USITT’s 2015 Tech Expo spotlighted 18 ingenious theatre tech solutions, now collected in catalog form as a resource for technical directors and theatrical designers everywhere.
This year’s top three award-winning projects all used creative problem-solving to make special effects realistic.
- No Rain Delay – a system of electronically controlled irrigation valves to make rain onstage with no hesitation or “post-storm” dripping,
- Realistic Interactive LED Candle – an LED and sensor assembly to turn a pillar candle into a prop that can be ‘lit’ with a flame and ‘blown out’ by wind or breath, and
- Wireless Solenoid Controller – a wireless system and software package to make props move ‘by themselves’ using an offstage PC with Windows.
These and 15 other bright ideas are assembled in the new Tech Expo catalog. Buy it here.
The rain valve system was submitted by PlayMakers Repertory Company Technical Director Adam Maxfield and Assistant TD Laura Pates, who built it for a 2014 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The flickering LED candle was devised by Trent Kugler, TD at Shepherd University in West Virginia, host of the Contemporary American Theatre Festival.
The PC-controlled solenoid pneumatics were created by automation engineer Chris Rybitski of the University of Virginia to tip dishes off shelves in the kitchen scene of Mary Poppins.
USITT’s Tech Expo, held every other year, invites theatre technicians to share the great ideas they realized for their productions with USITT’s membership and for display at the Annual Conference & Stage Expo. Those chosen for display by adjudicators are published in a catalog, and the top three are featured in the USITT quarterly journal TD&T.
The latest edition spans theatrical needs from costumes to props to lighting. University of Texas at Arlington TD Daniel Archibald’s design team employed a “vaping” system like those in electronic cigarettes to make a smoking, light-up witch’s staff for Into the Woods. Trinity University Costume Designer Jodi Karjala used drip irrigation tubing from her local home and garden center as the inner structure of a woolly mammoth costume for Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth.
Another innovation was inspired by diapers. TD LukE Hadsall of Oklahoma City University persuaded costume designer Rachel Barnett to use water-resistant fabric like that in his kids’ cloth diaper covers to make new mic belt packs for his crew’s wireless transmitters.
Rob Kerby, TD at Northern Kentucky University who has chaired many Tech Expos, called his library of Tech Expo catalogs “practically another production team member that I refer to from time to time to help me out of binds.”
Previous Tech Expo catalogs are also available at www.usitt.org/store.