With a lineup of international activities including the first-ever World Stage Design exhibition, and a vibrant and thriving arts community as a background, USITT's Conference & Stage Expo broke records for both Conference attendance and the size of its Stage Expo.
More than 4,000 people registered for the Conference & Stage Expo held March 16 to 19 in Toronto, described by one participant as one of the most exciting he has attended. "I did not expect so many new ideas," he noted.
A number of sessions were standing room only such as the session where professionals from Cirque du Soleil described their creative and production process. Walking tours of nearby performing arts facilities, including the Opera House under construction in Toronto, made direct connections between the city and its guests.
On Wednesday, keynote speaker Christopher Newton challenged his audience to consider their choices, while Dr. Lawrence Hill, winner of the Joel E. Rubin Founder's Award, challenged the group to think about USITT's future. That evening, Opening Night drew more than 1,000 people to the lobby outside the World Stage Design exhibition. WSD 2005 stayed open late to allow Conference participants the opportunity to see the work of more than 500 designers from around the world displayed in an environment which challenged visitors to see beyond their surroundings.
A variety of sessions featured Distinguished Achievement award winners such as Winston Morgan, Luc Lafortune, Jonathan Deans, William Dudley, and Willa Kim. USITT has launched a Monograph series with Kim as the first subject. The lavishly illustrated monograph, The Designs of Willa Kim, written by Bobbi Owen, includes a detailed account of Kim's life and career along with complete design chronology. The foreword is by Tony Walton who delivered the Keynote Address at USITT's 2004 Conference & Stage Expo and Tommy Tune contributed a "fond remembrance" of their many collaborations.
Jarmila Gabrielova was not present to receive her USITT Award, but she was vividly portrayed for all those attending the Awards Banquet by Eric Fielding, who himself received a Special Citation for his Herculean work to create the first World Stage Design exhibit. Gil Densham, president and CEO of Cast Software also received a Special Citation, while Meredith Chilton received the coveted Golden Pen Award for Harlequin Unmasked: The Commedia dell'Arte and Porcelain Sculpture. Kelly Hanson was named the first winner of a USITT Rising Star award sponsored by Entertainment Design and Lighting Dimensions magazines.
Other awards presented at the Conference included Architecture Awards, Awards for Young Designers & Technicians in the Performing Arts, Student International Travel award, and Herbert D. Greggs awards for writing which appeared in TD&T, Theatre Design & Technology.
Visitors to Stage Expo, USITT's unique trade show, found a wide variety of companies from North America and beyond, launching new products and presenting new technology. Many were featured in the New Products extravaganza with its very own Canadian Mountie and associated rescues and disasters.
While the 2005 USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo is now history, plans are already underway for the 2006 event which will be held March 29 to April 1 in Louisville, KY.
To learn more about USITT, the association of design, production, and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry, visit www.usitt.org. A complete list of those honored in 2005 can be found by following the Awards link on the web page.