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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

The bridge across the Ohio River, near the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati where the 2009 Conference & Stage Expo will be held, reaches into Kentucky. Exhibitors and attendees have found that the connections made at Conferences can stretch around the world.

Photo/Barbara E.R. Lucas

Building Global Bridges

Carl Lefko
USITT President

Since USITT was founded nearly 50 years ago, it has grown to include members from more than 30 countries around the world. These members are introduced to USITT in a variety of ways -- by colleagues who are current members; through OISTAT, the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians; by attending the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo; through USITT's presence at other trade shows or international exhibits like the Prague Quadrennial and World Stage Design; and perhaps most of all, via, our virtual home on the world wide web.

A long-time Contributing member of USITT who sometimes wondered about the return on the investment of money, time, and effort which is expended to design, build, transport, and staff a booth, recently discovered that a connection made several years ago at Stage Expo had laid the foundation for a relationship with a new international client whose performing arts center is located more than 2,300 miles away. E-mailed queries about catalog items, scrims, and curtain fabrics led to in-depth discussions about replacing old-fashioned rigging with a more modern system, and eventually a trip was made to a far-flung Caribbean island to renew the acquaintance and measure the stage. Another trip to install the new rigging and curtains will bring this handsome performing arts center more up-to-date and cement this special relationship which began at Stage Expo.

When asked why he had selected a company located so far away to assist with this project, the theatre's technical services officer responded that he had seen their booth and talked with their staff at the 2005 USITT Conference & Stage Expo in Toronto. While searching the web for professional organizations in the entertainment industry, he found several associations, but joined USITT because theatre is his first love. A trip to the USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo introduced him to a wide range of companies and products, but he said that after being attracted to their booth, he made a special connection when he spoke to this company's staff.

In today's difficult economy, our commercial members may question whether the investment they make in USITT is worth it, but as this story illustrates, while they may not always see an immediate return on their investment, a casual conversation with a student or a new member today may result in a future new customer. USITT members investigate new products and technologies at the Annual Conference & Stage Expo so that when the opportunity to spend the money to modernize a theatre arrives, they will be ready to make intelligent and informed decisions on the best possible equipment for their organization.

As I tell my students, people in this business are never more than two contacts apart, often finding that they share a common acquaintance. The contacts made at each conference are invaluable and often lead to long-term relationships. In today's world, although the contacts may be made with people or companies who are located in a distant part of the world, the internet makes it possible to easily stay closely connected between conferences.

USITT is currently making an investment in its website infrastructure to insure it will give an accurate representation of the organization in a format that is attractive and easy to navigate. Detailed information about USITT's programs and services will keep current members up-to-date and attract new members here in North America and around the world, laying the foundation for a new series of global bridges.  

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