Shan Ayers


Position Statement

There are numerous reasons why I have been seeking membership on the USITT Board of Directors. I believe that the Institute should continue its current mission of providing support for educators, professionals, manufacturers, vendors, and students through all of its current means; publications, the Annual Conference & Stage Expo, regional programs, and sectional conferences. I think we are doing a good job of reaching out to current undergraduate and graduate students and I think we should continue to do so, especially with regard to Conference programming more focused on student interest and needs. I appreciate the work the Institute invests in international components featured at the annual Conferences and hope this can continue with, perhaps, additional opportunities. My main reason for seeking Board membership is simply this: when I joined USITT in 1987, I was an untenured, wide-eyed guy who found a group of mentors willing to show him a path toward success. No one forced me down the path, but the path was there if I took the first steps. The people I met during that first conference in Minneapolis, and those with whom I have continued to work, provided me with their advice because they wanted me to succeed. The Institute provided advice as I sought tenure and promotion in the form of its Tenure and Promotion Guidelines. I have been able to have work published through the Institute, helping me on my path to tenure and promotion. It is my turn to give back to the Institute.

Pinky Estell


Position Statement

As a passionate artist, I always seek to improve my community in every way I can by lending back my time and knowledge to keeping forward progress. I believe that my service to the institute as a member of the board will give me the opportunity to give back to the organization that has solidified the success of my career. USITT is a successful organization with great accomplishments and it gives me great pride to be able to volunteer in any way I can.

If elected there are two items in particular I want to work towards in my time on the national board. 1) Look into the structure of the regional sections: ensuring that everyone is covered by a regional section, and that all the regions are more fulfilled with support on master classes and workshop for our members. 2) Focus on more professional outreach and make sure we are developing classes and programs to fit their needs.

Bryan Huneycutt


Position Statement

My first experience with USITT, in Charlotte, NC (2011) highlighted the opportunity that companies such as Disney, Cirque du Soleil, and NBC Universal have in the educational aspect of the conference to represent the non-traditional opportunities that may not be apparent to students and mid- career attendees.

Attending several Commission meetings and doing a little back study, I saw a repeating cycle of sessions and felt the need to become involved and push the envelope in the way we were discussing safety in the industry. Safety is not only about OSHA and regulations, but also about taking care of each other as artists, as audience members and most importantly, as people.

Since a large portion of the USITT leadership comes from the academic world, I felt there was an opportunity to help enhance the way students are taught the crafts that companies like my own desire. If USITT is shaping the culture, and the habits of blooming artists, organizations like Disney, Cirque du Soleil, NBC-Universal, Paramount Pictures, and a multitude of others will see an even greater benefit of partnerships with USITT development programs and allow the organization to grow its outreach even more. 

Elynmarie Kazle


Position Statement

I respectfully ask for your vote because I would like to provide continuing service to the Board of Directors, not only as a stage manager, production manager, and educator, but because I want to support the industry and my colleagues in the continued innovational training of future leaders. Further, I want to support the work of promoting good practices and standards for all to follow in the entertainment industry. I am prepared to devote my time and talent (and the occasional treasure) to these efforts, and to continue friend-raising (and fund-raising) for the important work we do.

Karen Maness


Position Statement

I am a passionate advocate for USITT. I have been a member since 2000. My role as USITT Scene Design Commissioner, Vice-Commissioner of Programming, Steering Committee Member, and experience as the 2011 USA/OISTAT scenography delegate in Prague, has heightened my interest in further partnerships between USITT and leaders in the entertainment design and technology world.

USITT is in a unique position to honor and document our industries achievements, while elevating our members through education, investigation and networking, in the rapidly changing landscape of the entertainment arts.

I will continue to support the Commission’s excellent Conference programming and look to grow opportunities for our members in all aspects of entertainment design and technology. 

Michael McNamara


Position Statement

In 2012 for my first nomination to the Board, I stated that I have been a continuous member since 2003 and that, ever since my first USITT Conference in Milwaukee in 1990, I have always been impressed with the wealth of knowledge that is available through our membership and how professional networking opportunities can further careers. Four years later, that admiration has grown even more as I am frankly in awe of the range and quality of the work we do. I am proud to have been a small part of that.

