SDSU TTF Students Head to Louisville for USITT Conference


By Adam Parrocha (MFA Student in Scenic Design)

Where else can you find fog machines, winches, moving lights, outrageous fabrics and theatre lovers? Studio 54 in its heyday? No Need to go back in time—all that and more were on display at the United States Institute of Theatre Technology’s annual conference. Founded in 1960, USITT is a prominent leader of theatre and entertainment design, management, and technology. This year’s conference took place in Louisville, Kentucky, and brought together hundreds of exhibitors ranging from industry giants like Disney Live Entertainment and Cirque du Soleil to industry vendors showcasing their latest gadgets and gizmos galore. The Stage Expo floor was a one-stop shop showcasing everything needed to go out and put on a show.

San Diego State University was just one of many colleges and universities that had representatives (like me) on hand to answer questions of prospective students and to hand out free swag! Conferences are all about the free swag. Students interested in the MFA program at SDSU were curious about our facilities, design opportunities, season selection, student to teacher ratio and if our weather is as terrible as they say-just kidding, it’s San Diego! We also touted our fabulous design faculty, like two-time Scenic Design Tony Award nominee Ralph Funicello, our TV and Film department being named one of the Top 10 Production Design schools in the country by the Hollywood Reporter and the incredible number of our alumni working throughout the city at the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, and beyond. Did you know LucasFilm’s Kathleen Kennedy is an alumnus? The Force is strong at SDSU.

Beside showcasing the newest industry trends, industry professionals led informational sessions ranging in topics from digital painting in Photoshop to preserving the immense painted backdrops created at MGM and 20th Century Fox studios in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

An event that is a true highlight of the conference are the Tech Olympics. Coaches from colleges and universities guide their student members through a series of timed events that put to the test the skills needed in a theatrical environment. Some of the challenges included helping an actor with a costume quick change, the ability to tie a series of knots (a clove hitch, a trucker’s hitch and a bowline), and to hang, focus, and strike a lighting instrument.

The USITT conference was a fantastic opportunity to network with industry professionals and to see all the incredibly imaginative set, costume, and light plot displays from passionate and highly-driven design students madly in love with live entertainment.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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