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Drama Guild is Lit!


Drama Guild new lighting system

Rachel Torres '26

The electronic lighting console student technicians used to run Drama Guild productions since the 1990s was bound to give out eventually. And when it did, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Director of Theatre Patricia Flynn H ’95 was teaching the Summer Phase technical theater class in 2022 when the 30-year-old system failed. “There was no repairing that board,” recalled Ms. Flynn, who managed a temporary solution thanks to Brian Collins, head electrician on Broadway’s The Lion King and guest lecturer in the tech theater class.

The ending sparked a new beginning, and a chain reaction of generosity that brought a digital lighting console, new LED stage lights and other technical improvements to Conlin Auditorium. “It’s nothing short of revolutionary,” said Rachel Torres ’26, who operated the digital lightboard for its debut at The Crucible in the fall and the Christmas Concert. “It’s changed a lot for Drama Guild.”

Fortuitous Timing

Alumni have always held a vested interest in the reputation and professional legacy of Drama Guild. The Frank S. Torok Memorial that honored the legendary founder and director of Drama Guild who passed away in 2019, proved fortuitous. Recognizing the need to usher Conlin’s lighting capabilities into the modern age, support for “The Lighting Project,” galvanized at the March 2023 gathering.

Raymond D. Egatz ’65, who’d performed in Drama Guild productions ranging from Brigadoon to Stalag 17, took an immediate interest. Mr. Egatz founded RDE Systems Support Group, an innovative company that designs software products for HIV care. He credits much of this creative thinking to Frank Torok and Drama Guild. “Frank Torok’s influence on my life — and the lives of all of us — was profound,” he explained. “He was a no-nonsense guy who demanded hard work and perfection. And we saw the results of all that hard work in fantastic productions.” Upon learning about the circumstances regarding outdated lighting systems in Conlin, “I knew these kids deserved to have the same opportunities we had.”

Mr. Egatz reached out to Jack English ’65, a good friend from Drama Guild and accomplished lighting designer in the film industry. His expertise was critical since it helped the School realize the scope of the project and that significant investment was needed to bring the production values up to professional standards. A significant portion of the funding came from the Ramon A. and Mary Egatz Fund established by Mr. Egatz in memory of his parents. The project also received generous support and input from Robert J. DiQuollo ’65, chairman of the Board of Trustees, Patrick McCarthy ’65 and others.

Labor of Love

The investment in the digital lighting console, LED stage lights, a seamless scrim and cyclorama totaled $65,000. The project would easily have cost triple that amount if not for the labor provided by old and new friends. Brian Collins, who is married to Associate Headmaster of Academics Michelle Tuorto, consulted on the purchase of equipment, oversaw the wiring and hanging of new stage lights and trained students on how to program and operate the new console. “Drama Guild has jumped decades technology wise,” said Mr. Collins. He approached the project by striking a balance in selecting quality equipment appropriate for the space, without overspending on technology that would not be utilized. When Mr. Collins hit a roadblock putting together the plan, his colleagues, Vinny Failla and Charlie Loiacono, didn’t hesitate to give up their days off from The Lion King to help with installation and setup. And Drama Guild members were there to watch, take direction and learn.

“For our kids to be able to work alongside professionals working at a high level in the theater is really quite remarkable,” said Ms. Flynn. “Especially for the students committed to tech crew it gets them thinking, ‘Maybe this is for me.’”

That’s certainly something Rachel Torres has been thinking about. “Now that we have this new lighting system, we’re familiar with equipment that professionals use. It opens a lot more opportunities and opens your eyes to the possibilities,” she explained. Which has always been the point of Drama Guild and its commitment to professional standards since its founding in 1961.

Pat Flynn hopes to hold a celebration of what she describes as “the new lighting era” for Drama Guild. “The kids are elated, as am I. We’re all looking forward to new technological adventures as we progress in our skill level.” 


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