Four Northern Michigan University theater and dance students attended the recent U.S. Institute for Theater Technology (USITT) Conference and Stage Expo in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Students attended sessions and workshops led by some of the industry’s leading professionals and talked with exhibitors about the latest innovations and services.
“There are few organizations that can offer the same opportunities as USITT,” said Assistant Professor David Pierce, who accompanied the students to the conference. “It is the premier event for theater design professionals. The conference features many industry guest speakers and the networking opportunities will greatly benefit our students’ work.”
The four NMU students who competed were: Emily Baker, sophomore from Muskegon, Mich.; Hannah Cormier, senior from Wakefield, Mich.; Lily Howder, senior from Cadott, Wis.; and Regan McKay, junior from Wittenberg, Wis.
“I was able to connect with industry professionals and explore employment and graduate school opportunities,” McKay said. “Conferences like USITT are invaluable resources to advancing a technical theater student's career and I am so happy that my university was able to send myself and my classmates."
In addition to the conference, the students participated in the USITT Tech Olympics, a series of events designed to test their skills at various disciplines involved in theater production. Their team, named “Messy Bun, Gettin’ it Done”, competed as the only all-female group in the Tech Olympics. Pierce said that by competing, the team hoped to send a message to the traditionally male-dominated technical theater field that female technicians can do the work just as well.
“While we didn’t place, we still had fun and experienced personal growth through taking the chance,” said Cormier. “I also had the opportunity to connect with other professionals and gather advice, which was enriching.”
The students look forward to taking what they learned at the conference and using it in their careers. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend this conference and look forward to applying what I learned at USITT into the theatre program here at the Forest Roberts Theatre,” said Baker. “Conferences like USITT are invaluable resources to advancing a Technical Theatre student's career.” Added McKay.
While in Ft. Lauderdale, the students visited the global headquarters of Chauvet’s, an industry-leading manufacturer of lighting and special effects equipment.
"USITT was an exciting learning opportunity that I am very thankful I was able to experience,” Baker said. “I was able to attend sessions that pertained to aspects of technical theatre that I am interested in. I also was able to tour a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship and got to go on a full tour of the Chauvet’s. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend this conference and look forward to applying what I learned at USITT to the theatrer program here at the Forest Roberts Theatre."
The trip was funded by Student Travel Funds awarded through the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences and the CAPS department.