USITT 2017 Was a Record Event for the Annual Conference

by Michael Eddy

SYRACUSE, NY—This year's USITT’s Annual Conference & Stage Expo brought 5,500 attendees and 307 exhibitors to St. Louis, making it the biggest USITT yet. This is second time St. Louis has hosted the Annual Conference, bringing in an economic impact of $5.88 million, with attendees filling 10 hotels in downtown St. Louis and patronizing local arts venues and dining establishments throughout their stay.

Further information from USITT (

Keynote Presenter Ken Page: Animated Broadway veteran and voice actor Ken Page, best known for his voicework in the cult classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas, gave a rousing keynote address to kick off the start of the Annual Conference & Stage Expo. His personal anecdotes, stories of his time as a director, and a short sampling of his operatic voice filled the America’s Center Ballroom.

USITT Stage Expo: The entrance of Stage Expo took on a new look this year with a 136-ft. seamless video wall covering the entirety of the entrance. This spectacle invited thousands of people to gather and swarm the Expo as soon as the doors opened to a huge display of theatre technology comprised of over 300 exhibitors.

Closing Night: With a closing night celebration planned for 1,100 attendees at City Museum, the walls were pushed to their limits when a record 1,500 came to celebrate and partake in the whimsical world of underground caves, 10-story slides, and even a fully functioning human hamster wheel.

Distinguished Achievement Award Winners: A Friday morning panel entitled Distinguished Award Winners in Conversation gathered together Rocky Paulson, Fred Foster, Liz Covey, Rick Thomas, Santo Loquasto, Joseph Drummond, John Conklin, and Wally Russell Mentor Award winner Ellen Schlaefer for a lively exchange about their lives and career experiences.

Gateway & Diversity: USITT’s Gateway Program brought 12 students from underrepresented populations in entertainment production to the Conference. These students were paired with mentors to enhance their experience and boost their careers.

A Gateway Roundtable was held where mentors and mentees came together to discuss their Conference experience and feelings towards the Gateway Program. USITT also offered several sessions on diversity and accessibility in the arts, as well as sessions tailored to production technology for worship services, and “green” production, among other trending issues.

INNOVA: USITT’s Executive Director David Grindle announced the upcoming launch of INNOVA: Online Learning for Professionals in Entertainment Design & Technology.

INNOVA is a dual partnership between USITT and ESTA. INNOVA is a platform that will give you access to on-demand classes created by experts, vetted by experts, and delivered via a platform that meets standards for continuing education credits for certification renewals. With INNOVA, you will be able to purchase courses, view them on your schedule, and receive certificates of credit for certification renewal, or to submit to your employer for proof of continuing education. INNOVA is slated to launch at the end of April.

Sponsors: USITT extended a thank you to all the event sponsors and partners who were a part of USITT 2017. To see a full list of sponsors and partners, visit there show site, here.

USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, is a national non-profit association for the live entertainment production industry. It provides hands-on learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities for emerging and working professionals in the backstage arts. Its Annual Conference and Stage Expo is the only complete production event in North America, featuring over 250 training sessions and 280 exhibitors of the latest tools and resources for creating live entertainment. More information is available at