USITT Recap: Love at First Sight

by Katy McGlaughlin
Author attending USITT with Jonathan Allender-Zivic (left) and Stephanie Schoelzel (right)
Author attending USITT with Jonathan Allender-Zivic (left) and Stephanie Schoelzel (right)

It has been over a week since USITT and I am still processing the experience! I met some incredible people, saw some inspiring technology, and attended some stellar sessions. It was a wonderfully overwhelming experience and I can’t wait for next year! (St. Louis March 8-11)  

Walking into the opening Keynote address it was very evident that this was a technical theatre conference, the haze and moving lights were in full force as well as some intricately warped projections! Tupac Martir had enough energy to wake anyone up and spoke poignantly about his take on creating. He introduced a new chapter (actually 12) in his “50 year project” ‘Unique’. Each person received 1 of 12 books with a series of images and sayings from the project – they came with the instructions to read them, sign them, and trade them. It led to several conversations with new acquaintances and a look into this fascinating project. Last year’s contribution to the project was also on display in the lobby: the images were cut into metal with moving lights illuminating first one then another while music written specifically for the project played.

From there I went to an excellent session run by a couple of the Cirque du Soleil stage managers about setting and fulfilling expectations. Then I checked in for my first student volunteer hours (I spent 20 hours of the week as a room monitor). There were over 300 sessions offered over the course of the week in a wide variety of topics and areas of interest. I attended mostly management and leadership sessions but also a session called “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage” with a panel discussing some of the hazards of theatre and how to keep yourself healthy, and one about ACN and RDM (something to do with lighting). They had sessions on teaching with board games and mixing faith with theatre – truly something for everyone.

I was lucky enough to be traveling with a couple of folks who have attended many USITT conferences and one of the coolest parts of the trip was watching the connections; seeing friends greet each other and catch up after not seeing each other for who knows how long – I even ran into some old friends I wasn’t expecting! I know that the theatre world is small but being in a crowd of 4500 and meeting a fellow Gorlock really brought it home how connected we are in our business.

Perhaps the most breathtaking part of the journey was the first glimpse of the Expo floor – fog, lights, and truss everywhere! And the energy of the crowd in anticipation of the grand opening was unbelievable! I managed to snag one of the coveted Syracuse Stage bags and more t-shirts than I know what to do with. There were ZFX flying demonstrations and a new “eSET” jeopardy game. Words can’t describe the enormity and variety of the conference.  I am excited to test out the new collaboration app - CollbrJabbr and look more closely at Callboard and Co’s calendar and daily call app.

I made valuable connections, caught up with old friends, saw some incredible technology, and even learned a few things!  Despite coming home almost as tired as I left and not finishing any of the homework I brought with me it was an awesome trip and I am so glad that I got to attend!