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

Ken Billington to receive first Wally Russell Mentor Award March 20, 2015

Lighting Designer Ken Billington will receive the first Wally Russell Mentor Award at the Cincinnati 2015 Conference & Stage Expo.

Several people nominated Mr. Billington for the award, established last year by USITT and the Wally Russell Foundation. It recognizes generous mentorship by an entertainment industry professional.

The award is named for the late Wally Russell, a beloved figure in lighting and theatre technology who helped many young colleagues get their start. USITT will present it Friday, March 20, as part of its Distinguished Achievement Award Winners in Conversation, followed by a meet-and-greet reception.

Mr. Billington is principal designer and owner of KB Associates, Inc., a New York lighting design and production firm. In the last 30 years, he has designed 98 Broadway shows including 2014’s Act One. He has seven Tony Award nominations and won the 1997 Lighting Design Tony for Chicago. His designs have enhanced many acclaimed opera, dance, and concert productions. For 27 years he lit the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

According to his fans, some of his most appreciated work has been hiring young assistants, teaching them to be great lighting designers, and helping launch their careers.

Jason Kantrowitz, a lighting designer with 25 Broadway credits and a lineup of Disney and Las Vegas spectaculars, called Mr. Billington “one of the greatest theatre mentors of our time.”

“After beginning his career under the mentorship of Tharon Musser, Ken has always followed the age-old tradition of nourishing young talent, spreading his wisdom and experience, and prompting young people to think in new ways,” Mr. Kantrowitz wrote. “He has guided countless lighting designers, but he has also been a brilliant influence on so many set designers, costume designers, stage managers, technical directors, managers, manufacturers, sales teams, directors, and choreographers … He is truly a guiding force in our industry.”

Another successful lighting designer, Anne E. Mills wrote, “Ken often jokes about attending ‘Musser U.’ I like to tell others that I am a proud graduate of KBU.”

“Ken hired me right out of grad school with very little professional experience,” she wrote. “He made me an integral part of his office, exposed me to the world of Broadway shows, mentored me through acquiring my union card, and generally nurtured my career into becoming the best professional that I could be.”

Anne Valentino, Eos product line manager for ETC, said she has relied on her former mentor to test every lighting desk she designs. “He is legendary,” she wrote. “And the work that we have done has impacted desks across the industry.”

In a 2008 Playbill interview, Mr. Billington said, “I always wanted to be an artist, but I couldn’t paint. So I paint with light. I don’t use brushes; I use electricity.”

For more info on Mr. Billington, see his website,

Announcing the New Wally Russell Mentor Award with USITT

October 20, 2014

The Board of Directors of the Wally Russell Foundation announce the creation of the annual Wally Russell Mentoring Award in conjunction with the United States Institute for Theater Technology (USITT). The first annual award will be presented this year at the USITT Conference and Trade Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 18-21st.

Because of the commitment of both Board’s of Directors and the generous sponsorship of Philips Strand Lighting and Thern Stage Equipment, this award will be a permanent part of the USITT awards program each year at the National Conference. Details regarding nominations for the award can be found by going to the USITT website, (

“Since 1992, The Wally Foundation has been a major contributor to the Lighting Intern programs at the Los Angeles Opera and Canadian Opera, contributing over $200,000 to those organizations in support of their Wally Russell Lighting Intern Programs. In addition, the Foundation has provided for a ‘lifetime achievement award’ on an annual basis”, commented Richard Pilbrow, Chairman Emeritus of the Wally Foundation. “We strongly felt the need to create a ‘permanent’ award in Wally’s name, and the USITT Board was in agreement. The creation of a Mentoring Award in Wally’s name is an excellent opportunity to continue to recognize the many and diverse contributions of Wally Russell, in addition to promoting active mentoring in our industry, of which he was a superb example.”

David Grindle, Executive Director for USITT also commented on this exciting development. “When the Wally Board first approached USITT with the idea of creating a Wally Award, we considered many options. When we hit upon the idea of a mentoring award, there was unanimous agreement that such an award was needed, and that there was no better means of celebrating Wally’s life than to create this award in his honor.”

