Theater dept. attends USITT fall conference

Theater dept. attends USITT fall conference

By Hannah Courtney – Editor

Saturdays are supposed to be reserved for the glorious privilege of sleeping in, but for dedicated (or perhaps just insane)  Assistant Professor of Theater Meta Lasch, Theater Adjunct Richard Deenis and six West Liberty students, it entailed shuffling out at 4:30 a.m. and making a four-hour trek to the 2013 United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) fall conference.

USITT is a national organization composed of educational sessions that teach all things technical theatre. Lasch, Deenis and students attended the Ohio Valley section of the conference located in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Lasch played an even bigger role in USITT as an adjudicator for the Peggy Ezekiel Awards.

According to usittohiovalley.org, the Peggy Ezekiel Awards have been recognizing and celebrating the theatrical design and technical production work of the Ohio Valley Section (OVS) since 1985. Awards are presented each fall during the OVS conference.

According to Lasch, each submission must be from shows that were produced.

How the process works is, for instance, if someone created a prop they were particularly proud of, they’d take photographs, write a statement about the concept, show research pictures, resources, historical information, and then detail the process they went through. Entries can either be professional or educational.

“All the Peggy Ezekiel entries were on display in the lobby and each entry might consist of three to four panels. So while there were 22 entries, it was more like you were looking at between 60 and 80 things that were submitted,” Lasch said.

But the Peggy Ezekiel awards weren’t the basis of the trip. The main focus was the sessions and the exciting things teachers and students alike learned from them.

“I got a couple of my students to go to Sarah Russell’s ‘Big Hair; Tips and Tricks for Creating Height and Volume’ and they learned how to handle wigs. I’m not gonna teach that for four more weeks. They’re gonna be ahead of the game,” Lasch said.

Lasch also attended Derrick Vanmeter’s “Digital Costume Rendering: Streamlined and Sustainable” and it left quite the impression on her.

In theater, a rendering is essentially a drawing of a costume design with swatches of fabrics and colors to be used on the side.

Vanmeter taught a way to ditch the paper and put a technological twist on rendering.

“His point was: He didn’t have fifty bucks to spend. It costs a ton to buy the fancy paper and you have to haul all your water colors and all your different medias that you’re using to do that, so that’s expensive. A good set of watercolor pencils is 35 or 50 bucks,” Lasch said.

“Digitally, he can sit on the plane and do this on his iPad. Doing it with a little rounded stylus, you couldn’t believe how amazing this stuff looked. He can scan swatches of the fabric and literally just input the fabric right into it. He can send them to the director online.”

Lasch walked away with one piece of advice from Vanmeter she’s sure to never forget.

“He said: We should judge you as a costumer when the costume is in play; when it’s on stage with the actor wearing it as it should be, under the lights, against the set, with the sound. Does it evoke what it’s supposed to? Does it make you feel right and give you the image rather than just looking at the dress or the suit? That’s how you know you’re a good costumer.”

West Liberty student Samantha Alkire also took away some valuable information from the conference.

“I learned some really cool things about lighting. I learned how to use three quarter inch plywood. The most exciting thing I learned about is something called the ‘24 Hour Theatre Project,’ which is where you take a group of people and you start at a certain time at night and you work throughout the night and within 24 hours completely produce and act out a play to be performed. It’s something I want to bring to West Liberty.”

Alkire learned of the “24 Hour Theatre Project” from the Akron School for the Arts.

They take the Akron High School students, starting them at around 8 p.m. Actors are auditioned, a script is written between 1:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and rehearsals take place throughout the day.

Despite the insanity of willingly waking up before noon on a Saturday, Alkire enjoyed the experience.

“Early on I was exhausted and it didn’t feel so rewarding. But once I learned about the ‘24 Hour Theatre Project’ and really saw that I can do things to change up what we have here, it really made for an interesting experience,” Alkire said.

This was Alkire’s first time with USITT, but it promises not to be her last.

“I think going to any sort of theatre workshop/seminar, somebody is always going to bring a different point of view that’s helpful in rounding out my education so I’ll definitely go again,” Alkire said.

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