Thanks To Behind The Scenes

I recently received a grant from The ESTA Foundation's Behind the Scenes program, and I want you to know how important and helpful that act of generosity was.

I am Michael Maag, the master electrician at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — you may have heard of us. Founded in 1935, the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival is among the oldest and largest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Each year, OSF presents an eight-and-a-half-month season of 11 plays in three theatres in rotating rep — more than 780 performances annually. So I have a few things to do. Unfortunately, while taking a break from the joy and craziness that is the OSF Lighting Department, I was struck by a car while riding my bicycle. The resulting spinal cord injury paralyzed my legs and permanently damaged my right shoulder. I also faced a deteriorating condition and spreading paralysis that would require more surgery to halt.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival was amazingly accommodating to my new situation; they allowed me to return to work as the master electrician. The Festival even held a benefit performance to help with my enormous medical expenses. However, beyond the financial difficulties, I had many practical problems to overcome. Just to get to work, I had to have someone drive me, unload my wheel chair, and help me into it. I also had a very difficult time moving between our three theatres and getting where I needed to be to do my job. My wife and I were overwhelmed with the many financial and practical problems my new situation presented to us.

That is when I wrote to The ESTA Foundation after a friend (Dinna Myers at Musson) suggested that I do so. The ESTA Foundation's Behind the Scenes program is a brand new granting agency, and I think they might have been a little overwhelmed by the enormity of expenses that I need help with. However, they acted quickly and sent me a check for the expense that would be most helpful to me: the motorized wheelchair. With the chair, I have a lot of independent mobility options that I did not have before. This chair is so amazing; it has a 10 to 12 mile range. I actually use it to get back and forth from work to home. It also climbs the steep hills of Ashland like it is a mountain goat. Most importantly, I can get in and out of the theatres on my own now.

I cannot find enough ways to express my gratitude for this grant. The ESTA Foundation's Behind the Scenes program has given me independence and the ability to continue in the work I love. The support and love of the people at OSF, and through Behind the Scenes, the people in our industry, give me the courage to fight this battle every day.

I urge you to make even a small donation to Behind the Scenes if you have the means. There are many theatre technicians in need whose lives can be changed for the better as mine has been. (www.estafoundation.org/bts.htm)

Thank you to The ESTA Foundation's Behind the Scenes for your generosity. The gift you have given will have a long, lasting positive effect on my life.
Michael K. Maag, master electrician
Oregon Shakespeare Festival

A History Lesson

In her article on a production of Shakespeare's The Tempest at BAM's Next Wave Festival (LD, November 2006), Ellen Lampert-Gréaux says, “Gaslight had just been introduced into the theatre in France,“ at the time of the play's writing and quotes designer Michel Lemieux, “This play was definitely written with that in mind.“ The Tempest was first performed in 1611, but most histories of stage lighting place the introduction of gas lighting into the theatre in the early 19th century. Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theatre is said to have installed the world's first gas stage-lighting system in 1818. Lemieux and Lampert-Gréaux may have been thinking of some of the 16th- and 17th- century lighting innovations devised by Serlio and Sabattini, among others, which involved methods of creating lighting effects with oil lamps. Serlio's influential Five Books of Architecture was indeed published in London in 1611.
Arnold Wengrow, contributing editor
Theatre Design and Technology, the Journal of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology