Lighting Designer Pat Collins Passes Away

Update March 23, 2022: One-year anniversary of Pat Collin's death. This story is trending on our website as people were linking to it on social media on the anniversary of her death.

Lighting designer Pat Collins ( (April 3, 1932 – March 21, 2021) made her Broadway debut with a 1976 revival of Threepenny Opera. Her additional New York credits include Ain't Misbehavin', King of Hearts, I'm Not Rappaport, Execution of Justice, The Heidi Chronicles, Conversations With My Father, The Sisters Rosensweig, Proof, Dr Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Doubt.

In 1986, Collins won a Tony Award for Best Lighting Design for I'm Not Rappaport—as well as a Drama Desk Award—and was nominated for a Tony in 1977 for Threepenny Opera, and again in 2005 for Doubt

Collins was also active with regional theaters such as Hartford Stage Company, Goodman Theater, McCarter Theater, Steppenwolf, Lincoln Center Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Old Globe Theater, and Ford’s Theater.

Tony Award-winning scenic designer John Lee Beatty recalls: "Once, on a day off from the Goodman, Pat and I went on a roller-coaster ride together, screaming in terror, sharing the thrills. Like our tech week together at Ain’t Misbehavin’. So many, many shows together—regional, Broadway, off-Broadway... I even ran into her in London, doing brave work for the English National Opera. A bright, nervy lady with a sensitive side—a description of her and a good description of her lighting as well: Intelligent, nervy, sensitive. What do you say about a life of collaboration? I still quote some of her advice, and respect our shared confidences. She was my sister."

Tony-winning costume designer Jess Goldstein says: “I’m very sorry to say I just heard of the passing of the great Pat Collins, extraordinary lighting designer, and a most delightful woman of the theatre. We did Proof and so many other shows together over the years. Sharing a tech table with her was always great fun. I'll never forget doing some play with Pat back in the mid-1980s at Baltimore's Center Stage, we were in tech and the stage manager announced to Pat and all of us that Pat had just won a Tony for I'm Not Rappaport! She'd preferred spending the evening with us. She will be missed.”

Stage manager Michael McGoff adds, “I just heard via Jess Goldstein that Pat Collins, the amazing person who was an incredible lighting designer, has passed. We did Burn This at the Union Square and she was a Cracker Jack, always a wit and we enjoyed sharing lunches together over tech and previews. She came back to relight when we re-cast and she asked me if there was anything that wasn't working and I told her about this one light over the kitchen that seemed to be focused not to support something. She said,"Well shit, you're right," and then she moved the light and onward we went. On our second opening night I received a $150 gift certificate to Union Square Cafe as a thank you for taking care of her world. I so admired her dedication to storytelling. We also did Lee Blessing's Thief River together and she made that story sing with her work. I am grateful and honored to have shared laughs and breaths with her."

Sound designer John Gromada comments: "I just learned Pat Collins has left us. There was no designer more passionate about the work than Pat. I learned so much from her over the years, sitting next to her at tech tables and at dinner tables. She was fierce—I was terrified of her the first couple times I worked with her— but funny and super sensitive, and smart. She did not suffer fools. She taught me a lot about what it means to be a designer/artist. I feel very fortunate to have made a lot of great theatrical moments with her—and been in her formidable presence, and to have been able to call her a friend...I first worked with her in 1987 when I was a 23 year-old designer-—on Woman in Mind. Lynne Meadow directing, John Lee, Pat, and Ann Roth designing—and little old me at 23! Then we went on to do many shows together with Irene Lewis and Mark Lamos and Dan Sullivan including Proof."

Lighting designer Michael Chybowski reminiscences: "Pat came up to Alaska Rep in 1982 to do Enemy of the People with Hugh Landwehr and Irene (from Center Stage). I was an electrician there and had just started the job of resident lighting assistant. Pat flew up to see a rehearsal, see the theatre, and talk with Irene. After that she borrowed my drafting table in our design studio and drew the plot in a little less then four hours. Then off she went to the airport. That turned out to be the most beautiful show that Alaska Rep did in the five years that I was there, and I still remember the lessons that I took from her cueing. She came back in 1984 when Alaska Rep brought the entire Broadway production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ up there, including the original cast and the designs. I still remember being in the rehearsal hall for the designer run-thru and we were all waiting for Pat to arrive from the airport so it could start. She walked in the door and it was like everyone in the room levitated- just the positive energy that she gave off made people float up into the air... those were formative moments in my early career, and she was special."

Author/arts administrator Howard Sherman notes: "Earlier this week, I was complimented on the lighting I have set up at home for Zoom sessions and my immediate thought was: Pat Collins wouldn't have accepted anything less. Pat was probably the first lighting designer I really got to know – she was such a regular at Hartford Stage when I was there. She was brilliant, funny, warm, and sometimes quite daunting. I have a memory of Mark Lamos and John Conklin hiding from her at one point during the endless tech for the six-hour Peer Gynt – lest she unleash her wrath upon them. I have not seen her in a number of years, but I will always remember the way she improvised with light, the way she put instruments on every available pipe and perch, and her glorious grin. Condolences to everyone who knew her, worked with her, and loved her."

Pat Collins on stage at Hartford Stage, lighting a production of Cymbeline,
directed by Mark Lamos. Photo: T. Charles Erickson