CAST sponsors 8th USITT Design Contest

30 April, 2013


greensContact: Rob Hughes

UK: +44 7866 970743


University of Oklahoma student Leahe Knott wins a wysiwyglicence for her exceptional lighting of Friedrich Schiller’s play, Mary Stuart…

TORONTO, CANADA – For the 8th year in a row, CAST Software has sponsored the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Southwest Student Design Competition, an annual event which recognises young talent in the categories of Lighting, Sound, Set and Costume Design, Stage Management and Scenic Technology.

Each year, CAST bestows the winner of the Lighting Design category with an educational wysiwyg license, and is delighted to announce that this year’s winner is University of Oklahoma student, Leahe Knott, who scooped the prize for her work on Peter Oswald’s translation of Friedrich Schiller’s play, Mary Stuart. In a review of the production for the University’s Routes website, Laurel Dix noted: “The purity and subtlety of Leahe Knott’s lighting draws out each brilliant bit of color from Lloyd Cracknell’s sumptuous costumes.”

Knott herself explains: “The story of Mary Stuart is very much based on religion and the division of the two queens, and so our whole concept for the show was that they would be the mirror image of each other.

“The challenge was to use lighting to create the different environments. For example, Mary is a prisoner, but she isn’t in an actual prison, she’s locked in the basement of the house. I wanted to make her environment seem warm yet also very isolated, because she was stuck there and hadn’t seen sunshine for a long time, so I tried to achieve a candlelit ambience. At one point we made it rain onstage, so I had to figure out how to light the rain properly, and also how to shape the people as well as the rain. I really wanted to get the English gre

Leahe 2

y sky feel, but it’s Mary’s first time outside in 15 years, and when Elizabeth comes in the rain stops, the grey starts creeping out and gives way to sunshine, so to capture that was one of my favourite moments.

“I’ve never had the chance to use wysiwyg before, so I’m really excited to try it out now. I really like rendering and showing people how a scene will look. With lighting, directors kind of have to trust you and go with what you say – they don’t really get to s

ee any sketches or anything – whereas scenic designers have a means to share their ideas a little better. I think wysiwyg is a way for lighting designers to do this as well.”

The USITT has been serving professionals and pre-professionals in design, production and technology for the performing arts since 1960. It provides benefits and learning opportunities, as well as places to network, exchange ideas and develop, for over 3,700 members worldwide.

The Institute’s Southwest Student Design Competition is open to students based within the region that comprises Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Entrants – who can be high school students, undergraduates or graduates – must submit work that has been done within the previous 12 months. wysiwyg is in line with other well-received prizes, such as a week of Varilight training, a week of Meyer Sound training, or a trip to Washington DC to shadow a costume designer at the Shakespeare Theatre, each awarded according to discipline.

The inclusion of wysiwygas the prize in the Lighting Design category is of particular significance, since the founder of the competition, revered lighting & scenic designer and educator, Don Childs, was a leading proponent of wysiwyg since its very beginnings in the late 1990s. Childs, who is credited by Gilles Ste-Croix as having inspired him to create Cirque du Soleil, established America’s first wysiwyg classroom over ten years ago at Sam Houston State University in Texas, and is considered by high-profile wyg users such as Valy Tremblay to have been one of the most accomplished teachers of the software.

Leahe KnottChild’s wife of 45 years, Jane Childs, has continued Don’s strong support of wysiwyg in her position as Vice President of Development at USITT, which she fulfilled for the final time this year. Part of this role is to organise the prizes for the Design Competition and, as one of her late husband’s favourite tools, wysiwyg is a crucial award, she feels.

Childs explains: “The glory of wysiwyg is that, inside the computer, you can create a virtual light lab for every student to manipulate and learn from at the same time. They can do exercises simultaneously, then each one can go off in their own direction and set their own learning curve, so it’s a great tool for expanding the imagination. Like everything, it expands it only as far as the student is willing to go, but it’s limitless if the student applies themselves.

“One of wyg’s greatest values is as a way for students to develop their understanding of lighting equipment and the potential of individual fixtures,” she continues. “It offers students a hands-on method of developing their designs and applying what they’re learning in a functioning virtual environment. The virtual environment is a less expensive, extremely flexible, and safer way to create a learning lab for this process. Besides, any type of equipment is available, no can get hurt, and nothing gets broken.”

CAST Chairman Bruce Freeman added: “CAST is so pleased to continue to endorse the great efforts of USITT, teachers such as Jane Childs and many other secondary and post-secondary educational institutions around the world. In fact, at this moment in time, we estimate that there are something in the region of 27,000 students a year using wysiwyg. Not only are these students creating pre-visualisations that show them exactly what they will achieve from their physical designs, they are also getting to grips with an environment that is fundamental in the use of our revolutionary BlackTrax system – the future of 3D and 6D production.

“We invite all interested academic institutions to contact CAST Software by emailing Igor Fernando at:, or go to the academic section of our website to learn more about how your institution can get ongoing free upgrades, tech support and much more.”

wysiwyg R30 update is available now from the Members Only Area of the CAST website:, where a demo version, comprehensive product information, and a showcase of the breadth of projects on which wysiwyg is pivotal, are also available. New releases are freefor Members – Membership has its benefits!


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