Anchored in the
Sailing into the Future
It is 1977, and I am a lowly first year
graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
working in prop storage which, at the time, was located in
the bowels of Aycock Auditorium in a wind tunnel. Suddenly,
out of now where, a dark imposing shadow hovers over me.
I looked up, and the imposing figure who would come to be
known at Stage Expo as the "Man in the Gold Jacket," Bob
Thurston, instructs me to give him $20 to attend what I have
come to learn was the first USITT Southeast Master Class
held in the fall of 1977 on the Wake Forest University campus.
At the time, I had no clue what USITT
stood for or even why I was going. As far as I was concerned,
it could have been United Steel in Theatre Today. Something
was mentioned about a new theatre with flexible staging and
a session on MIG welding. I was simply being led by my graduate
mentor and told this would be good experience for me. He never
said that this trek would last over 30 years and include becoming
Chair of the Southeast Regional Section and eventually becoming
President of an organization I could not even tell my wife
what the acronym, USITT, stood for.
Thirty-one years later,
I have numerous stories but, more importantly, countless
reasons to tell my students and colleagues why it is important
to become a member and be involved with the United States
Institute for Theatre Technology. I can even elaborate at
length the profound impact USITT has had on my career and
life. Many of you probably have similar stories and can now
articulate clearly the value of being a member of the Institute.
As I look out over this group, I see friends,
colleagues, associates, and even former students who have
become a major part of my professional life. These endearing
relationships have become imbedded in the heart and foundation
of this Institute. The question we currently are asking is
how can we secure our future while not loosing the fundamental
qualities that have brought success in our first 50 years?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity
to work with you over the next two years as the President
of USITT. I am fortunate to have worked with many of you already
and look forward to forming new relationships as we prepare
to celebrate the 50th anniversary of USITT. And celebrate
we will as USITT reflects on its distinguished heritage while
working to solidify another 50 years.
Many have already been
working hard to plan this momentous event, most notably the
50th Steering Committee led by Bobbi Owen, which has established
a guiding theme for the celebration "Honoring
Our Past While Securing Our Future."
We are currently
in the final stages of a review of the organization by McCarthy
Arts Consulting. This process has involved every aspect of
the organization from exhibitors to conference attendees,
Executive Committee, the Office Staff, the Board of Directors,
Commissioners, and Sections all providing valuable input
as we closely examine our past. We are exploring how to best
meet the needs of our membership over the next 50 years.
Can we remain relevant to our membership
if we continue on our current path? Do we need to explore
changes that will strategically position the Institute on
an even more solid foundation constructed specifically for
the 21st century? To accomplish this successfully, how much
change will be needed? Change – a word that
often brings negative connotations and fear. I have never
been one who supports change just for the sake of change.
Change always brings many challenges, but it can be a healthy
and reinvigorating experience if planned with intent and purpose.
The 21st Century task force, led by Bill
Byrnes, is working closely with McCarthy Arts Consulting
to coordinate the external review and will soon be making
recommendations on how to reposition the Institute to meet
the challenges of a fast-paced, mobile, electronic world.
We are living in an age where children are more electronically
savvy than their parents. Facebook is not a bedtime story,
YouTube is not a new television set, and Bluetooth is not
a 21st century reincarnation of the Smurfs.
How can the Institute
compete and prosper in this new age where texting requires
thumb exercises and a Wii is not the exclamation we repeat
as we reach for the sky on the swing set. This new age of
electronics and technology has a direct effect on every aspect
of the entertainment industry. Our task force has a formidable
challenge, but I am confident we will soon see a comprehensive
plan that positions USITT as a major force in the entertainment
industry for the 21st century.
Let us reach for the sky once
again as we work together in guiding the changes that will
assure our success in the years to come.
In order that we
secure the future it is critical each member carefully examine
his connection with the Institute. We regularly talk about
USITT benefits. We even list them on our website and in the
A strong organization needs good leadership.
Almost everyone in this room is involved in some leadership
capacity. As leaders in USITT, we are often asked by our constituents
what the benefits of being a member are. It is now time to
answer that question for a new generation. We must raise
the bar by addressing a new set of expectations coming from
our members who do know that Blueray and the Wii are cutting
edge technology. In order for us to effectively address these
needs, change is inevitable.
I now need you to look at what
role USITT currently plays in your life. Many of you give
generously of your time, some contribute financially, and
others take on leadership roles. The future of this Institute
depends on each of you! It is now time to construct a bridge
to our future, and I pose one question to everyone tonight.
What can you do to help build this bridge for USITT? By joining
together and embracing positive change, we will be able to
build a bridge that secures the future of USITT for the next
50 years. Thank you!
This speech was presented at the Awards
Banquet of the 48th Annual Conference & Stage Expo in
Houston, Texas where Carl Lefko received the gavel of office.
His two-year term runs from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010.