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For the Record
Planning a Star-Studded USITT 50th Celebration

Carl Lefko
USITT President

July 1 marked the beginning of the year-long celebration of USITT’s 50th birthday. As the fireworks explode on the United States Independence Day celebration, there is an increased level of activity in almost every area of the Institute.

That includes a stellar line-up of special speakers and session presenters for 2010. Sally Struthers will kick off the festivities on Wednesday, March 31 with a 10 a.m. Keynote presentation. Ms. Struthers, a two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner for her work in the groundbreaking series, All in the Family, has continuing roles on the CBS comedy Still Standing and Gilmore Girls. She has appeared on Broadway and toured with the Tommy Tune production of Grease. Ms. Struthers has worked tirelessly on behalf of hungry and uneducated children worldwide and has won numerous awards for those efforts.

Also on tap will be Dr. Joel E. Rubin, a founder of the Institute and its second President, who will deliver the Fellows Address on Wednesday evening. Dr. Rubin was one of the driving forces behind the creation of OISTAT, the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicans in 1967 and was the producer of the United States Exhibits at the Prague Quadrennial in 1987 and 1991. His distinguished career has stretched across more than six decades.

On Thursday morning, the Institute will honor Oscar Brockett who will receive the 2010 USITT Golden Pen award, along with co-authors Margaret Mitchell and Linda Hardberger for their seminal work, Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States. The book, which is being published by The Tobin Fund for Theatre Arts and distributed by the University of Texas Press, will be launched at the Conference where a special book signing event will honor the authors. The opening session on Thursday will focus on the history of design and technology, with a multimedia slide show featuring images from the book.

Jennifer Tipton, who in 2008 was honored with a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” (the latest in string of honors for this amazing designer) will speak on Friday morning to start the Conference day. Ms. Tipton was honored as a stage lighting designer who is “pushing the visible boundaries of her art form with painterly lighting that evokes mood and sculpts movement in dance, drama, and opera.” She is receiving $500,000 over five years, with “no strings attached.” Her use of white light in theatre and dance has been especially noted, as well as the range of her artistry for both small and large productions, and her influence as a teacher. She has been an adjunct professor of lighting design at the Yale University School of Drama since 1994.

As USITT celebrates its 50 anniversary, it is also looking to the future. François Leroux Vice President Segment for Products and Services Entertainment Creative Development, Character Strategy, and Walt Disney World Entertainment will speak on Saturday, to give his perspective on what lies ahead for the entertainment industry.

The new Conference format, designed to highlight USITT’s 50 year history and bright future, includes opening Stage Expo on Wednesday instead of the traditional Thursday opening, and time for major sessions at the start of each day.

But blockbuster speakers at the Annual Conference are just part of what is being planned.

Sections are already scheduling their 2009/2010 Master Classes and events as part of the celebration.

It is important to remember that as we celebrate our accomplishments the work of the institute marches on. The USITT/USA Design Exhibit committee is hard at work planning the 2011 exhibit with plans to tour museums across the United States and travel to Prague as our entry into the Prague Quadrennial. We hope to get a glimpse of exhibit pieces as part of Stage Expo in Kansas City, Missouri. Additionally four subcommittees from the Transition Advisory Team are working feverishly to accomplish the Board of Directors charge to hire an Executive Director and shift our organizational model to a governance structure.

The search firm, Albert Hall and Associates, has been contracted to assist the committee in identifying a pool of candidates for the position. The three other committees are in the process of examining our bylaws, job descriptions of our leadership positions, and compiling and reviewing our policies and procedures. As you can image these are daunting tasks and represent the long term goal for sustainability as we prepare to meet the challenges during our next 50th years.

The Conference Committee is working diligently with the Commissioners, Sections and Chapters, our office staff, and contractors to make this a very special year. One that we can rejoice in our accomplishments and know that when our glasses of champagne are raised we will be not just be looking back at 50 years of successes but looking forward to new horizons and success as we position the institute to meet the new challenges of an ever changing highly technologically driven entertainment industry. Join us March 31 to April 3, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri to celebrate our rich history and look toward our future in a world of exciting changes.

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