After almost 15 years of inactivity, the New York Section of USITT is making its comeback.
The section was deactivated in 1990 because business was too good, according to Rich Wolpert, newly elected chair of the section and the catalyst for its rebirth. “After a major conference in New York in 1990, the section just sort of fizzled out because holding the conference was so much work,” he says. “Then the boom of the 90s hit and everyone became too busy to deal with it.”
The first meeting to discuss the re-launch of the NY Section occurred at the USITT conference in Long Beach in March after a flurry of emails and postings to the stagecraft.com site, according to Wolpert. Wolpert, president of Union Connector in NY, spent more time discussing the section's reactivation at the Stage Expo than exhibiting his company's wares.
USITT's national board voted unanimously to reactivate the section, making a lot of people happy from the NYC area. “The Board was ecstatic that New York was going to come back,” he said. “My God, it's Broadway after all, the Mecca for the entire industry!”
Unlike most USITT sections, the NY section has demographic boundaries rather than geopolitical boundaries, enabling the section to extend beyond typical borders. For example, the NY section will include members as far south as Princeton, NJ, as far west as eastern Pennsylvania, as far north as Poughkeepsie, NY, and as far east as Hartford, CT, with the obvious epicenter in New York City.
One of the goals of the new NY section is to start a mentoring program for students just embarking on their careers. “If there's some kid working on his BFA, he needs to know who to see or where to go,” Wolpert says. “This is what USITT is supposed to be and we want to make sure that the new kids get a step up or a hand.”
Luckily, getting the section legally reactivated was not as big a hassle has Wolpert had envisioned; it had never been officially “deactivated.” Therefore, the section is still incorporated in the state of New York and is considered an active corporation.
The section is gaining momentum as a number of companies have volunteered to hold workshops and Wolpert feels that it will grow very quickly. “The New York section has the potential to be the biggest in the nation because people have been waiting for this to happen for a long time,” he says.
Aside from Wolpert, the NY Section officers are: Scott Parker (vice chair); Rebecca Cunningham, secretary; Frank Herbert, treasurer; by-laws committee chairs Michael Eddy and Nadine Charlesen (vice chair); Wolpert and Herbert will chair the membership committee.