Brendan Quigley is a fixture amongst Broadway production electricians, with head electrician, technical director, lighting director, and Vari-Lite programmer on his list of skills. He has filled the role of production electrician this past year for The Play That Goes Wrong, Rock Of Ages, and Grinch, with past productions including Amazing Grace, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked Munchkinland (national tour), and War Horse (first national tour). But primarily, he has served as an electrician for Wicked since its pre-Broadway tryout in San Francisco in 2003, and as head electrician since 2005 when he took over the position. 2018 marks the 15th anniversary for the show itself, and almost 16 years for Quigley as a part of the Wicked family, as they continue defying gravity in becoming Broadway’s sixth longest-running show.
1. How did you become a master electrician and production electrician for Broadway?
I have a unique history for a Broadway electrician; I toured for the better part of 15 years doing arena rock shows including tours for Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Pat Benatar, Hank Williams Jr., and more. Transitioning to the Broadway market was fairly simple, as I spent some time in college at Cal Poly Pomona (oddly an agricultural school with a great theater program), which helped me move from one genre to another. My first production job was as PE for the first national tour of Grinch, a show I continue to work on today.
2. When you started working at Wicked, did you have any idea you would be there for 15 years, and what made you stay?
Once we had our first performance in San Francisco, a few of us realized we had a hit. But I don’t think anyone thought we’d still be going to Oz 15 years later. I’ve stayed because I work with a really wonderful group of talented artists and technicians, and a management team that really cares about the product. We get the support we need from the GMs and producers to maintain the show to a very high standard, and the support I get from the creative team allows me to ensure that the show meets their original creative intent.
3. How has the lighting gear has been updated over the year?
We’ve added a few fixtures and upgraded very little until the past few months. We are in the process of transitioning to some new LED technology; incandescent bulbs are on their way out (EYCs are no longer manufactured, for example), so we are looking to upgrade our cyc, and then we will move on to other fixture types. As I mentioned, I work for a great group of people that are committed to keeping Wicked looking as good as it did on day one. I mean, I had the very first Philips Vari-Lite VL3000 spots ever manufactured, so chasing the bleeding edge of technology is part of the Wicked experience.
4. What is the most challenging part of your job? And your day-to-day duties?
The “day-to-day” I guess is the hardest part of my gig; to not be complacent, to continually focus on making everything work every night. 14,000 to 16,000 people a week come to see Wicked, so we need to stay on top of our game so that we provide them the experience of a lifetime. It is important that the cues execute on time, that the show looks the way the creative team envisioned it, and our number one job is to support them. There is a lot of tech on our show, and we spend a lot of time keeping our 15-year-old fixtures in top working shape.
I have run the desk for most of the past 12 years. We started with an ETC Obsession 1500 for conventional fixtures and scrollers, a High End Systems Hog 2 for the Vari-Lite system, and a Hog PC for projections. We currently run an MA Lighting grandMA2 for everything; all the other desk cue lists have been merged into one show file.
5. Do you take time off to do other projects? Do they save your job when you do?
I do take time off. I need to keep up with the current gear, and I need the mental break from the daily grind that is Wicked. The good folks at Wicked do save my job for me upon my return! Taking time away keeps me fresh and provides me with a new critical eye when revisiting the show, even if it is only a week or two away. Part of the time you’ll see me on other productions, and almost as often you’ll find me behind my camera in some wild place photographing the natural world. Both paths keep me refreshed and ready to come back to Wicked.