During my three years as a Director, I have enjoyed serving on the Board Mentee, Compensation, Grants & Fellowships, and the ad hoc Strategic Mission committees, all of which have allowed me to address many of our most important challenges and work alongside some wonderful colleagues. Despite suddenly being named Department Chair at Purdue University last August, I have maintained my active participation and feel I have only built a stronger relationship with the rest of the Board and its activities. I feel that my increased familiarity with the organization and my developing leadership will only aid the Board and the Institute for the next four years and, for these reasons, I ask for your vote.

Patrick Rizzotti


Position Statement

I am honored to have been nominated to run for the Board of USITT. Having joined USITT early in my professional career, I have experienced first-hand how valuable an active membership can be for an early career artist. The Institute's broad range of sessions, professional development workshops, portfolio reviews, and networking events make it an invaluable resource for theatre creators at all levels. I look forward to continuing to help shape its future.

As a full-time freelance designer and mentor to young artists, I would bring a unique perspective to the leadership of this time-honored Institute. I intend to work towards helping grow the membership of early-to-mid-career artists as they transition from their studies into their professional career. I feel the Institute would be served well by increasing the numbers of this demographic, and I intend to champion the importance of early career professionals continuing to participate, learn, and give back to all the facets of USITT. I hope to strengthen this relationship by using my broad network of professional resources and associations within the live entertainment and television industry. Additionally, I continue to advocate for strong programming and social events that are geared towards early career and freelance artists at our Annual Conference and throughout the year.









Tom Burch


Position Statement

I first became aware of USITT in my undergrad days at University of Kentucky, and applied to one of the first Young Designers' Forums (but was turned down). I went to the Conference that year, and from simply being around it, I began to understand the breadth of what the industry is, and where I fit into it at the early end of my career. That experience very much shaped how I began to think about myself as a theatre artist and designer, and my place in a larger community of artists, technicians, and storytellers. In the leaner early years, I couldn't afford a membership, but would keep in touch with folks I'd met at my first Conference. During my last year of graduate school (2003) I reapplied to Young Designers' Forum and was accepted. There I received such good advice and encouragement, and had the opportunity to see myself in context with others of my theatrical generation. In the intervening 12 years, I've had the chance to serve USITT as a panelist, serve as a respondent for design awards, write book reviews and an article for TD&T, and for the past two cycles, I have served as the coordinator/director for the American Student Exhibit that has traveled to the Prague Quadrennial (in 2011 and 2015 respectively). These opportunities have further shaped who I now am as an active professional designer and as an educator. I understand, first-hand, what USITT can be as an advocate for the industry, as a connector of people and ideas, and I seek election to the Board of Directors in order to give back to an Institute that has already given and guided me so much.

Mickey Henry


Position Statement

How do we keep USITT a viable organization for the next half century or as Mark Shanda poses the question what is the 3rd Act of USITT? What can we do to keep attracting new members and keeping the professional members engaged? We have just begun to scratch the surface with programs such as the eSET certificate program, and Master Classes such as the Costume Symposium and the Jay O. Glerum Rigging Masterclass. As an organization we have to grow outside of the annual convention to keep us engaged with the institute either locally or on the national level.

For the past three years I have had the pleasure working with a very dedicated group of individuals that make up the Board of Directors of USITT. In the end I would like to continue working with this group of passionate group to further this organization into its 3rd act by representing you as a member of the Board of Directors. 

Rafael Jaen


Position Statement

Our Institute is at a critical development stage; we continue to increase our outreach efforts to early career theatre practitioners, and we are looking at innovative ways of maintaining all the healthy aspects of our structure. It is my firm belief that we can secure our future as the pre-eminent Institute for design, production, and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industries, by increasing our membership numbers and overall diversity. As a Director, I will continue to bring passion and enthusiasm to the organization by promoting programing opportunities involving students, early career members, and newcomers. I have already been demonstrating my commitment via past service as the Costume Commission’s Student Leaderships Initiatives Chair and currently as the KCACTF/USITT Liaison.

