When Ithaca College senior Randy Wong-Westbrooke begins a career as a set designer after graduation, he’ll have help from an established professional who knows about the challenges underrepresented groups face in the field of theatre arts.
Wong-Westbrooke, a theatrical production arts major concentrating in theatrical design, was selected for the United States Institute for Theatre Technology’s (USITT) Gateway mentorship program. The program provides mentorships for students who are underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual orientation.
“A lot of conversations about diversity and inclusion are about casting, and the stories that we tell, and the discussions about how representative of the world you are behind stage and behind the scenes, is not often talked about,” said Wong-Westbrooke.
As part of the program, Wong-Westbrooke, who is biracial Asian-American, attended USITT’s annual conference in March 2016. The conference features opportunities to learn about new theatre technology and meet others working in the performing arts.
“It’s an awesome honor and privilege to get to go, and having done it, I think it’s a very good opportunity, especially for young artists,” said Wong-Westbrooke.
The conference featured several panels and conversation groups on diversity and inclusion, including a panel on women in theatre, a queer nation roundtable and a people of color network, giving participants the chance to talk about their experiences, ask questions and have conversations about what working in the performance art is like for people belonging to minority groups.
The conference also gave Wong-Westebrooke an opportunity to meet his mentor, Britton Mauk, a set designer from Pittsburg, Penn.
“Those of us belonging to underrepresented communities, it can be easy to feel like we’re all alone and isolated,” said Wong-Westbrooke. “To be able to talk to a professional who’s gone through the ropes, at least a little bit, is really inspiring and empowering.”
Wong-Westbrooke expects that Mauk will continue to be a resource for him throughout his career. After graduation, he plans to work as a freelance set designer.