Connections and Conversations

by Michael Eddy
SD Editor Michael S. Eddy with William Ivey Long and Bobbi Owen
SD Editor Michael S. Eddy with William Ivey Long and Bobbi Owen

The April Stage Directions' Editor's Note

We just wrapped up USITT 2018, the 58th annual Conference and Stage Expo. It was an amazing show in the (thankfully) warm weather setting of Fort Lauderdale, FL. Stage Directions was on the Expo floor as the media sponsor for the first-ever Prop Lab, curated by Jay Duckworth, with assistance from Karen Maness. It was a blast working with Jay and all the prop masters! We also hosted with USITT, the Stage Directions Studio where we interviewed quite a wide variety of designers, technicians, USITT Fellows, Keynote speakers, Distinguished Award Winners, and fellow theater artists. 

I send my thanks to everyone who sat down with myself and USITT’s Jenn Shuron. (Speaking with costume designer William Ivey Long and Bobbi Owen, the author of his monograph The Designs of William Ivey Long, was a real touchstone for me. I’ve long admired his beautiful design work as well as his many years of involvement with The Lost Colony, which was my first professional job out of college.) We had some fantastic conversations; it was a pleasure to be able to speak with so many theater makers about their work, their mentors, and their gracious advice to those at the early career stage.

Creative designer Tupac Martir said in his interview, “USITT is just like coming home.” I couldn’t agree more, I believe strongly that sums up well why we all return to USITT every year. I’ve been attending USITT since the 25th Anniversary edition in New York City in 1985. I worked for Kliegl Bros. Stage Lighting at the time under Drs. Ronald Olson and Joel Rubin, both of whom were founders of USITT and instilled in me the value of the organization and the yearly gathering to share ideas. I love coming to the show and discovering what’s new and learning something more about technical theater. This year I was fortunate to have some incredible conversations which I look forward to sharing with SD readers in the coming months.

One of the best pieces of advice that many people we interviewed echoed was how important it is to network; build connections with like-minded artists; learn from others in your field but also in other production disciplines. It is okay to walk up and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Maybe it’s someone whose work you admire. At USITT everyone is approachable. A good network is a valuable way to grow a career but you must keep it well-cultivated and an in-person conversation is the best way to do just that.

It is also vital to stay up on the technology and new services in our industry. In our show report, we look at some of the 315 exhibitors at the USITT Stage Expo. It is important to support the people who support the USITT Expo, just as I hope that you support the advertisers who support Stage Directions so we can cover the myriad of creative work being done in technical theater every day.