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Technical Mecca
Megan Young, Artistic Services Manager, OPERA America
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ArtistLink5/14/2007

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As the resident proprietor of Opera Source, OPERA America's comprehensive online listing of opportunities in the opera field, I think it's safe to say that I have a fairly good grasp of what's going on in opera. But in mid-March, I traveled to the distant land of Phoenix and discovered an entire world that had, until then, been predominantly out of my field of vision — the world of technical theater. As an exhibitor for OPERA America at the 2007 United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Conference & Stage Expo, I was given a crash course of the whats and whos of the technical theater field, including theater companies, opera companies, educational institutions, associations, unions, and businesses.

Held annually, the USITT Conference is host to an enormous amount of techie-focused activity, including 150 exhibits and 175 sessions; over 3,800 students and professionals attend. And boy, are all of those people fun! Over the course of the conference, I was fitted into a corset, surrounded by fog every hour on the hour, watched a Native American music and dance performance, was made up to look like an old hag, and watched lucky volunteers fly through the air (in a harnesses, of course).

OPERA America members had a substantial presence at the Phoenix Convention Center that weekend. In my time spent there, I ran into representatives from Arizona Opera, Florida State University, Glimmerglass Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, University of Central Florida, University of Illinois, University of Memphis, University of Nevada Las Vegas, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Yale University, as well as members of our Technical/Production Committee from Indiana University and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Among the OPERA America members in attendance, Glimmerglass Opera and The Santa Fe opera took the opportunity to network by interviewing candidates for production staff and internships for their upcoming festival seasons. A plethora of other theater companies did the same, so if you are a student looking for an internship or a technical/production professional looking for a new opportunity, USITT is the place to be and be seen.

The conference was also a great place for professional development — it boasted a huge number of sessions on everything from portrait painting to CPR training. Some of my favorite sessions included: Creating a Digital Portfolio, Stump the Rigger, Traditional Vietnamese Water Puppets, Creating Gelatin Prosthetics, Training Programs in Arts Management, Beyond the Border: Found Spaces and Walking Audiences, and the Tech Olympics. A number of OPERA America member companies were represented in these sessions, as well. Susan Davis (Seattle Opera), David Grindle (Technical/Production Committee), Matthew Kirby-Smith (Glimmerglass Opera), Andi Lyons (Glimmerglass Opera), and John Seekings (Technical/Production Committee) all chaired or presented at conference sessions.

All in all, the 2007 USITT Conference & Stage Expo turned out to be a fabulous place for an office-dweller such as myself to explore the many facets of technical theater. I learned an enormous amount, so I can only imagine what the conference was like for technical/production professionals who can actually tell the difference between soldering and TIG welding. So with that said, only one question remains: why weren't you there?

If you are a technical/production professional in the opera field, a number of conferences are coming up in the next year: See you there!

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