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Lenora St. Blog

Tech & Theater: Inside the Vibrant Community of USITT Cornish Student Chapter

Since its establishment in 1960, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) has been a hub for innovation and excellence, bringing together professionals, educators, and students to advance the realms of theater design and technology. With a diverse membership and a rich history, USITT provides invaluable resources, networking opportunities, and educational programs to nurture the next generation of theatrical visionaries.

Here at the Cornish College of the Arts, our USITT Cornish Student Chapter has cultivated a community of like minded students who are interested in exploring opportunities and trends in the theater design and technology industries. The student chapter hosts regular meetings and events for not just Theater or Performance Production students, but anyone who is interested in learning more about the behind-the-scenes world of technical theater.

We recently had the chance to speak with three of the leaders of the USITT Cornish Student Chapter to learn more about the organization. We spoke with Student Chapter Chair Miru De Peralta (she/her), Vice Chair/Social Media Officer Em Weihofen (they/she), and Treasurer Carmen Gallegos (she/her). Miru is a Performance Production sophomore with a concentration in Scenic Design. Em is a Performance Production Sophomore with a concentration in Lighting Design, and Carmen is a Performance Production freshman.

Q: What drew you to participate in the Cornish student chapter of USITT?

A: [Miru] I really wanted a sense of community with people of similar interests who could support each other and geek out about technical theatre.

[Em] Since I was new to performance production this year, I wanted to have a space where I could bond with fellow [Performance Production] students. My friend at a different college also joined her USITT student chapter and talked about how fun it was, so when I heard Cornish was bringing their chapter back I knew I had to be a part of it.

[Carmen] I was excited to hear that the school was offering a club dedicated to those interested in technical theatre.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the Cornish student chapter of USITT? 

A: [Miru] My favorite thing about the student chapter is the uplifting atmosphere. Whenever one of us is working on an academic or personal project that they are passionate about, they can share it with the whole group and in that way, we can support or even help each other.

[Em] The community we have built. It’s a fun time to just meet with theatre lovers and talk about what we’re working on or some cool things we have recently seen.

[Carmen] The club maintains a community with past students who were in USITT and professionals in the Seattle area. The club members are able to make connections with these people and cultivate future opportunities.

Q: How does USITT help prepare you for a future career in the arts?

A: [Miru] Because the people of USITT are made up of highly collaborative people that are heavily involved in the live entertainment industry in and outside of the Pacific Northwest region, we all can help each other create meaningful connections that could end up in a future collaboration or job.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the 64TH USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo?

A: [Miru] I am most looking forward to participating as a conference assistant to help build the conference as well as to be able to enjoy walking around and viewing cool technology.

[Em] Making connections with artists all around the country! People from all over fly in for this conference. I’m also excited for all the labs and classes since there is so much to be learned there!

[Carmen] Having the opportunity to meet and talk to professionals in the industry!

Q: What types of events does the Cornish student chapter of USITT host?

[Em] Some past events we have held have been technical theatre kahoots, informational meetings about the USITT conference, and hot coco nights with alumni! We try to mix it up so that everyone’s interests are talked about, but our main goal is to always have fun!

Q: How can Cornish students get involved with the USITT student chapter?

A: [Miru] Any one who is interested in technical theater (sound, lighting, set, costume, construction, and management) or an overall fan of live entertainment should join us for our biweekly meeting or even become a permanent member by letting us know via in person or email (usittsc@arts.cornish.edu).

[Em] Come to our biweekly meetings!! We meet at 11:15am – 12:15pm in MCC 307 every other Tuesday!! You can also get information about our next meeting from our Instagram page @usitt_cornishcollege !!

[Carmen] Come to a meeting! They are bi-weekly and you will get reminders if you join our email list.

From left to right: Miru de Peralta, Em Weihofen, Carmen Gallegos

Q: Why did you choose Cornish?

A: [Miru] I chose Cornish because it is a small school and I knew I could create or find a community easily. I also like how this school provides flexibility and freedom of choice when it comes to customizing my education.

[Em] I originally chose Cornish for its Acting and Original Works program, but I ended up taking a [Performance Production] class and fell in love. The performance production program really lets you dive deep into work and I love it.

[Carmen] I liked that it was a small college in a big city. This allowed me to have more individualized education while also being very close to a variety of outside opportunities.

Q: What class(es) challenged your creativity the most?

A: [Miru] Production Practicum is a class that challenges my creativity the most because this is where I get to study, work, and practice my skills in a role such as a carpenter, scenic designer or technical director.

[Em] Wood and Steel Fundamentals!!! One of my favorite classes of all times here, and it challenged me to kind of just create with power tools. Scenic Painting is also a class that challenged me but made me fall in love with painting. The class is really just time where you can be there and paint with super cool techniques.

[Carmen] I think the Scenic Painting class was my favorite as it pushed me to get better at a skill I was not confident in and I really enjoyed the process.

Q: What is your favorite resource that Cornish offers to students?

A: [Miru] My favorite resource is the scene shop. Besides all the amazing things we build for shows, I can go there to explore and learn more about things that interest me. I am able to work on personal projects with the full support of the supervisors of that space. Everytime I am there, I learn something new and interesting.

[Em] I think just giving us the space and resources to be able to make student groups like this.

[Carmen] I love that Cornish has so many artist spaces such as the Fab Lab, scene shop, costume shop, and drafting spaces that are open to student use for in class and personal projects.

The 64th USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo takes place March 20-23, 2024 at the Seattle Convention Center | Arch. To learn more about USITT, and to register for the event, visit usitt.org

To learn more about the USITT Cornish Student Chapter, follow them on Instagram @usitt_cornishcollege or email them at usittsc@arts.cornish.edu

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