Design Expo 2018

By Denhart, Daniel | TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology), Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Design Expo 2018


Denhart, Daniel, TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)


Design Expo is the biennial, juried exhibition of costume, scenic, and lighting designs created by the membership of USITT. Every two years, USITT members have the opportunity to exhibit and view design work created among our membership at the annual USITT Conference & Stage Expo. This past March was no exception. The 2018 Design Expo in beautiful Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, displayed the work of 134 designers.

The Design Expo Committee would like to thank everyone who entered the exhibition this year as well as those who viewed the work. The following pages proudly present the exciting work of 16 outstanding designs chosen by the 2018 USITT Design Expo panel of judges. The judging panel this year included four distinguished theatre designers whose work has been seen in New York, throughout a broad range of regional theaters, as well as locally throughout the Florida region. The panel included Barry Phillips, lighting designer, programmer, technician, and educator based in Orlando; Kathleen Donnelly, costume designer at University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh and co-vice-Commissioner of Expo, Exhibits, and Experience for the USITT Costume Commission and previous DTM chair for KCACTF Region III; K. April Soroko, a professional scenic and costume designer and member of USA Local 829, who is an assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University; and Thomas Shorrock, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, whose primary design research area is in lighting and sound design.

The judges specifically appreciated presentations that showed a design process--panels that included a variety of materials, such as examples of research, concept statements, rough thumbnails, finished sketches, models, and production photographs. The judges felt the displays that offered a collage-type arrangement were much more compelling. Several judges also found that having a physical model for set designs, and swatches and research images for costume designs, created much more inspired and interesting displays.

Phillips said he was "floored by the sheer quality of every entry. These are very talented people and it was often difficult to choose one over another because they were all outstanding." Phillips was inspired by the attention to detail in the design entries, which he found made a significant difference in the professional look of the production. He would have liked to see more lighting design entries and felt the area was somewhat under-represented. As far as advice to those considering entering the exhibit in 2020, he suggests, "Make your entries as detailed as possible. Let people see the design process. It's good to describe it on paper, but to actually see the various stages of your design process will make a big difference."

Soroko found the "design work was innovative and polished with only a few exceptions. The displays were carefully considered, and the work was, for the most part, presented with the highest level of professionalism." Soroko also suggested, "The best displays did a good job indicating approach to the process within the composition and labeling of the work." She was excited to see the use of advanced lighting equipment and projections integrated with traditional scenery.

Donnelly found herself most impressed by "the use of more traditional methods of stagecraft and technology in the designs overall. It is encouraging to see that the design drove the technology used rather than the other way around." Donnelly offers the following advice to those submitting design works: "Show us the process and really tell the story of the production design for the outside person looking at this. Be discerning when choosing production images to display; does it show the design well?"

Next year, USITT members are encouraged to participate in "Cover the Walls," USITT's open exhibition of design, which will be in Louisville, Kentucky, March 20-23, 2019. You can find registration information on the USITT 2019 Conference and Stage Expo website (www. …

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