In Memoriam: William B. Warfel (1933-2017)

Lighting designer and theater consultant William B. Warfel, Professor Emeritus of Theater Design at Yale University, died on Sunday, May 28, 2017. He was 84.

Born February 12, 1933, Warfel received his BA from Yale College in 1955, and because he had already taken several courses at Yale School of Drama, earned his MFA there in 1957. He then spent five years as Technical Director of the Dartmouth Players at Dartmouth College, where he also taught. In 1962 he went to work for Century Lighting, beginning a career in architectural lighting, fixture design, and theater consulting, that lasted for more than 40 years with several companies, comprising hundreds of projects, including work for the Carnegie Science Center, Chapel of St. Thomas More at Yale University, Paul Mellon Arts Center at Choate-Rosemary Hall, Hood Museum of Art, Machu Picchu Museum, and Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, among many others.

In 1967, Warfel joined the Yale School of Drama faculty in the Design department and became Lighting Director at Yale Repertory Theatre—he was co-chair of Design from 1972-1993, and he lit many productions at the Yale Repertory Theatre, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, revived on multiple occasions at Yale and later at American Repertory Theatre, and the 25th Anniversary production of Athol Fugard's The Blood Knot, which also played on Broadway. Warfel was also the author of Handbook Of Stage Lighting Graphics and of Color Science For Lighting The Stage (with Walter Klappert), as well as articles for Architectural Lighting And Educational Theatre Journal and other magazines; notably, he wrote the influential software GelFile, which pioneered an approach allowing users to predict how gel colors would interact with each other when lights overlapped.

Warfel was profoundly dedicated to teaching and to the well-being of his students. The significance of his achievements as a designer of stage and architectural lighting and theater consultant are especially complemented by the accomplishments of so many field leaders who studied with him, and he will long be remembered for his excellent work and kindness. Throughout his career, his generosity of spirit and vitality were beautifully matched by those of his wife of 62 years, Phyllis Warfel, also a graduate of Yale School of Drama, who survives him, along with their daughters, Arden Lowe of South Hadley, MA and Katherine Trudeau of East Hartford, CT, four grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service at Christ Church, 70 Broadway, New Haven, Connecticut on Saturday, June 3 at 2:30 pm. The service and reception afterwards are open to all. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes memorial donations to be directed to the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Please type Bill Warfel in the notes section.