Theatre and Engineering Academic Programs Brainstorm with Entertainment Industry Leaders

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. — Representatives from the entertainment industry and universities that blend technical theatre and engineering degrees met to discuss student training and ways to strengthen the talent pipeline at the inaugural U.S. Entertainment - Engineering Summit. The July 16, 2018 event, hosted by Purdue University’s Theatre and Multidisciplinary Engineering programs, grew out of an initial conversation at the 2018 USITT Annual Conference and Stage Expo.

“This event was a great springboard for a cross-section of entertainment industry employers to aid potential academic planning as our programs support this specific market opportunity,” said group coordinator Rich Dionne, assistant professor, technical director and production manager at the Purdue University department of theatre.

Dionne, who also serves as associate commissioner and vice commissioner of programming for USITT’s Technical Production Commission, says he is grateful for the support afforded by the group. “The industry response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and we had very productive discussions on how we can move forward together.”

Representatives from Adirondack Studios, Creative Connors, ETC, Hudson Scenic Studio, iWeiss, McLaren Engineering Group, Schuler Shook, Texas Scenic Company and DLR Group met with university representatives from Purdue University, Michigan Technical University, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Connecticut and University of North Carolina School of the Arts to share observations and discuss approaches to reach shared goals.

Mary Pilotte, a representative from Purdue’s engineering program, noted the rare and critical nature of the gathering. “Having both the depth and breadth of industry experience in the room will most certainly enable us to make better decisions to help our students be more qualified and exceptionally prepared for their professional careers in this growing sector. We simply can’t thank the participants enough for investing their time, energy, and wisdom.”

Dionne and Pilotte hope that continued collaborative gatherings will result in scholarly works that can be used by an even broader academic and industry community. The group plans to meet again later this year and encourages others to join the effort.


The United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc. (USITT) connects performing arts design and technology communities to ensure a vibrant dialog among practitioners, educators, and students. USITT was founded in 1960 as an organization to promote dialogue, research, and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology.

Today, the Institute boasts thousands of members at all levels of their careers and has embraced the new technologies being used in entertainment.  USITT is now the leader in life-long learning opportunities for the entertainment design and technology industry. Learn more at

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