28 March 2013


Last week was final exam week at UCI, but it was also the week of the annual USITT conference. This year, the conference was in Milwaukee, so theatre designers and technicians from around the country converged in the frigid north for four days of conferences, seminars, panels, and socializing.  Here are the highlights of the trip, from my perspective:

  • The Guerrilla Sound Challenge, a 3-hour, do-it-yourself, sound design sprint, which I officiated this year.  You can read all about it (and hear the pieces) here.
  • Me Inc, The Business of Being an Artist.  I chaired this panel, featuring three sound designers of national repute: Toy Deiorio, Jim vanBergen, and Tony-Award winner Rob Kaplowitz. We talked about how to make a career as a designer/technician. The audience was packed for this session, filled with designers of all ilks, stage managers, and technicians. I got a lot of great feedback on this session, and I feel pretty good about doing a good job filling in for pal/chair Brad Berridge, who couldn't make the conference this year.
  • The Sound Commission spent a whole day focused on networking, with John Huntington, Davin Huston, and Ellen Juhlin sitting on a panel. They talked about setting up networks, good network management skills, innovation in networking, etc.  I was really excited to see how big AVB has been getting. 
  • Food and drink.  Ellen was our alcohol divining rod, and she led us to a number of great bars. Distil had some terrific cocktails and a chill vibe, and Stir, while more drab in appearance, had a well-cultivated bar and some innovative bitters.  
The low point of the conference was, for me, a session on video design that I attended. It was hosted by the Scenic Design commission, and it was almost entirely useless.  There were five panelists, but only one of them was a full-time video designer. Additionally, that one designer was the only person on the panel who appeared to have an idea about how professional theatre is done.  Of the other four panelists, three were professors with limited professional experience, and one was a scenic design student at one of their schools.  The discussion was uninspiring, and I ended up leaving halfway through.  

Now, with USITT behind us, Mike, Josh, and I are back at UCI with the rest of the cohorts, in the middle of three days of system training/tuning and mixing seminars with Tony Meola, Richard Bugg, Steve Bush, and Gavin Canaan.  It's part technical training, part storytime, and part art.  Fascinating!

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