An industry leader whose opinion I have the highest respect for recently told me something from which I'm still reeling: “This is a graying industry.”
To be fair, a little context is in order: we were discussing the schlep that everyone had to take from the show floor of ETS-LDI last year to the ETS-LDI Awards ceremony outside on the ET-Live stages, and the music at the awards, which was a little cutting edge even for my tastes. Still, if that comment is true, then this industry is in deep trouble. Fresh minds bring fresh ideas; fresh ideas bring the kind of creativity and fresh viewpoints that create true change in an industry. Take away that necessary infusion of youth and enthusiasm and you're left with an industry that that will run out of new and truly revolutionary ideas, with the end result being stagnation. That's not to take away anything from the creativity and enthusiasm of veteran designers, manufacturers, and technicians; hey, we old dogs have more than our fair share of new ideas too. But eventually we'll all either be retired or left to ply our trade at a dinner theatre in Boca and there will be no one left to pick up where we left off.
That's why we here at ED have always made recognizing young talent a priority. We instituted our annual Young Designers To Watch special report in October of 2000, and in the ensuing years several of those we've profiled — including set designer Klara Zieglerova, projection designers Michael Clark and Sage Carter, and lighting designers DM Wood and Jason Lyons — have gone on to Broadway and beyond.
Last year, ED, along with our sister publication Lighting Dimensions and our trade show ETS-LDI agreed to sponsor the new USITT Rising Star Award, which recognizes excellence and artistic achievement in the areas of scenic, lighting, sound, and projection design, or the convergence of these design disciplines. The award is given at the beginning of a career to a young designer in their first four years of professional (non-academic) work, following the completion of their highest degree. And I'm pleased to announce that the inaugural winner of the award is set designer Kelly Hanson. You can read more about the award on page 4 and more on Kelly's work in this month's Designer Sketchbook on page 32. She'll be picking up her award at the annual banquet at USITT on March 19, and you can also meet her at a cocktail reception at our USITT booth on March 18.
A graying industry? Not if we can help it. There's a lot of great young talent out there, who could be the next great designer, technical director, head of R&D, or CEO. Let's give them a chance. That dinner theatre in Boca's a lot closer than you might think.