He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man. Antoine de Saint Éxupéry
It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to three beloved men, valued members of our USITT family and of the greater theatre arts community. Fellows of the Institute and heroes in our profession W. Oren Parker, Samuel H. Scripps, and Richard Thompson died in the first two months of this year.
A moment of silence was observed during the Keynote of the 2007 Annual Conference & Stage Expo in honor of these three great men, and all the other esteemed members USITT has lost in the past year. In Memoriam articles about Mr. Parker, Mr. Scripps, Mr. Thompson, and Thomas Beagle, who was also an early member of the Institute can
be found elsewhere in this issue.
What follows is a glimpse of personal feelings and memories of these three Fellows through the rent in the tightly woven fabric of our membership, colleagues, and fellow theatre designers and technicians by way of a collage of letters and remembrances of these fine men and an examination of ourselves as we adjust to our loss.
W. Oren Parker, educator, designer, author, and namesake of the USITT Awards for Young Designers & Technicians in the Arts, W. Oren Parker Scenic Design Award, was professor emeritus of drama at Carnegie Mellon University. Among the outstanding leaders in the training of scene designers, Oren Parker's legacy looms large among our membership. His book, Scene Design and Stage Lighting, is a classic that has been in continuous use and relied upon by a wide range of USITT members -- teachers and students alike.
Randy Earle, Chair, Fellows of the Institute, wrote, "It is with great sadness I must report the loss of a talented artist, inspiring teacher, and good friend to so many of us in USITT." Condolences may be addressed to Thelma (Teschie) Parker, 2619 Camino Cordoba SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124-8821. Memorial gifts are requested for the Oren Parker Award at CMU School of Drama or the USITT Oren Parker Award for Scene Design. "Let's remember how much we learned from this wonderful man."
Richard Thompson passed away in Van Nuys, California on February 12. He had a long career in theatre engineering focusing on safe theatre equipment and safe building codes. He is survived by his sister, Barbara Evans, 309 Ridgewood Road, Austin, TX 78746. Notes of condolence may be sent to Barbara.
In forwarding this sad news, Mr. Earle remembered Richard Thompson when Randy was a student USITT member in awe of the accomplished professionals with whom USITT offered the opportunity to "rub elbows." He cherishes Richards's kindness and mentoring which turned out to be well placed. Soon after, Mr. Earle was elected USITT's youngest president. He recalled "I know we'll all miss Richard's sage advice and wisdom."
And from Dr. Randall Davidson, (Health & Safety Commissioner Emeritus, friend, and professional associate of Mr. Thompson): "I shall miss him and know that what he gave to me as a professional and friend has helped me to help all those I know."
Jack Schmidt echoes: "Amen to Randy's comments. I worked with Richard on a couple of projects and always found him a delightful gentleman and a good friend. I mourn his passing."
Samuel H. Scripps, noted theatre, dance, and film aficionado, practitioner, and philanthropist died on February 16. Mr. Scripps spent most of his life in the theatre. In the 1950s he served as assistant technical director at the old Globe Theater in San Diego and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (which later became the California Shakespeare Festival). After moving to New York in 1980, he continued his career as lighting designer for the Riverside Shakespeare Company. He was especially interested in the importance of multi-cultural and international activities and was generous in facilitating cross-cultural opportunities in the arts.
Van Phillips, on the loss of these pillars of our profession admonishes his fellow Fellows: " I can't think of three more gentle, genteel, or more wonderful professionals than Orrie, Richard, and Sam. We are all going to need to pick up some slack to keep their love of theatre and its design and technology alive! I hope someone notified OISTAT about Orrie. He so loved those international meetings. As did Sam for that matter. I will always remember Richard for scolding me about why I had not had the MFA in engineering-in-theatre ready at Purdue when he completed his engineering degree there. ‘That is the degree I needed to get!'" he said.
"And without Sam and Stan (Miller) bidding against each other (at USITT's triennial Art Auction), to add to their theatre design rendering collections, what will an Endowment Art Auction be like? Less exciting at the very least. I hope Sylvia is right about threes; I don't think I can stand much more news like this. At least February is almost over. The rest of you -- stay well, d**n it!"
USITT's responsibility to the memory of these remarkable men, and to one another as we adjust to our loss, is eloquently captured in Tim Kelly's observations: "Boy, did Van nail it or what? Being prompted to reflect on mortality - our own, theirs, everyone's -- in light of the death of our friends is an opportunity not to be wasted. The spirit of Van's statement should be remembered in everything we do so that we leave our industry, community, and world, a better place for having passed by. The measure of a life can be weighed in what memories remain, and one would hope that the scale shows that we made a difference. It's nice to be a colleague in this thoughtful group of people."
And, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of Heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun. William Shakespeare
USITT's Fellows gather annually as part of the USITT Conference to present the Fellows Address, induct new members, assist in mentoring, and conduct
business This year's sessions were marked with a sense of loss because of the deaths of three members in a two-month period.