed by. "Smiles," "Pleasantries" and they pushed on to their meeting. Later that evening he said, "She can do the job we need."

Six years later, I think that was quite an understatement, and this induction clearly recognizes the significant importance of those six years to the Institute.

Time constraints -- I had enough material to do a monograph on this person -- forces me to start with three characteristic "D's" to be applied to an inordinately active career. I'll define them once, and please remember to apply them as I go forward: D for decisive, D for dedicated, and D for distinguished.

And it is the world outside USITT that has been most interesting for me to research learning about the parallel ladders of design and the academic world of both research and university service.


As a designer she has designed costumes for theatres such as the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the American Place Theatre in New York City, and the Alhambra Theatre in San Francisco as examples. Since 1977, her costume designs have graced the stage for a highly valued theatre company to those of us in the Southeast, the Playmakers Repertory Company at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.


The life of an academic designer requires more than excellence in design. There should be demonstrated capability of research, and our inductee has brought many articles on theatrical designers to press and contributed a significant block of books documenting Broadway costume designers, Broadway scenic designers, and Broadway lighting esigners of the 20th century. In her six years of USITT leadership, she has authored a monograph on The Designs of Willa Kim and co-authored the Design USA catalog for the USITT entry in the 2007 Prague Quadrennial.

The Academic Ladder

Her years of classroom experience parallels her academic research success, and as universities are wont to do, she has taken on increasing levels of administrative duties. I found this phrase in a bio, "I have also been involved in the life of the university" which is clearly an understatement. I have found seven major roles in administrative leadership at Chapel Hill serving the College of Arts & Sciences, the upper administration campus wide, major university committees, and a deep involvement with reaccredidation of the university. This "life of the university" shows recognition at the highest level of those three words, Decisive, Dedicated, Distinguished (and Excellence).

USITT Involvement

Our inductee began her initial contributions to USITT at the 1985 annual Conference & Stage Expo in New York City, has served as co-chair of the Golden Pen Awards for the Publications Committee, has hosted the Southeast Regional Section's Fall Master Class, and has been active in the highly visible Costume Commission. The significant role of the inductee has been her leadership role for the Institute. Befitting her title, USITT significantly has changed how it communicates in the past six years. She has created, collaborated, contributed and cajoled -- sometimes having to drag us into the future with wit and wisdom -- as we moved Sightlines from snail mail to our PC monitors, established a publishing phenomenon documenting American designers, became the maven of book signings on the Stage Expo floor, helped USITT find jobs, and chairing our efforts to a rather special 50th birthday party in two years.

Over time, I have associated our next Fellow with two colors: the color she bleeds each year as we move to the season's tournament frenzy of Division One basketball, Carolina Blue, and most importantly for the past six years, the color that matters most to our inductee is "Pantone Matching System 185 Red"—the official USITT color. She really does bleed 185 Red (outside of basketball season).

Enough of the litany of Decisive, Dedicated, Distinguished. Let us recognize Excellence. Will the USITT Vice-President of Communications, Bobbi Owen, please come forward to be inducted as a Fellow of USITT.

USITT Fellows elected six new members who were announced at the 2008 Annual Conference. The introductions of Joe Aldridge and Jerry Gorrell also appear in this issue. Look for the introductions of Pete Happe, Debra Krajec, and Richard Thomas in the May issue.

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