Over 4,000 designers, academics, and manufacturers attended the United States Institute for Theatre Technology's 39th Annual Conference and Stage Expo in Toronto, March 24-27. Held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center's new South Building, the show covered over 100,000 sq. ft. of space, providing a mix of manufacturer booths, exhibitions of theatrical designs, technical solutions to theatrical problems, demonstrations, and a host of seminars.

Over four days, conference sessions offered programs on theatre architecture, costume design and technology, education, engineering, health and safety, lighting, sound, management, scene design, and technical production. The Entertainment Services & Technology Association (ESTA), the League of the Resident Theatres (LORT), and the United Scenic Artists (USA) sponsored additional sessions.

One notable event was the all-day master class in lighting design, featuring Richard Pilbrow and Dawn Chiang. A demonstration of WYSIWG by Robert Bell of Cast Lighting, and a brief introduction to automated lighting by Jim Waits of Vari-Lite rounded out the session.

Design programs such as "Gobos Galore: A New Look at Using Gobos in Lighting Design," presented by Sholem Dolgoy, attracted a standing room-only audience and created an awareness of the many new products being offered by manufacturers at the show.

The annual USITT awards banquet was once again a high point of the Conference and Stage Expo, offering an opportunity for attendees to network and renew old friendships as well as recognize the accomplishments and lifelong achievements of others. The following is a roundup of some of this year's recipients:

Jean Hunnisett of the UK received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Costume for a lifetime of work, which has included costume creation, teaching, and writing. Lester Polakov of New York was presented with the Distinguished Achievement Award in Scenery. His work includes design, teaching, and developing the Forum and Studio of Scene Design in New York. Abe Jacob, another New Yorker, received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Sound Design for his notable work in sound design for the theatre, audio system design, and as a founder of the Theatrical Sound Designers Association. Richard Pilbrow was presented with the Distinguished Achievement Award in Lighting Design for his impact on lighting design on two continents, both as a designer and producer.

Richard K. Heusel was presented with a Special Citation for his long-time support of the Institute and his initiative in establishing the USITT Awards for Young Designers and Technicians in the Performing Arts. Timothy L. Kelly received the USITT Founders Award for his continuing outstanding contributions to the Institute, including leadership of the Grants and Fellowship Committee, which reviews projects seeking USITT's support.

Architecture Awards for six theatres honored new construction or creative retrofitting of existing structures. Honor Award recipients were: The Ford Center for the Performing Arts in New York, by architect Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP; and the Royce Hall seismic renovation in Los Angeles, by architect Anshen + Allen Los Angeles.

Merit Awards were presented for work on the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival in Madison, NJ, by Ford Farewell Mills and Gatsch; the requalification of the Theatre d'Angouleme in d'Angouleme, France, by Valantin Fabre and Jean Perrottet; the Santa Fe Opera Theatre by Polshek Partnership; and the Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, by Atelier R/Tadashi Saito.

Six special projects showing how theatre technology integrates "ingenuity, craft and artistic expression" were awarded prizes as part of the 1999 Theatre Technology Exhibit, popularly known as Tech Expo. Tech Expo is held every other year, and includes a display at Stage Expo of the various projects as well as a catalog documenting the technical challenges and step-by-step descriptions of how the challenges were faced. Winners for 1999 were: Greg Bell, for his dodecahedrons for Pinocchio; Dan Brinker, for his shop-built friction drives; Christine Duffield, for sci-fi armor made from egg cartons, art paper, fishing net, and felt; Adrine Levy, for a homemade CNC router; Loren Schreiber, for Gridbits; and Susan Van Dyke, for non-weld steelscenic fabrication using drywall framing studs.

USITT's Grants and Fellowship Committee also met during the Toronto Conference and recommended the approval of more than $32,000 in grant and fellowship support.

For more information about USITT or its activities, visit the institute's website at www.usitt.org, or call (800) 93USITT, or (315) 463-6463. Next year's conference will be held in Denver, CO from March 23 to 25.