Faculty Members Contribute to Success of the 2022 USITT Conference

MFA Students at USITT Conference
School of Theatre and Dance faculty members Tamara L. Honesty, associate professor of scenic design, Michelle Hunt Souza, assistant professor of costume design, Grace Cochran Keenan, assistant professor of costume technology, and Jakyung C. Seo, associate professor of lighting design recently made significant contributions at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) annual conference in Baltimore, one of the largest theatre conferences in the country. 

Founded in 1960, USITT promotes dialogue, research, and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology and is the leader in life-long learning opportunities for the entertainment design and technology industry. The organization's annual conference is an important resource for students across the United States and is regularly attended by School of Theatre and Dance students and faculty. USITT’s networking events provided great opportunities for conference-goers to engage and make up for lost face-to-face time over the past two years. 

Tammy Honesty and Islay Reed
Tamara Honesty currently serves as the vice president for education and training for USITT. In this role, she oversees the educational content for both the annual conference and stage expo as well as year-round webinars, trainings, and symposia. It takes a small army of people to curate and deliver such high-quality of programming – this year, Honesty worked with seventeen commissions/affinity to develop programming for eleven hands-on learning spaces with 100 sessions and over 200 lecture or discussion-based sessions with close to 400 presenters. There were close to 3,700 attendees at the first in-person conference since 2019, which had a record-breaking total of over 6,000 attendees.

Honesty also chaired two star-studded sessions for the scenic design commission. The first session was with Disney imagineer, Dan Brookwell. Through questions that were vetted through Walt Disney Entertainment, she moderated a conversation about Mr. Brookwell’s experience as a production designer and Walt Disney imagineer for Walt Disney Entertainment and Theme Parks. The second session was a two-part session with the award-winning production designer, Kristen Adams, called “Making Books into Movies.” This exceptional presentation was about using the storytelling roots of a theatre degree to manifest a career as a music video, game show, Emmy® award-winning daytime talk show designer, as well as how to develop novels into feature length films. Each of these sessions had close to 200 people in attendance.

As a member of the USITT I.D.E.A.S. committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Social Justice), Honesty led the Women in Theatre session, which was a session of 200+ women and allies who tackled the topic of “Lift and Be Lifted: How to Define Both Our Goals and Our Community.” This session focused on defining ways we can recognize when we are elevated and how we can be more thoughtful about boosting others through group work at tables to cultivate a network of support by meeting new people.

Michelle Souza
Michelle Souza had dual roles at this year's USITT conference. The first was creator and host of the networking event "Pub Trivia," for which she wrote over 60 trivia questions and delivered them over the course of two evenings. This event was part of an initiative by USITT to increase engagement and networking at the conference. Each evening event included six rounds of five questions, plus a halftime question, and a final round. All the questions were related to theatre design and technology, theatre history, and theatrical literature. Attendees formed teams of five to ten members to answer the questions, the highest number of points won the game. Over the course of both nights approximately 300 participants packed the room. 

Souza also led a very well attended panel entitled "Costume History - New Strategies in Teaching." In this session she and three others presented methodologies for examining costume history through a lens that is both feminist and anti-racist, methodologies for RE-constructing costume studies, finding intersections between indigenous cultures, materiality, (post)-colonialism, and gender theory and presented case studies of successful methodological shifts as experienced in the classroom. The panel included Kent State University’s assistant professor Grace Cochran Keenan. Keenan presented the work she had done to the School of Theatre & Dance's course, History of Costume & Textile for Theatre, which covers a global clothing history while focusing on the learning objectives that are most useful for our students, such as learning how to research a specific time and place, both the society and cultural that existed as well as the clothing as that is a large part of the process of research for a production. The panel was extremely well-received by the professionals, educators, and students in attendance.

Keenan also presented a micro-session for the "Education Commission, Creating Costume Tech Curriculum."  This session focused on the process of how she approached developing a costume tech curriculum for a program that may have one or two courses on the books, but is seeing a knowledge gap in their students due to not being able to cover enough costume production techniques for the students of today. The micro-session discussed how to figure out learning objectives in costume technology for each year during a student's matriculation, how current courses fit into that overall arch, and what courses would be needed to fill in the gaps. How to look critically at one's own department to see what is feasible as far as student population and how to talk to administration about the role of the courses in the larger curriculum and departmental needs was also discussed. 

Jakyung Seo has been participating with USITT since 2006 when she was an assistant lighting design professor at University of Cincinnati and has presented more than ten sessions at the USITT conference. This year Seo was a session chair of "Computational Thinking in Performing Arts." The session presented examples on how a course and workshop for computer science and theatrical technology students was created. Ideas for performing art students, enhancing critical thinking, and developing a skill set for solving complex problems through Computational Thinking, Making, and Acting (CTMA) education were also presented. 

Seo has been a co-chair of the Lighting Graphics Recommendation Practice at USITT with Gregg Hillmar since 2016. As a co-chair Seo has been working to collect various lighting and drafting examples and paperwork from lighting designers who work in Broadway, touring, concert, regional, and community theatre companies. This learning process on how various lighting designers have been drafting their plots and sections will lead to a recommendation practice to give guidance of theatrical lighting graphics.

Another highlight was that School of Theatre and Dance faculty and students were able to connect with many alumni from Kent State University, such as Islay Reed (pictured with Tamara Honesty), Tetta Askeland, Alex Barnhart, and Steve Sawicki.

For more information on USITT visit https://www.usitt.org.

Photos, top to bottom: MFA Students Jaemin Park, Kathalina Thorpe and Travis Williams in attendance at the USITT ConferenceAssociate professor Tamara L. Honesty and School of Theatre and Dance alumni Islay Reed at USITT; Assistant professor Michelle Souza; Assistant professor Grace Cochran Keenan; Associate professor Jakyung Seo



Media Contact:

Joni Koneval, 330-672-0116, jkoneval@kent.edu

POSTED: Monday, April 4, 2022 02:19 PM
UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 05:24 PM