“USITT by-laws require sufficient funding to support such a permanent award”, commented Tom Folsom, Chairman of the Wally Foundation. The Wally Board agreed to back the funding, and we are very fortunate to have leadership support from Thern Stage and Strand Lighting to help sponsor and support this commitment.”

The Wally Russell Mentor Award is an award to recognize, encourage and permanently commemorate that process which so often lies at the heart of our profession . . . the mentoring of young people at the start of their careers by colleagues, teachers or benefactors. We all began somewhere; we all received inspiration and support from someone . . . we wish to record these networking relationships and begin to build a “family tree” of the influences that have guided all of us through our careers.

For more details on the award and directions on how to nominate a potential winner, please visit either website where you will be directed to the nominations page.

The Wally Foundation will continue to support the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera Lighting Intern programs moving forward.

“We can always use more contributions to continue this good work”, said John Wiseman, Wally Board Member and President and CEO of Chaos Visual Design. “There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be here today without the positive influence of Wally Russell in my career”.

Any and all contributions to the Wally Foundation may be made at:

Wally Russell Foundation, Inc.
16458 Bolsa Chica Street #221
Huntington Beach, CA 92649 USA

open pdf of press release

Wally Russell Lighting Internship Update – July 2014

Wally Russell Lighting Internship
Canadian Opera Company
Toronto Ontario

July 2, 2014

Dear Members of the Board,

I hope this finds you all well!

It has been a busy year full of changes for us here at the COC. As you no doubt have heard we have a new Director of Production; Peter Lamb joined us last summer and has now been with us for just over a year. Chuck Giles has also joined the team as our new Technical Director in December and has been a welcome member of the production department.

The Wally Russell Lighting Internship continues to be an important part of our year. This year’s recipient was Andrea Nelson, a recent graduate of York University, as well as a junior member of IATSE Local 58.

In no time at all Andrea became an integral member of the team. Her young years belie a maturity and instinct for the art form. In manner, approach, personality and talent she proved she has that unique combination that is rare especially in one at the beginning of their career, but also in many who have been in the industry for years.

It became clear to us that Andrea could continue to be a valuable member of the production department and we hired her as a full ALD for our Spring 3-show rep season. She left no doubt in our mind that we had made the right choice.

Andrea will also be joining us for our Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 seasons; we look forward to having her back.

The support of the Wally Russell Foundation continues to be the single most important way we – as a company – can continue to mentor the next generation of lighting professionals. With your gracious and generous commitment to funding the internship, we will begin our search for the next internship candidate this fall. Again the internship will take place during the Winter 2015 season.

Some more news on past applicants:

Jareth Li is completing his fourth season as Assistant Lighting Designer with the Stratford Festival, and Tristan Tidswell is continuing to work actively in lighting design – both have become good colleagues. Jareth continues to work with the COC as an Assistant Lighting Designer in addition to designing his own work and teaching in the production stream at York University. Aaron Bernstein continues to find work in the digital and projection worlds primarily here in Toronto.

On behalf of the Canadian Opera Company and myself, please accept our continued thanks for the support given by you, the members Wally Russell Foundation Board of Directors. Without your generosity this incredible opportunity would not be possible. It continues to be one of the most sought-after internships in our Area.

With best regards to all.


Wendy Greenwood
Lighting Coordinator

Canadian Opera Company

The Wally Russell Foundation Awards the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award to Jules Fisher

The Board of Directors of the Wally Russell Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, renowned Lighting Designer, Jules Fisher.

The award will be presented at this year’s USITT Exhibition and Conference in Fort Worth Texas, March 26-29th.

Jules Fisher (b. 1937) is credited with lighting designs for more than 300 productions over the course of his 50+ year career in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and for his extensive work in film, ballet, opera, television, and concert tours. He has been nominated 19 times for Tony Awards and received nine.

