Guy Bergquist receives 2016 Wally Russell Professional Mentor Award

Arena Stage‘s Guy Bergquist received USITT’s 2016 Wally Russell Professional Mentor Award March 18 at USITT 2016 in Salt Lake City.

Bergquist retired from the Washington, D.C. theatre company in 2011 after 25 years. He is the second person to receive the award created in memory of Russell, a beloved figure in lighting and theatre technology who helped many people get their start in the industry.

Wally Russell Foundation board members Paul Vincent and Tom Folsom presented Bergquist with the award, which he accepted with an emotional speech that touched on his love for collaboration that honors the work onstage.

“When I heard I would receive this award, I kept wondering, ‘Why me?'” he said. “And after 374 versions of this speech, it came to me: Respect. Respect for the art of storytelling, respect for the artists and the audience, and respect for our process of collaboration and for each other.”

In his 25 years at Arena Stage, Bergquist served as production coordinator, associate producer, producer, and interim managing director — the latter while also leading the theater’s $137 million construction and renovation project for the Mead Center for American Theater, which opened in 2010.

He worked with all three of Arena’s artistic directors — Molly Smith, Douglas Wager, and founding artistic director Zelda Fichandler.

Bergquist began his career in 1970 at the O’Neill Theatre Center, where over ten years he worked as both production manager for the National Playwrights Conference and stage manager for the National Theatre of the Deaf.

He also served in the US Army, Special Services, and worked as production stage manager for the Hartford Ballet, co-owner of Melodrama Theater in Austin, Texas, and producing director of the theatre and interpretation center at Northwestern University.

But it was at Arena that he had the most impact as a mentor, teaching, encouraging, and challenging “dozens, if not hundreds, of young theatre professionals,” three former mentees wrote in their nomination.

“His mentees are now scattered throughout the country, further spreading the ‘gospel of Guy’ to yet another generation,” read a letter signed by Jill Anderson, general manager of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut; Jane Casamajor, production manager at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, and Angie Moy, production director at Kollaboration D.C.

Bergquist received many nominations from current and former Arena staff who praised his nurturing leadership style and his availability to everyone “from the artistic director to the janitors” if they needed his ear.

Bergquist was moved to tears when he thanked “my colleagues who conspired to nominate me,” many of whom were in the audience. Then he joked, “A big part of mentoring is teaching people to write good nominating letters.”

He described his approach to his work as simply pursuing his passion and doing what he loved every day. “I love going to work,” he said. “I go in early and stay late. I especially like being backstage with actors and crew waiting for curtain.”

“I find nothing more satisfying than problem-solving,” he added. “The three words I hate most are ‘Not my job.”

Bergquist was then invited to join the panel that followed, USITT’s 2016 Distinguished Achievers in Conversation. The discussion featured scene designer Anna Louizos, sound designers John Leonard, theatre safety pioneer Monona Rossol, Wally Russell 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Gordon Pearlman, and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who accepted the USITT 2016 Distinguished Achievement Award for her partner, the late Sonny Sonnenfeld, who passed away on February 10.

From Lighting & Sound America Online, March 29, 2016

Gordon Pearlman announced as the 2016 “Wally” Lifetime Achievement Winner

The Board of Directors of the Wally Russell Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015/2016 Lifetime Achievement Award is renowned inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator, Gordon Pearlman.

Gordon Pearlman

The award will be presented at the USITT Exhibition and Conference in Salt Lake City on March 18th at a breakfast celebration.

Gordon Pearlman has been an innovator in our industry for over 45 years and it can be safely said that few have made greater contributions to the technology of lighting control for entertainment and architectural lighting than he has.  Throughout his career he has combined art and technology to create unique lighting tools that have been both commercial and artistic successes.

His resume is a who’s who of our industry including:

  • Electronics Diversified
  • Kliegl Brothers Lighting
  • Entertainment Technology
  • Lightolier Controls (now Philips Lighting Controls)
  • Strand Lighting (Entertainment and Architectural   controls)
  • Philips Entertainment (Vari-Lite, Entertainment Technology, Strand Lighting)

Beginning at the University of North Carolina where he was an assistant professor and lighting designer, his life changed when a student asked for help creating a system to control 36 slide projectors  (remember those?). He taught himself Basic and started down a new career path.  That path led him to create the LS/8®, the first theatrical computer lighting control console.  It was used on Broadway for Tharon Musser’s design of A Chorus Line. The LS/8® opened the door to the acceptance of computer lighting control in our industry. From the LS/8® and Electronics Diversified, he moved on to Kliegl Bros as their Director of Development where he created the Performance®, Command Performance® and the extremely successful industry standard Performer® I,II and III consoles that saw wide use in both permanent installations  and touring productions.  The Performer® series and the Strand Lighting mini-Palette® dominated the mid-range console market for many years.

In the mid 80’s, Gordon started Entertainment Technology with Steve Carlson creating products for both ET and others.  Brands like the Great American Market Access® consoles delivered computer lighting control to all levels of users along with the popular Horizon PC® based controls. During this time he also developed the Strand Lighting Impact® console which became one of Strand Lighting’s most successful products for both theatre and television customers.  The Morpheus Light Commander® soon followed becoming his first automated lighting control for concert lighting.

During this time Gordon worked on the introduction of the first big change in dimming since the advent of the SCR; the development of IGBT choke-less dimmers. This dimmer technology was available in portable dimmer strips, permanent dimmer racks and delivered effectively silent dimming without the use of voltage dropping filter chokes.  These dimmers are still shipping today in products from Philips Lighting Controls and Philips Entertainment.  In 2010 Gordon became a Fellow of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

Gordon’s interests go beyond Entertainment lighting control. His contributions to Architectural lighting have also been exceptional. Working with Lightolier he developed the Lytemode® and Scenist® family of lighting controls.  They brought presets to architectural lighting, banishing walls full of rotary and slider controls to create the first microprocessor controls that fit into a wall box. These products earned Pearlman a fellowship in the Illuminating Engineering Society.  He went on to extend and develop Strand Lighting’s® controls adding advanced Touchscreen controls that can control today’s highly sophisticated color changing and automated lighting.

Gordon began his career in 1966 as a lighting designer and continues to practice this craft from time to time from his home in Portland, Oregon.  He is spending his retirement with his wife, Sondra, his children and grandchildren.

The award will be presented on March 18th at a breakfast celebration at the Salt Lake City Convention Center in conjunction with USITT’s trade show and exhibition.

Following the breakfast, the Wally Russell Mentoring award will be presented as part of the USITT Distinguished Achievement Award Winners in Conversation in the South Grand Ballroom.

For further information regarding the Wally Russell Foundation, the Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award, the Wally Russell Lighting Intern Program at the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, or the Wally Russell Annual Mentoring Award, or to contribute to the Wally Foundation, please contact:

Tom Folsom

Board Member

The Wally Russell Foundation

16458 Bolsa Chica Street

Suite 221

Huntington Beach, CA  92649

USA          714-699-3573