My contributions to the Leadership Initiatives secured young members who are active within their regional chapters, and who have moderated USITT sessions and written Sightlines articles. My work with the KCACTF Allied Design & Craft installation presented at the Cover the Walls exhibit has helped introduce numerous KCACTF award recipients to the numerous networking and career advancement possibilities at the USITT Conference. It has resulted in new memberships and early career volunteers who are excited by the opportunities that the Institute provides. More recently, as National DTM Chair for KCACTF, I had the honor of assisting the International Activities Committee by facilitating a very exciting joint recruitment effort. It resulted in a very substantial increase of applicants to the 2015 Student Team for the American Student Exhibit to 2015 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in Prague, Czech Republic. The final team created the outstanding installation that we saw in Salt Lake City. While serving the Publication's Committee, I have been instrumental in moving forward an Allied Crafts Monograph that will feature renown artisans. As the primary editor, I have been mentoring and pairing writers with artists across the country. I have compiled an impressive list of people, and the first few chapters are already on their way. Recently, I have also been involved with the new Gateway Program as a mentor for students from underrepresented populations within our industry.

Finally, I have also been active supporting the excellent programming at the USITT Southwest Chapter –my second home away from New England. The southwest students and colleagues have helped me get a better understanding of what it means to “serve and inspire new members across varied geographical locations.” This type of service is the principle that sets priorities and informs every decision that USITT makes. I look forward to serving another term on the USITT Board of Directors, and continuing to utilize all the resources and connections that I have within college networks across the country, to support programming for students, early career individuals and newcomers. It would be a true honor and privilege to serve the institute in his role for another three years. I thank you in advance for the opportunity.

Shane Kelly


Position Statement

I’m seeking reelection to another term on the Board of Directors of USITT in order to take the knowledge I have gained over my first term and use that to help advance USITT further along the important issues that face the industry currently.  see those most important issues as diversity and inclusion, skills certifications, teaching technicians and designers for the 21st century, and growing international connections. These are all areas that USITT has been making strides in over the past few years, but these all will benefit from continued attention and growth. Diversity and inclusion is one of the most important issues for our country and our industry. We need to continue to expand programs like Gateway and develop the next programs to bring a plurality of voices into every conversation and part of our industry.

Skills certification and teaching designer and technicians for the 21st century go hand in hand. I recently had the opportunity to proctor an eSET practical exam and enjoyed the chance to see these young professionals really put their hands onto tools and equipment in a very meaningful exam. I believe that in addition to helping young professionals prove they know how to properly torque wire rope clips, we need to continue to help them be entrepreneurial, inquisitive and innovative problem solvers to rise above the stereotypes of their generation and embrace the “soft skills” that may have been overlooked in their technological lives.

I’ve had the opportunity to work at two Prague Quadrennials which has given me a huge perspective on theatre and entertainment around the world. As USITT’s international connections continue to grow, it is important to find ways to make those connections available to as many members as possible.

I look forward to continuing to serve the membership as a Director of USITT for another term. 

Deb Sherrer


Position Statement

As USITT continues to evolve as an institution that supports its members throughout the entirety of their lives, I believe that board member representation from the non-profit community is vital. The current board make up is almost exclusively members of the academic and for-profit sectors, which leaves out a large player in the theatrical community. I believe that I can bolster an underrepresented voice on the board and offer a perspective that aligns with the needs of many USITT members. I also believe that, in our commitment to represent everyone in the industry, a younger voice needs to be present as well. USITT has provided me with innumerable opportunities to learn and I believe that my perspective and experience will help ensure that USITT continues to grow and facilitate the needs of its members. With an eye on fiduciary responsibility, and taking an active role in bridging connections between USITT members, I believe that I am in the right place at the right time. As the next step in my career takes me to Charleston Stage to be the director of finance, I know that I am ready to serve the Institute in a larger capacity.

Todd Studebaker


Position Statement

If elected I hope to help develop better open communication between the National Board, the Commissions, the Regional Sections, and the Student Chapters. It seems to me that no matter what circle I sit in, one group or the other. Now I know you cannot please all of the people all of the time but at least I would like to try and build better relationships with all of the groups involved in the USITT family. I would also like to try and let communication flow, not just from the top down but in all directions. I hope to bring a new voice and some new perspectives to the job of Director.