OISTAT Celebrates 50 Years

by Richard Bryant

OISTAT (International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians) recently returned to Cardiff, Wales in 2018 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The host venue, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD), became the meeting place for this multinational event. Designer and professor Sean Crowley of the RWCMD, who was assisted by the students and staff of the school, and OISTAT executive director Wan-Jung Wei, along with her staff, helped to bring together a smooth running and well-organized series of symposiums, meetings, and workshops. 

OISTAT symposium Symposiums were held presenting research and practice from across OISTAT’s commissions and sub commissions, including topics such as Significant Women in OISTAT with Maija Pekkanen in conversation with Rosane Muniz, Simona Rybakova, chaired by Sofia Pantouvaki, The Theatres of Latin America Project, a presentation by José Luis Ferrera and Claudia Suárez. Innovative Costume | A Presentation by Igor Roussanoff. And of course, Presenting the Work of Paul Brown by Kate Burnett and Jonathan Hamilton.

Adding to the event was a visual display on the history of OISTAT throughout the years as well as various projects from the OISTAT community. Time was also afforded for attendees to share their recollections and experiences they had over the years. 

Paul Brown Display Plaque at OISTAT As with all anniversary celebrations, though, there is always a bit of melancholy.Those who were unable to be there or had passed were fondly remembered by those that knew them. One of those remembered this year was Welsh-born scenic and costume designer Paul Brown. To celebrate Brown's life and work, the RWCMD was bequeathed much of his studio and work. A physical reconstruction of Brown's design studio was displayed for guests along with amazing elements from his life’s work. Among the items displayed were drawings, models and designs realized, tools and art supplies and the prestigious Golden Triga he had won as part of 2003 Great Britain Entry. Brown's work is inspiring and the display reflected the loss he will be to us.

Richard Bryant brings a bit of the islands to the OISTAT gathering As the events of the week concluded, a final round of drinks and farewells were shared to celebrate. To send those who attended off with good energy and inspiration, everyone who remained was entertained by what was dubbed as a Faustian tale of fine dining and foolish choices. The piece titled FEAST | The Tragic History of the Troubled Rise and the Terrible Demise of the Greatest Chef the World Has Ever Known, was performed and created by the Royal Welsh College Puppeteers. A good time indeed.

Fifty years of existence for any organization is an important milestone. The consistency and quality of work; thought and energy over the years is a testament to the participating members who have been a part of OISTAT. It is important to share our gratitude and thanks for those who came before. To help bring another 50 years to OISTAT, we must also encourage and share these values with future generations so that they may carry on the work to grow, evolve and maintain the importance of this organization. I encourage you to take the next opportunity to attend an OISTAT event. Nothing can take the place of the experience.

If you would like to learn more about OISTAT, visit www.oistat.org. 
To read about the history of OISTAT, visit the Chronicle of the DTHG at bit.ly/ChronicleDTHG

About the author: Richard Bryant is originally from Prospect Heights, Illinois. Before finding his way into academia, Bryant was a theater electrician, programmer, stagehand and scenic carpenter and was fortunate to have many wide and varied experiences along the way. He now finds himself currently living on the Twin Island nation of Trinidad and Tobago where he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago's Academy for the Performing Arts. Bryant is the founder of and contributor to the "Archiving Technical Theater History" Facebook group which provides a public square type forum to advocate for and share the importance of the people and places that helped make technical theatre history. He is also an active participant on the USITT Publication Committee and OISTAT Publication and Communication Commission as well as being an individual member of both organizations. When not teaching or sitting in meetings, he travels to various countries to gather experiences, see new and unusual places, meet new people, reconnect with old friends and attend events to write about and to share with you. Occasionally Bryant gets lost but every so often ends up stumbling across something interesting along the way. As Douglas Adams wrote “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be".  He has to constantly remind himself to always carry his towel and of course "Don't Panic".