My USITT Story: Ashley Bellet

June 26, 2020

By: Ashley Bellet, theatrical designer, crafts artisan, and current USITT Board Member

The first time I attended USITT was in Toronto, ironically enough. I was excited and so full of energy and purpose!
While attending a very large Education session about workload, last minute design changes, and deadlines, a distinguished man in a sports coat began a discussion during the question-and-answer period. I happened to, at that moment, disagree with him so whole-heartedly that I raised my hand and jumped to my feet, determined to make my own points. I got a few sentences out (please note, I was a young graduate student at the time) before I realized a hush had fallen over the room. Only two people were standing: myself and the man in the sport coat, Ming Cho Lee. I had loudly and quite determinedly told one of the greatest American scenic designers that he was wrong. In front of more than a hundred people.

Now please imagine how I sank back into my seat.

After the session one of the panelists came up to me and asked where I was from, introduced himself, and said hello to me every time he saw me for the rest of the week. David Krajec introduced me to people, encouraged me to keep going to sessions, and convinced me to keep putting myself out there. A couple years later I met Anne Medlock at a PDW-- who has since become a close friend and conference buddy-- and together we found a home in the Education Commission.

I have lots of these stories-- asking Joe Aldridge if 2014 was his first USITT conference. . . gawking over Susan Tsu's shoes in front of the Expo. . . tripping over Bob Moody in a crosswalk because I was late to a session. . . spontaneously gifting Desmond Heeley with a set of markers. . . getting teaching tips from Toni-Leslie James. . . and I love to share them with students and newcomers because they capture the energy and happy accidents that we love about USITT.

I have made incredible connections with incredible people around the country, people from different backgrounds and perspectives who continue to challenge and energize me. I would not have the friends and colleagues I have without USITT.

These colleagues make me feel that we can change the theatre world, that we can capture and share the joy when we connect and discover things together. For me USITT is about taking the opportunities to BE what is important to you, to activate change, and to share that with amazing people.