December 2018 Notes - Farewell to the Spotlight

I remember when we first discussed having a newsletter. And by “we first discussed”, what I mean is that I tried to force through a half-baked idea and Jen and Laura insisted that we sort out how it was all going to work.

What we ultimately wanted was a platform for folks, topics and issues that rarely were given a public spotlight in the industry - focusing on the production disciplines and its practitioners. In a sense, they were meant to be an offshoot of our Community Gatherings and Panel Discussions: a community organizing tool; a means to celebrate the people that are so often rendered invisible in our industry, and their varied ideas, concerns and stories. Above all, their brilliance in all its magnificence and multifaceted ways you can understand that word.

It’s been three years, and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface that goal. There are so many more stories, histories, perspectives and meditations on life and art, on the personal and the professional that we haven’t yet represented in any way, shape or form. There are so many more crucial ideas and truths that needed to be brought forward years ago and still aren’t discussed in any more than hushed whispers for fear of ridicule and retaliation.

But for all that, we - the whole team and everyone who’s worked on this newsletter - are tremendously proud of what we have done so far. Some 70 pieces grace our archive, from deeply personal stories to political polemics; multi-part meditations on class, education, academics and the meaning of professionalism; excellently researched informational pieces on safety and health on the worksite; crucial considerations of awful, and awfully common, discrimination and oppression; meditations on how we all move forward together.

We’re stumbled and struggled in a few places - for that, I take full responsibility. My team has only ever made what I’ve handed them better. Our representation across those 70 pieces could be better in terms of ability, breadth of topics and point of view. I want to be clear: that doesn’t make any one of those pieces and those contributors any less terrific and pertinent than they are, but it does mean I should have done a better job with my curation, making sure to include everyone I did reach out to and then so much more.

By now you’ve already figured out where this is going. After 3 years, Tech Tools is no longer has the resources to keep the newsletter going. This issue, 2018 December, will be our last one for the foreseeable future.

The newsletter team, Chava and Mike, are absolutely terrific and have done tremendous work. This is in no way a reflection on their ability. Mike has been the curator for the Sightlines column since its inception and is responsible for its richness and wonder. Chava, as I hope you all know, is the amazing editor of the newsletter. Her editing, guidance, feedback, creativity, independence and sheer smarts have made this newsletter look and feel as good as does, and has made producing it as joyful as it has been. She’s responsible for, well, everything good about this newsletter right now. Working with her has been lovely, as it was working with Jen and Matthew before her. Thank you all.

We close out this newsletter with three fantastic pieces. For Sightlines, lighting designer Marcus Dilliard shares a deeply insightful and personal story of art, economics, discovery and belonging. Please read it; while it is likely that what resonated with me will not with you, it is also likely that something else will. It is entirely coincidental that Marcus also wrote a piece for our very first newsletter. I promise.

Rebecca Denny Burton, always excellent at being sharply informative whilst remaining accessible and comprehensible, writes an amazing piece on hazards in scenic and prop shops to reproductive health and what steps we can all take together to better protect ourselves and our colleagues. It’s a must-read, my favourite of all of her excellent pieces on safety and health.

Lastly, and fittingly, my old friend Tony Stoeri adds another thoughtful piece to his series chronicling his journey from working professional stagehand and designer to graduate student and back again. Like all great fables, it is deeply personal yet almost mythically relatable on a universal level. All of us in this industry have, at some point, pondered this particular intersection of stress and joy, exploitation and liberation, camaraderie and isolation that Tony lays bare for us here. Thank you, Tony, for articulating so much for us with this series and this piece.

Thank you all so much, and we look forward to learning all about your adventures, your ideas and hopes for the future and your analyses of our times where they’ve always lived, been shared and grown: from you and amongst you.

In Solidarity, Joy and while quietly asking you a leading question,

-Wu Chen Khoo

Operations Director,
Technical Tools of the Trade