Chairman of the theatre department at Oklahoma State University, Bruce Brockman comes to the post of president of USITT with a strong background in scenic design and academic administration. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Stage Design at Emporia State University in Emporia, KS, where he studied design with Forrest Newlin. Brockman received his MFA in design at Illinois State University, where he studied with Andy Andreasen. Ellen Lampert Gréaux recently checked in with Brockman at the start of his two-year term.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux: Can you briefly describe your career path?
Bruce Brockman: I went straight from graduate school into teaching at Northeast Missouri State University where I was a one-man technical theatre program. I left there and went to the University of Idaho in 1980, where I taught for 17 years. I became the chair of the theatre department at the University of Idaho around 1985 and chaired there for 10 years while continuing to design and serve as producing director and resident designer for Idaho Repertory Theatre. I have been in my current position for six years. I also work regularly as a freelance designer and scenic artist.
ELG: When did you first get involved with USITT?
Brockman: In 1980, when I joined to go to the conference in Overland Park, KS, which was very close to where I grew up. I got my job at the University of Idaho at that conference.
ELG: How do you see the role of the USITT president?
Brockman: The president is in essence the chief executive officer of an organization that is really run as a collaborative group effort. Because I believe that the success of USITT is so directly connected to this team approach, I think my primary function is to make sure that all of the volunteers who make this organization work have the resources and the information to accomplish their individual jobs, and retain their sense of joint ownership of the organization.
ELG: What is the mission of the organization?
Brockman: As a membership organization, I think we are unique in many ways. Our mission states, “We are committed to actively promoting the advancement of the knowledge and skills of our members.” This is clearly our central purpose and our conference and our publications are built around that mission, but we fulfill lots of needs for our members in other ways as well. A lot of people get work through USITT, formally through the placement service that we provide or through our classified ads, as well as informally through the professional and personal contacts that they make in the organization.
ELG: How do you see USITT in terms of the entertainment design and technology industry?
Brockman: USITT plays a unique role in that I believe the majority of our members are still primarily focused on the art. We have retained the word “theatre” in our name because for most of us those are our roots, even though we have many members who are working professionals in film, television, and other related production technologies.
ELG: What kind of academic role does the organization play?
Brockman: It is really interesting that we have so many students who are joining USITT. I hear from more and more people that they come to our national conference because it is a good place to get young employees. However, we don't really program our conferences for our student members. The programming is done for our regular professional members. Our student members are coming to a realization that they are studying to become part of a profession and the earlier they start to access the professionals, the earlier they will begin their careers.
ELG: What are your goals for the next two years?
Brockman: To help orchestrate a long-range planning vision that is shared by the whole organization. We are putting a lot of effort into our international activities, which will include hosting the OISTAT World Congress in 2005, the first World Stage Design Exhibition that will be held in conjunction with the 2005 World Congress and our 2005 Conference. We also hope to see a growing number of international designers and technicians attending our conferences and joining our organization. We are currently in the process of developing the United States entry in the 2003 Prague Quadrennial, which will open next June in the Czech Republic.
ELG: What would you like to leave as your legacy to USITT?
Brockman: I guess like anyone in this kind of a position, I hope to leave the organization a little better off than when I found it, and I found it in really good shape. I want to make sure that our members get their money's worth and that every dollar we spend somehow benefits all of our members. And I want to make sure that we retain a good solid leadership structure that strikes an even balance between our professional staff and our volunteers.
Two or three things you may not know about Bruce Brockman: His brother Lance is also a scenic designer, is also a theatre department administrator, also studied at Emporia State University, and has also served on the board of directors for USITT; Bruce's fellow students at Illinois State University included John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, and others who went on to form Steppenwolf Theatre Co.