Christopher Newton, artistic director emeritus of the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake, will deliver the keynote that kicks off USITT's 45th Annual Conference & Stage Expo March 16 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Newton, who was born in England and educated in the US, has spent more than four decades contributing to Canadian theatre. USITT will recognize Newton for all that he has done to enhance the cultural life of the region with the 2005 Thomas DeGaetani Award. The DeGaetani Award is given to honor a lifetime contribution to the performing arts community in a particular region.

Newton will give the keynote at 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 16 in the Concert Hall of the Fairmont Royal York hotel. Major conference events will be held at the Fairmont Royal York and the nearby Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Conference sessions, seminars, and meetings begin on March 16 and continue until Saturday evening, March 19. Day-long and multi-day Professional Development Workshops and regional events, including a tour to the Shaw Festival, begin on Sunday, March 13.

Newton's tenure as the Shaw Festival's artistic director began in 1980 and continued for more than 20 years. Before joining the Shaw, he was founding artistic director of Theatre Calgary in 1968 and was co-founder of Playhouse Acting School. His many acting credits include Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Stratford Festival, and roles at the Shaw. He has even more extensive directing credits for the Shaw Festival and other organizations.

While at the Shaw, he initiated The Academy which has evolved into a professional development program featuring vice and movement classes, scene study, specialized workshops and workshop productions. Another initiative, The Toronto Project, allows The Shaw Acting Ensemble to showcase works from Canada and abroad, while yet another project, collaborations with international theatre companies, allow designers, directors, craftspeople, and administrators to exchange ideas and skills.

USITT's Annual Conference & Stage Expo is expected to draw more than 3,600 designers and technicians in the performing arts and entertainment industry to Toronto, one of the largest gatherings of technical professionals in the world. Stage Expo, which will be held March 17 to 19, may break records as USITT's largest trade show ever.

Extensive information about the Conference, along with complete day-by-day listings of USITT's sessions, sessions grouped by interest area, and registration information, is available at www.usitt.org/Toronto2005 or by calling 800-93USITT.