The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) held its 40th annual conference and stage expo in Denver, CO, from March 22 to 25, with over 150 technical theatre sessions for the 3,500 attendees.
The conference began with a birthday bash, held in the Donald R. Seawell Grand Ballroom in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Numerous birthday cakes decorated with the logos of Birthday Bash sponsors added a festive touch to the evening, which included a historical retrospective of USITT highlights and an overview of the efforts of the numerous individuals who dedicated their time to the organization. The cake sponsorship, in addition to allowing for many sponsors to participate in the event and gain visibility, allowed the attendees an opportunity to sample many different cakes!
As in years past, sessions were offered from 8am to 10pm, and were well attended, with some sessions SRO. There were sessions on costuming, makeup, sound, lighting, and rigging, as well as one titled "Communication Between Costume, Lighting, and Scene Designers." David Johnson, editor of Entertainment Design, participated as a panelist in "Writing for Publication," which offered advice on how to select and write about technical subjects for eventual publication as an article, paper, or book. The ever-popular New Products Showcase attracted over 20 manufacturers and featured new product demonstrations, slides, and computer software demos, originally composed music, skits by company representatives imitating actors, and copious amounts of SWAG. Richard Durst continued his role as MC, and kept the enthusiastic crowd from getting too rambunctious and rushing the stage to get the occasional free products that were offered.
The Stage Expo showcased businesses, products, services, and educational opportunities and included exhibitions of theatrical designs and craft demonstrations. The Design Expo, a display within Stage Expo, is a juried exhibit of scenery, costume, and lighting design in the performing arts created by Institute members.
As befits an organization devoted to the theatre, and technical theatre in particular, awards and special recognition for publications and special design accomplishments are numerous and highly coveted. Some were announced at the Tech Expo held on the Stage Expo floor among the exhibits and tables for various universities, and others were announced at a formal banquet.
Van Phillips, who has served the USITT for 30 years, as both a board member and chair of the finance and awards committees was presented with the newly-renamed Joel E. Rubin Founder's Award by Dr. Rubin himself.
Harvey Lichtenstein, formerly associated with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, (for over 30 years), received the USITT Award in recognition of his efforts to provide, "countless opportunities for artists and audiences to explore new horizons."
Donald R. Seawell received the Thomas DeGaetani Award for his efforts on behalf of the Denver Performing Arts Center.
Vari-Lite, the automated lighting company, received a Special Citation "given to recognize outstanding achievement in any area of the performing arts by an individual or an organization." Richard Pilbrow presented the award to Vari-Lite's Rusty Brutsche.
Distinguished Achievement Awards were given in recognition of a major service to USITT, the performing arts and entertainment industry, or outstanding potential for future achievement. Three recipients were honored: Charlie Richmond for his accomplishments in sound design, Deborah M. Dryden for her accomplishments in costuming, and Robert Scales for his accomplishments in technical production. The Golden Pen Award, given in recognition of an advanced-level textbook, was presented to Alys Holden and Bronislaw (Ben) Sammler for Structural Design for the Stage.
Recognizing that theatre productions require space, and that innovative and well-designed spaces deserve to be celebrated, a three-person panel judges entries and awards three projects with Honor Awards and two others with Merit Awards. This year, he judges for the architecture awards were Richard Blinder, a founding partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, Roger Morgan, co-author of Space for Dance, and Paul Westlake, FAIA and USITT architecture commissioner.
Honor Award winners were: Radio City Music Hall in New York; the Sorenson Performing Arts Center at Babson College in Wellesley, MA; and the Julio Prestes Railway Station Building-Sao Paulo Concert Hall in Brazil. Merit Award recipients included: the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles.
The architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates was represented in both the Honor and Merit categories, serving as architect on both the Radio City and Colburn School projects. Radio City is owned by Cablevision/Madison Square Gardens. Theatre consultant on the project was Fisher Dachs Associates, with Jaffe Holden Scarbrough as acoustical consultant.
Architect for the Richard Sorenson Performing Arts Center, owned by Babson College, is William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., with Theatre Projects Consultants, Inc. as theatre consultant and R. Lawrence Kirkegaard & Associates serving as acoustical consultant.
Architect for the Julio Prestes Railway Station--Sao Paulo Concert Hall project is Nelson Dupre --Dupre Arquitetura & Coordenacao, with Artec Consultants, Inc. and Acunha Sole Engenharia as theatre consultants. Artec Consultants and Acustica & Sonica were acoustical consultants on the project, which is owned by the local secretary of culture of the state of Sao Paulo.
For the Colburn School of Performing Arts, owned by the Colburn School, the theatre consultant was Knudson and Benson and acoustical consultant was McKay Conant Brook.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center was designed by architects Barton Myers Associates, Inc. and Wilson Woodridge Architects, with Fisher Dachs Associates as theatre consultants and Artec Consultants, Inc. as acoustical consultants.
Five young designers and technicians from throughout the country were recognized for their achievements when they received United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc.'s Awards for Young Designers & Technicians for 2000. These talented achievers received $1,000 each in addition to the awards.
The KM Fabrics Technical Production Award was given to Scott Conn of the Yale School of Drama; Ben Sammler nominated him for the honor. KM Fabrics, sponsor of the award, began the USITT tradition by establishing the first award in 1995.
Bryan R. Schlegel, a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, received the USITT Clear-Com Intercom Systems Sound Achievement Award; Eric D. Cronwall nominated him.
The Barbizon Award for Lighting Design was presented to Ann Courtney, a 1999 graduate of the University of South Carolina. She was nominated for the Barbizon Award by James Hunter.
Andrea Varga received the Zelma H. Weisfeld Costume Design & Technology Award for her work. Varga, a 1999 graduate of Florida State University, received her undergraduate degree from Utah State University. She is a past participant in USITT's Young Designer's Forum and was nominated for the prize by Colleen Muscha.
Winner of the 2000 Frederick A. Buerki Golden Hammer Scenic Technology Award is Chuck Adomanis, who is also a graduate student at Yale and was nominated by Sammler.
Five new Fellows were announced and inducted at the Denver Conference & Stage Expo, the first time new Fellows have been named in three years. They are: Dennis Dorn, the head of production for undergraduate and graduate training at the drama department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Cindy Limauro, associate professor of lighting design at Carnegie Mellon University and head of design and performance for the School of Drama; Richard Stephens, University of Texas, Austin, scenery shop manager for the Department of Drama and Dance; LeRoy Stoner, the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; and John Uthoff, currently an associate professor of lighting and sound design for the Department of Speech Communication, Theatre, and Dance at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.
USITT will be staging its 41st Conference in Long Beach, CA, from March 21-24 next year. More information about USITT can be obtained from (315) 463-6463 or from the organization's website: www.usitt.org.