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Professional Theatre

The Theatre Landscape: Emerging Trends in Professional Networking Conferences

by Bojana Ristic

Syndicated article. Original article published on

The theater industry is going through a significant change with a rise in events that break away from the usual conference format. This article delves into the evolving landscape of professional networking conferences in the theater sector, highlighting emerging trends that alter how talented artists link up with hiring companies. With these events gaining traction, they serve as practical platforms, encouraging collaboration and creating fresh opportunities for career growth.

In the past, traditional theater conferences often targeted specific disciplines in the field, mostly on performers. Hiring companies usually have to go to at least 4 or 5 different events to find all the disciplines they need, such as designers and technicians. 

So Paul Stancato and Tracy Nunnally, two board members of the Illinois Theatre Association, started asking questions like, ‘Why can’t there be a place where all disciplines are welcomed? Where hiring companies can come to one place and see everyone needed to create theater?’

Fostering Collaboration for Career Advancement

The rise of events directly connecting artists with hiring companies is not merely a networking shift; it’s a catalyst for collaboration. Traditional conferences often left the collaboration aspect to post-event follow-ups, but the new trend integrates collaboration into the very fabric of the conference experience. 

These events frequently feature dedicated sessions where artists and hiring companies can explore potential collaborations, discuss project ideas, and even initiate on-the-spot auditions or interviews. This proactive approach to collaboration injects a sense of immediacy and dynamism into the networking landscape, creating tangible opportunities for career advancement.

The Impact on Career Trajectories

The impact of this trend on the career trajectories of theater professionals is profound. In the traditional model, individuals often left conferences with a stack of business cards and the hope of post-event opportunities. In contrast, the trend of directly connecting artists with hiring companies results in more immediate outcomes. 

Artists can receive feedback, secure auditions or job offers, and establish connections that directly influence their career paths during the conference itself. This immediacy in outcomes accelerates the pace of career development, offering a more direct and impactful route for artists to navigate their professional journeys.

ITA’s PIANO Conference Reshapes Theater Dynamics

The Illinois Theatre Association (ITA) is making waves with its PIANO Conference, an event poised to transform the theater industry, as per a recent press release. Scheduled for February 16 and 17, 2024, at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, this first-of-its-kind conference seeks to forge connections between top-tier hiring companies and a diverse spectrum of highly skilled theater artists. Led by ITA board members Paul Stancato and Tracy Nunnally, the initiative offers specialized sessions for various theater disciplines, providing an inclusive experience for actors, musicians, designers, directors, and others.

At the heart of the PIANO Conference lies a collaboration with, an innovative online platform facilitating the creation of comprehensive profiles tailored to attendees’ disciplines. This partnership introduces a streamlined approach to networking, enabling users to filter and search based on specific skill sets. Registrants gain an extended advantage with year-long access to their Acceptd profiles, fostering post-conference networking opportunities and continuous professional growth.

ITA’s commitment to inclusivity, creativity, and excellence in the performing arts takes center stage through the PIANO Conference. Representing a significant leap forward in creating a thriving ecosystem within the theater industry, the event not only promotes growth and development for established professionals but also provides a dynamic platform for emerging talent. As ITA invites artists and enthusiasts to engage in this transformative experience, the PIANO Conference emerges as a cornerstone in fostering collaboration, unleashing creativity, and propelling professional advancement within the vibrant world of theater. For detailed information and registration, explore the PIANO Conference website.


As professional networking conferences reshape the theater industry, traditional boundaries in networking and collaboration are broadening. The direct connection between talented artists and hiring companies is changing how professionals manage their careers in this dynamic and competitive field. These events, prioritizing authenticity and immediacy, provide practical experiences for attendees and contribute to the overall evolution of the theater industry. Looking ahead, the future suggests an intersection of talent, opportunity, and collaboration, signifying a transformative phase in the theater landscape.

Division Representatives

Tracy Nunnally
Expires 2025

Professor Tracy Nunnally is the Technical Director and head of the Design and Technology Area at the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance as well as the owner and system designer at VertigoTM. He has been a professional technical director since the 1980s, and his professional TD credits span the full spectrum of genres, continents, and spaces. He is an ETCP Certified Rigger, Recognized Trainer, and Recognized Employer, and a long-term member of IATSE, USITT, ESTA, ITA and EdTA.

Paul Stancato
Expires 2024

Paul Stancato is an award-winning director, choreographer and show maker. Broadway: The Wedding Singer (Asst. Choreographer); National Tours: The Lion King (Resident Director), The Wedding Singer 1st Nat’l Tour (Director) Jekyll & Hyde, Flashdance, (Dir/Choreo); Off-Broadway; ROCKSHOW, Happy 50-ish. Regional credits include Forever Plaid (Drury Lane Theatre, Chicago), A Bronx Tale (Engeman Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar & What a Wonderful World (World Premiere), Into the Woods, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Aida (BroadwayWorld nomination, Best Director) Paul directed and choreographed the Off-Broadway hit, Friends the Musical Parody, Off- Broadway (NYC) and now on tour throughout the world. Paul has developed new work at Drama League, The Public Theatre (Joe’s Pub), NYMF, NYC Fringe, Finger Lakes (The Pitch), Universal Studios and Lively/McCabe Entertainment. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award from University of Florida, Best Director (NYC Fringe), Mike Okrent Fellowship (nominee) and a Calloway Award (nominee). Paul is currently the Artistic Director at Timber Lake Playhouse. Love and thanks to Felicia Finley, for always believing.

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