His most recent project, “Lucky Guy,” 2013, garnered his last Tony. Previous awards were for “Assassins,” 2004; “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” 1996; “Jelly’s Last Jam,” 1992; “TheWill Rogers Follies,” 1991; “Grand Hotel,” 1990; “Dancin’,” 1978; “Ulysses in Nighttown,” 1973; and “Pippin,” 1972.

His other theatre credits include “Ricky Jay on the Stem”, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty”, “The Wild Party,” “Marie Christine,” “Ragtime,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,” “Perestroika,” “Death and the Maiden,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” “Hair,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Lenny,” “No, No Nannette,” “Chicago,” “Beatlemania,” and “American Buffalo.”

His credits as producer include “The Rink,” “Lenny,” “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’,” “Rock N’ Roll! The First 5,000 Years,” “Elvis: An American Musical,” and “Dangerous Games.” He designed the lighting for Kevin Kline’s production of “Hamlet” for WNET-TV, “Porgy and Bess,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the New York City Opera and “Il Trittico” at the MET.

Jules was production supervisor for tours of the Rolling Stones, KISS, and David Bowie. His other lighting design work has ranged from Crosby Stills and Nash, Whitney Houston, and the Simon and Garfunkel concerts in Central Park to the 1977 Academy Awards show.

He lit the Quincy Jones “Reunion on the Mall” concert for President Clinton’s inaugural, which was nominated for an Emmy Award, as well as “America’s Millennium Live All-Star Concert New Year’s Eve 2000.” He designed the lighting for the theatre sequences in the films “Chicago,” “School of Rock,” “The Producers,” “Dreamgirls,’” and “Burlesque.”

Jules is a graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology. He serves as a theatre consultant to architects and performing arts groups and is a consultant to the Broadway Lighting Master Class. He is a partner in the theatrical lighting design firm Third Eye with Peggy Eisenhauer, the theatrical consulting firm Fisher Dachs Associates and the architectural lighting consultancy, Fisher Marantz Stone.

He is married to the celebrated director Graciela Daniele.

The Wally Russell Foundation was founded in 1992 after the untimely death of Wally Russell, a true visionary in the entertainment field. The Foundation annually supports the Wally Russell Lighting Intern at the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera.
Additionally, the Foundation annually awards the Lifetime Achievement award and the Newcomer Award.

The Wally Russell Foundation was founded in 1992 after the untimely death of Wally Russell, a true visionary in the entertainment field. The Foundation annually supports the Wally Russell Lighting Intern at the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera. Additionally, the Foundation annually awards the Lifetime Achievement award and the Newcomer Award. Jules Fisher is the 22nd winner of the ‘Wally’ Award.

The Foundation and USITT

The Wally Russell Foundation will be moving its sponsorship and awards to the annual USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Conference and Stage Expo. (

The Foundation has annually sponsored, for nearly 20 years, Lighting Interns in the name of Wally Russell for the Los Angeles Opera and the Canadian Opera, two organizations with which Wally has been closely affiliated.

“Wally was always about the young,” commented Richard Pilbrow, Wally Board member and Founder of Theatre Projects. “He was constantly finding and promoting new talent. As USITT has grown and matured over the past two decades, the Wally Foundation Board felt it now provided the best access to young designers, technicians and artisans.”

“At the inception of the Wally Russell Foundation, we associated with Theatre Crafts Magazine and the Lighting Dimensions Exposition. In 1993 it was the obvious choice, and frankly, USITT did not offer a significant exhibition for the award to operate effectively,” said Tom Folsom, Chairman of the Wally Foundation and President of KTRP, Inc. “We are and have been always appreciative of the support we have received over the years from LDI and Penton Publications. This change is an acknowledgement of the growth of USITT, and its ability to provide access to talented and successful young people in our industry.”

“We thank LDI for its support in the past and look forward to a long and positive relationship with USITT,” concluded Paul Vincent, Wally Board member and President of Vincent Lighting.

David Grindle, Executive Director of USITT commented, “We are flattered and appreciative of the faith that the Wally Russell Foundation Board has placed with USITT. As we continue to grow and expand, the support and affiliation with these professional organizations becomes part of the expanded service and rewards we are now offering to our members.”