Lighting Designer and Theatre Consultant

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Theatre consultant and lighting designer David Taylor, a friend and dear colleague, passed away on Sunday 16 January, at the tragically early age of 48.

We shared many thrilling times together, and, as consultants, many arduous travels too. His passion for theatre and music made him a brilliant theatre consultant. His loyalty to the arts, and to his clients, made him a ferocious fighter in the battle for better theatres around the world.

His enthusiasm, expertise, and total commitment endeared him to his clients and their users, to architects and other consultants, as well as to contractors and suppliers. His always-boyish excitement inspired many around him.

Lighting design remained a central passion to David. This was exemplified by his on-going work for Nicholas Kent at London''s Tricycle theatre, that was seen most recently on tour in the US and in New York’s Public Theatre, with "The Great Game: Afghanistan."

He was a pivotal member of the Theatre Projects team from 1985 to 2006, first in the UK, and then playing a major role in our pioneering work across America, becoming a member of the Board of Directors.  Among his many projects were the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York, the Chicago Shakespeare and Goodman Theaters in Chicago, the Kimmell Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, the Dallas AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Benaroya Concert Hall, Seattle, and the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

David attended the University of London, where he earned a First Class Honors degree in Drama and Scenography. He had lighting and scenery credits for more than 100 productions in the UK and worldwide.  He was a member of the Association of Lighting Designers (ALD), the Society of Theatre Consultants (STC) and a member of ISPA, ABTT and USITT. David was a member of the Governing Body of the Entertainment Services & Technology Association (ESTA). He was a frequent contributor to theatre technology magazines in the UK and US.

Our paths had seperated with his move from Theatre Projects to head Arup Performance Venue consulting, but I remained a great admirer.

Finally, we shared a great love for the Scottish Hebridean Islands, where we were both blessed with summer hideaway retreats from the helter-skelter world of theatre.

Being a theatre consultant is all-absorbing. The quiet glow that comes after a successful opening of a new project makes one forget the long journey, sometimes for many years, which led to that moment. Getting up before dawn, to catch another flight, long days meeting theatre people seeking to learn and understand their dreams, endless negotiations with, sometime recalcitrant, architects to defend those aspirations, patiently trying to teach an unaware contractor of the need for precision, long nights of sleeplessness regurgitating those struggles, confidence, self-doubt, the panic before a major presentation, the thrill of victory . . . This was the life that David excelled in.

I remember on January 17, 1994, in a Santa Monica hotel. I was woken by an express train in my bedroom that threw me on the floor plaster was collapsing from the ceiling. The 6.6 Northridge Earthquake. Well-trained from living though the Blitz, I put on shoes and trousers, grabbed my briefcase with computer, and with only flickering emergency lighting, groped my way to the stair escape through screaming, panicking fellow guests. It was 4.31 AM.

Fighting through the crowds in the lobby, I found David, looking distinctly shaken.

“Come on Dave, we should get out of here, I know the safest place.” In the courtyard of the hotel stood a vast, 500-year old banyan tree. We two lost Brits took shelter beneath it as helicopters rattled in the skies above us, and after-shocks continued to surprise. It was very frightening indeed.

But, dawn broke, and we had a meeting to attend. No taxis, so we set off, walking several miles, through rubble-strewn streets to the architects’ high-rise offices. We arrived to find a tall building without windows and with water gushing from every floor. We guessed the meeting was cancelled.

David looked at me. “Richard, I guess we have the day off.”

David and I had many memories together. Disasters, many happy times, with many triumphs. Throughout this roller-coaster, consulting life, his was the cheerful, affirmative, determinedly optimistic spirit.

I, like so many of his colleagues and friends, am devastated.

Our deepest love and sympathy go to his wife, Sara, and their two boys, of whom he was so very proud, Oliver and Sebastian.