By: Dan Culhane, USITT President

June 30 marks the end of my first year as President of the Institute and I would like to take a moment to reflect on some accomplishments from the past year and highlight a few challenges as we look ahead to our 60th anniversary.

This past March we had the largest, most-attended Stage Expo ever in our history, with more 5,000 attendees, 350 exhibitors, and over 400 educational opportunities. This sets the bar very high for USITT 2020 next April. I am looking forward to seeing what new and wondrous things the Houston Conference has to offer.

We launched a new capital campaign called, “Setting the Next Stage,” and I am pleased to report that we are already over half way to our goal of $600,000. This money is important to financially stabilize the Institute and help us to attain our stated goals of supporting research, awards and early career programs, diversity and inclusion, the Rigging Safety Initiative, international activities, and reinforcing the future of USITT. Although we are over half way there, we still need your assistance to reach our final goal.

The Prague Quadrennial (PQ) just wrapped up in the Czech Republic and was by all accounts a major success for USITT. Thank you to all the amazing people behind the exhibit; especially for allowing it to be on display at the Conference in Louisville for all of us to experience. The digital portion of the exhibit will come back and have a new life touring the country to any space willing to cover the freight costs. This tour opens up a new era for the PQ exhibit that was previously not possible for such large-scale projects.

This past year we have seen a substantial increase in the number of Jay O. Glerum Rigging Masterclasses hosted around the country. Furthermore, we continue to fund the Rigging Safety Initiative, which provides free rigging inspections and safety training sessions for secondary schools across the nation.

The Costume Symposium provides an in-depth learning opportunity for specific areas of costuming. This past year dealt with “Costume to Cosplay,” while the next symposium to be held in late July and into early August deals with Synthetic Whalebone Corsetry. We hope to see many veteran and aspiring costumers in attendance.

We launched a new webinar series titled “Business of the Business,” geared to assist freelance theatre technicians in dealing with business management. This is an area a lot of young people in the industry struggle with; hopefully this series is a compelling and useful resource for anyone in that situation.

All that being said, this past year has had some challenges that we are still working through.  First and foremost is the annual budget. With the global market uncertainties of late, I requested and passed a balanced budget for our 60th anniversary year. This is no small feat, as USITT is an organization with many areas of interest. Passing a balanced budget that is sensitive to these many areas is only possible with the support from the Board of Directors; Kim Scott, our Treasurer; and the entire Finance Committee as well as the Institute’s staff in Syracuse. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who helped draft and pass our balanced budget for the coming year.

We also saw a transition of the Vice President for Conferences from Jack Feivou to Lea Asbell-Swanger. It is sad to see Jack transition away from Conferences due to a work relocation, however we are glad to see that Lea accepted the Vice President for Conferences position and is already making quite the impact.

Mark Shanda, the Immediate Past President has completed his duties in that role. I would like to thank him for his guidance and assistance this past year. Mark is still chairing the “Setting the Next Stage” campaign, and I am happy that he accepted such an important role in securing our future.

Looking ahead, I am excited that we are presenting the first-ever Digital Media Symposium in Binghamton, NY, taking place Sept. 4-6. This exciting event features Ana Herruzo, architect, designer, and programmer, along with Finn Ross, a Tony Award-winning video designer. The inaugural symposium will focus on those behind the art of digital media.

This past year has seen many accomplishments and challenges that have set us up for success approaching our 60th anniversary. I am humbled and grateful to be part of such a far reaching organization. USITT is a driving force that is greatly impacting the future of our industry.