By: Tim Kelly, USITT Fellow

For the past several years, the Fellows of the Institute have sponsored and promoted a program known as Early Career Mentoring (ECM) and will return for another round at USITT 2020. The program is designed to assist Early Career Members to gain a strong boost to their careers.

This year, two mentees will be selected and will receive complementary USITT 2020 registration, a $1,000 stipend each to offset Conference expenses and will be paired with a senior member in their field of interest.

During USITT19, Heather Brown and Tori Gelling were the recipients of the Fellows ECM Program awards. The following are excerpts from their final reports detailing their experiences.

Heather Brown is a Visiting Lecturer of Lighting and Sound Design at the University of Kentucky. We asked Paul Vincent to be Heather’s mentor and he most graciously accepted the assignment. In her narrative report on her experience she writes in part the following:

I was thrilled to be accepted into the Early Career Mentorship program and for the opportunity to meet and learn from Paul Vincent. He made every effort to get me in contact with new people I never would have gotten the chance to meet otherwise. Paul introduced me to more new contacts this year at USITT than I have been able to make on my own in the last three years as an attendee, combined. I was included in events that were otherwise closed to me, such as the closed Lighting Commission Leadership meeting, Fellows Meeting, and his own retirement party were all great events where I met many new people, all while tailoring opportunities to my interests. Although Paul is now retired, he has been more than happy to answer any questions via phone or email, a wonderful friend and mentor that I would have not otherwise had the chance to make. I am very grateful for this opportunity, and someday I hope I can also be a great mentor like Paul and help the next generation gain stronger connections with which to make their own great contributions to our field, as he has done for me.

Tori Gelling, a graduate of Western Connecticut State University is starting to develop her career in Stage Management. Once again, our extraordinary Elynmarie Kazel stepped up to guide and mentor Tori throughout her time at USITT19. Elynmarie also recruited Joe Drummond and Ira Mont to work closely with Tori. Here is a reflection from Tori:

As a recent graduate, I came to the mentorship with the hope of receiving feedback and advice on my primary goals. This was of special significance to me because my undergraduate program lacked a resident management professor and therefore, I lacked a mentor in my specific concentration. I had the good fortune of being paired with Elynmarie Kazel who, of course, was heavily involved in everything at the Conference and the Stage Manager’s Association. Despite her packed schedule, she diligently spent any off time walking me around the Expo Floor and introducing me to professional after professional. The quality I admire most about Elynmarie is through all the pressures of that week, she made every person she spoke with (including me) feel welcome. Given her crowded schedule, she arranged for me to spend time with Ira Mont, a Broadway Stage Manager and Vice President of Actor’s Equity and Joseph Drummond, a retired production stage manager at the Goodman Theatre. I did get selected to interview with the Julliard School and will shadow one of the Broadway stage managers I met in the coming weeks. Everyone at USITT is there to support your success because they understand us to be the future of technical theatre. Years from now, I hope that I will have the opportunity to return and share my experiences and the lessons I learned with future Early Career Members. I am very grateful to have taken part in this unique experience.

These mentoring connections are truly career-altering and profession enhancing opportunities that assist each ECM in many important ways. Being able to spend one-on-one time with the most creative, active, connected, and selflessly generous professionals in their field provide a leg up in gaining insight, networking opportunities, and confidence-building they could not gain in any other way.

Applications for USITT 2020 Early Career Mentoring will open Nov. 1, 2019.