For the past year I have had the unique opportunity to shadow Mark Shanda in his role as President. I am truly indebted to him for his consummate wisdom, thoughtful insight and gentle guidance. Mark and I have been friends for more than 35 years; since we were graduate students together at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying under the incomparable Dennis Dorn. It was Dennis who encouraged us to become involved in USITT all those years ago. USITT became my professional family; an important part of my life, my work, my lifeline, and my friends. USITT is a truly remarkable organization.
As I start my presidency, I am thankful for USITT’s strong base of support. The success of our annual Conference and Stage Expo affords us the opportunity to expand into areas that were not possible just five years ago. I hope to build upon Mark’s solid foundation of fundraising, which will stabilize our finances and allow for continued year-round education, training opportunities, and expanded research grants.
We will continue to improve our Conference programming for all skill levels, and I encourage everyone to attend at least one session that challenges their abilities. Be curious. Learning and homework do not stop once you leave school. Learning is a lifelong adventure. USITT is there as a partner. Get involved, make a difference, and you will be amazed at what you discover and the network you will build along the way.
Looking to the future, USITT must embrace its commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). We have the capacity to help attract and train a new and broader generation of theater professionals that reflect the United States of the 21st century. The Gateway Program is just the beginning of this commitment. I encourage more outreach to high school students in STEM and robotics programs and we will expand the scope of our EDI Committee.
Another area of expansion for our organization is event safety. Sadly, this is a concern for all public spaces today and the research on best practices is changing constantly. USITT should be working to keep our membership abreast of the most up-to-date safety information.
In two years USITT will celebrate 60 years, our diamond jubilee, at our Conference and Stage Expo in Houston. In 60 years we have grown to more than 3,900 members of all skill levels from all areas of the industry. Our annual Conference and Stage Expo has more than 5,000 attendees and more than 315 vendors. I look forward to working together with all of you to position this organization to be relevant for the next 60 years.