More about that later. But first…
As I’m sure you figured out by the lack of screamed profanity emitting from the Atlanta area, I did end up going to the USITT (United States Institute of Theatre Technology) convention. The convention was fabulous. We got to see some amazing new products out on the market, and meet some ridiculously talented people. Like, these are people who’ve been in the tech theatre industry for 30 years and have worked with some big-time gigs. Friggin’ amazing.
But equally interesting, (or more-so for the non-theatre geek crowd,) was the people watching. Flowing through that convention hall was a fairly accurate cross-section of the tech theatre industry; watching the college kids mingle with the “good ol’ boys,” you could see the future mix with the past, where the industry has been and where it was going.
Please Note: What I’m about to embark in right now is an examination of my overall impression of the members of the technical theatre industry in an attempt to further understand the field in which I work. I realize that not everyone in the industry fits into the character descriptions that will follow; myself, my husband, and many of my friends are members of this society and few if any of us/them fit perfectly into these neat little parameters. What I’m trying to say is that I realize that not everyone is exactly like this, so if you’re one of my tech brethren, please don’t be offended. Share your own thoughts on the matter, but just know where I’m coming from.
Back in the day, a degree wasn’t necessary to rise in the tech world. It certainly helped, and those with obtained higher positions, but it wasn’t the only way to enter the industry. Often, you started out working in a shop or for a production company, and learned everything you needed to know from the guy above you. And little by little, you worked your way up until you were working for a major theatre company. These guys are a little rough about the edges; they curse like it’s their job and they tell jokes that would make the devil blush. But they know their shit. They’ve put in years and years of hard work, they know the ropes inside and out, and they’ve seen it all. But they are also a dying breed. The industry is changing fast, and many of these old school technicians don’t want to keep up; things have been working just fine the way they’ve always been done.
About 30 years ago, the technical theatre and design degree became more prevalent for fine arts colleges, and a new breed of tech began to emerge. They’re more tailored, a little more refined, a little more learned. Not that they’re any more skilled than the good ol’ boys, but they view the industry a little differently. It’s more design based, more about art, and computers are playing a bigger part in the industry with the introduction of automation in lighting and scenery. They’re less like the factory foreman and more like the geeks of Silicon Valley. Less rough but waaay more nerdy.
And tomorrow’s techs are of an entirely different brand all together. Watching the college kids run around the convention hall, they look like an odd cross-breed between the anime club and the av club; lots of black, lots of oddly colored hair, lots of smart-ass t-shirts that say things like, “If all the world’s a stage, I want better lighting.” They’re incredibly computer savvy, and all of them either want to be lighting designers or video engineers; both jobs are incredibly technology based and spend the majority of their time behind a computer monitor. I find it interesting to see that the type of people that the industry is attracting today is drastically different than the people that were attracted 30 years ago. Back then, the industry did not attract the smart kids, or the artistic kids; it attracted the hard worker, the laborer, and the technician. Those guys wanted to be carpenters, riggers, and sound guys. Now, none of the kids coming out of college want to be riggers; they want to light dance concerts. They’re pulling away from the labor/skill based jobs and towards those based in technology. The industry is actually have a problem with an influx of wannabe lighting designers, while finding a scene shop foreman or head flyman is nearly impossible. But at the same time, the technicians that are being produced are far more flexible than those of yore; they take to new technology quickly, and can follow the light-speed evolution of the industry. And they have to; a degree from a fine arts college is now pretty much standard issue, and to even consider a position of leadership you really need a master’s degree, not to mention wads of street cred.
The technical theatre industry is by nature an odd mix of futuristic technology and old school techniques. I’m not saying that the budding technicians of today are any better or worse or more or less qualified than those of earlier days…they’re just incredibly, incredibly different.
On a less profound note…
I also learned some things about Ohio this weekend.
1) There are more trucks than I have ever seen before. We drove through a subdivision and there were more trucks than squirrels.
2) Fast food drive-thrus here FAIL! Hardcore. They’re insanely slow and their tacos suck. Like, no lettuce or cheese, just meat and a taco shell, which in my book is not a taco, it’s a lameco. Then on our way out of town, we stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast. We ordered 2 sandwich meals with hash browns and orange juice, and a fruit and yogurt parfait. We got our juice and a bag, and when we looked inside there were 2 sandwiches…that’s it. No hash browns, no parfait. FAIL!
3) They have drive-through liquor stores here. And I don’t mean a liquor store with a drive-up window; I mean a liquor store that you drive through. It’s like driving through a convenience store; you can reach out your window and pick out a candy bar. I don’t know if this is the most amazing or terrible thing in the world.