Northern State Theatre Presents...
the production arm of the Northern State University Department of Theatre.
Who I Am...
I am the former Production Designer and the staff technical director at Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota. I hold a BS (1965), MS (1968) and MFA in Production Design (1979) from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and have taught and designed at Ohio Northern University (1968-1971) in Ada, Ohio, Wilmington College (1971-1975) in Wilmington, Ohio and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1976-1978) in Indiana, Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in southern Illinois and retired from full-time teaching in May 2011. I continue to teach Northern's on-line section of Intro to Theatre and design the lighting for several shows a year, usually at the Aberdeen Community Theatre or at the Northern Fort Playhouse at Fort Sisseton State Historical Park.
I was a member of USITT from 1980 through 2011, and have attended 26 national conferences. I have been active, primarily as a lighting designer, with the Aberdeen Community Theatre (or ACT) since its first production: Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, in July of 1980.
My passion: Lighting...
My interest in theatrical lighting began while I was still in high school. During my junior year (1958-59) I joined the "Little Theatre" and became a member of their lighting committee. That spring we saw the national company's production of My Fair Lady (1956) with "Lighting by Feder" at the Kiel Opera House (now the Peabody Opera House) in St. Louis. This was my first exposure to a Broadway style production of a musical and to what Jean Rosenthal, the mother of American lighting design, would call the "magic of light." It was a beautiful production which had a huge influence on my life. I've done the lighting for MFL three times, first in 1964, as an undergraduate at SIU; again in 1983 at Northern State and finally in 2000 at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Aberdeen. In the spring of 2016 I discovered that Abe Feder's original paper work, including the light plot, hook-up chart and cue sheets, is available at the The Lighting Archive. It is a very interesting study!
I started my professional library during my senior year in high school, with the purchase of three thin books I saw advertised in Theatre Arts (1916-1964) magazine: Stanley McCandless' A Method of Lighting the Stage, (Fourth edition, 1958), Rubin and Watson's Theatrical Lighting Practice (1954), and the 1960 Century Theatre Lighting catalogue.
In the 1960's, St. Louis, a forty minute bus ride from my home town of Belleville, Illinois, was a major stop on the national circuit. Almost every week a new show loaded into the American Theatre, which opened as the Orphum Theatre, a vaudeville house in September 1917. Between 1960 and 1965, I saw productions of Arthur Miller's After the Fall, The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Tammy Grimes, The Best Man, Camelot, Flower Drum Song, Advice and Consent, Once Upon A Mattress with Buster Keaton as the "mute king", Oh Dad, Poor Dad... with Hermione Gingold, Fiorello!, The Tenth Man, Oliver!, HMS Pinafore, Carnival and The Sound of Music. In those days a second balcony seat for a Saturday matinee of a musical cost only $3.50.
At Southern Illinois University I was hired as a student electrician in Shryock Auditorium. In the fall of 1966 that venue became an IA "bus and truck" house. During the next two years I worked as part of the electrical crew on Half a Six Pence, The Grand Canadian Ballet, Luv (with a 45 year old Nancy Walker as Ellen Manville), On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Hello, Dolly! (with a 53 year old Dorothy Lamour - the sarong girl from the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road to..." movies of the 1940s - as Dolly) and a performance by The Martha Graham Dance Company (with a 72 year old lead dancer). The lighting for three of these shows, Martha Graham, Luv and Hello Dolly! was designed by Jean Rosenthal. To me, my employment at Shryock was more than just a job, it was a wonderful learning experience. Who better to teach lighting, by example, than Jean Rosenthal? As a student I wanted to learn more about the Broadway approach to lighting, but in the 1960s, with the exception of a brief chapter in Rubin and Watson's Theatrical Lighting Practic, very little information was available.
In the early 1980s I discovered that the light plots, hook-up charts, focus sheets and cue sheets for a large number of Rosenthal's designs were archived in the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. I made my first visit in 1986 and have returned four times. Today, selected examples of Rosenthal's paper work, including the paperwork for the National Company of Bernstein's West Side Story (1957) are available online at The Lighting Archive.
An Interest: Computer programming...
In 1993, after the University placed an AT&T 8086 in my office, I developed an interest in computer programming. I began by writing a couple of short lighting programs in BASIC, later I began coding in C. I wrote several small utilities I used to determine class grades and two DOS based (non-Windows) lighting software packages: GelFind and LiteCalc.
Family and friends...
My wife, Margaret and I have been married since June of 1968 and have three grown children and four grand sons. Our first born, Elizabeth, is the Director of the Public Library in Henry, Illinois. Fred, our oldest son, is a press operator at Mid States Printing in Aberdeen. Jerome, our youngest, is a Northern graduate with a BA degree in MultiMedia Design. He is a Graphic and Web Designer with Quality Quick Print in Aberdeen as well as a free lance Video Editor. My wife, all three of our children, two of our grand sons, and one daughter-in-law are (or have been) active in a local community theatre.