Remembering Chris Parry: Updated


In light of the recent passing of lighting designer Chris Parry, we're compiling thoughts from friends, colleagues, and family to post here and share with the production community that so embraced and admired his work. Check back regularly, as we'll be adding thoughts shared by Chris Parry's friends and colleagues here. If you would like to submit something to share, please email Live Design editor Marian Sandberg at: [email protected]

“The 2 1/2 years I was a student of Chris' changed my stance on lighting design for the rest of my life. He was a prolific teacher, a great mentor, and a good friend. The last light design that Chris teched for me, ‘Labrynth of Desire,’ was a remarkable process for me. I was lighting underneath the set for the labyrinth moment using mini-strips and Chris questioned if it would work. His phrase, ‘Remember to kill your babies,’ came up during a one-on-one conversation. I wasn't about to kill the baby. The day we were designing the labyrinth, we hazed the whole room, Chris said, ‘Turn them on, let's see,’ and everyone was in awe that it worked. But what was great was Chris pumping his arm up and down, saying, ‘Yes! It worked!’ He was such a great teacher—came to all of our techs and taught me to look at the whole picture and not just specific moments. He would always say, ‘Christian, you’re lighting SR, but don't forget the architecture on SL.’
I will always remember his quotes, his phrases, his weekly classes, his endless emails and handouts, the gin and tonics or the ‘sparkling water’ in Tech. It is hard being here at UCSD and walking by and looking into his office and seeing the neon palm tree still lit, the light plot I drafted for him from the alley theatre that's still on his drafting table, and the silence of the students. I will miss him dearly, as a mentor and dear friend.”
—Christian DeAngelis, lighting design student, UCSD

“I first met Chris at a Broadway Master Class while I was an undergraduate student. During his session ‘Painting With Light’ he captured my attention while explaining how he viewed light and the stage. His explanation put words to the ideas I had in my young design eye. I was fortune enough to become one of Chris’ graduate students and he was an amazing mentor to study under. Whether I was assisting him on projects or he was giving me feedback on mine, he always understood that each designer brought their own vision and ideas to the creative process. Chris often commented, ‘I feel like a gardener cultivating my students. I feed them and water them, give them light, and watch each one grow.’ Chris’ impact on the industry and students was enormous, and he will be greatly missed.”
—Patricia Nichols, lighting designer

“Chris fostered an environment of open communication and criticism that has proved invaluable to me and my peers, A place for us to feel safe enough to unravel and rebuild our convictions and aesthetics. As one of our final projects, Chris directed us to present an autobiographical installation using the craft that we most often apply in service to a text or choreography not of our choosing. It necessitates a deeply personal exploration of ourselves as human beings, as individuals, as artists. Chris challenged us to open a door that we sometimes struggle to keep shut as what's beyond does not fit neatly into a tech schedule. Rather, it hovers between the gaps of headset chatter and director's notes, priming and lubricating the next series of split-second decisions that will breathe character into the shadows, substance into the air. He called the project, ‘Your Life in Light.’
As the Earth, once again, begins to take shape beneath me, and the hyper-reality of this moment gives way to the happenings of the next days and weeks, it's reassuring to know that we may move forward in the company of friends.”
—Tom Ontiveros, lighting designer

“I never actually met Chris in person, but we had a long phone conversation once about Sarah Maines, who at the time had just discovered lighting design, at the University of Florida where we engaged Sarah in the process. When it came to picking a graduate program I advised Sarah to choose a mentor she really connected with. That person was Chris. I believe she made the correct decision, as have many others, I am sure. In a truly rational world, the best of us would be teachers. This week we lost an excellent teacher and designer. Peace be with you, Chris.”
—Stan Kaye, lighting designer, University of Florida

"As everyone knows, Chris was a brilliant lighting designer and an educated mentor to his students. He was appointed to the faculty in 1988, rising through the ranks, all the while maintaining a vigorous and high profile career as a lighting designer with credits on Broadway, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and important regional theatres, including many productions at La Jolla Playhouse. The loss of Chris Parry as a friend, colleague, and teacher in this department is more than any of us can articulate at this moment."
—Charlie Oates, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego

“The loss of Chris has left a whole in my heart this week. One of my first experiences in the professional theatre world was with Chris at South Coast Repertory Theatre. I was the lighting programmer and fresh out of undergrad—so fresh that I was not sure about staying in the industry—it didn’t take long for Chris to convince me otherwise. His process for Brooklyn Boy was so smooth and beautifully executed. Yet, he took the time to teach and share the knowledge of his process. Chris cared. I am so grateful to have worked on a few shows with him since then. Chris is one of the few people I have known that can get away with saying something like ‘Who’s better than me?’ He will always hold a special place in my theatrical memories. I will never look at R68 the same way again.”
—John Baker, master electrician, Alley Theatre

"I have known Chris since the mid 1980s and we shared a common passion: To teach as well as practice our art. We left the UK within months of each other to do just that—Chris going West to America while I flew East to Hong Kong—to become heads of various lighting Programs at UCSD and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, respectively. We communicated often about teaching methodologies and developing new lighting programs, all of which were new to both of us at that time. Over the years, Chris visited us in Hong Kong on several occasions—just last year for several weeks as an Artist-in-Residence. He was a wonderful teacher. My students adored him, my faculty admired him, and we shall truly miss him.
—John A. Williams, lighting designer, and dean of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

“Chris provided me with a extraordinary opportunity when he invited me to study with him and the other remarkable designers at UCSD. He was a patient, gentle, a truly caring mentor, and a natural designer.
Chris will be remembered with every cue.”
—Sarah EC Maines, lighting designer

“When I went to San Diego to assist on Dracula, Chris asked me to speak to his class about the life of a Broadway assistant while he was out of town. A couple of years later, when he needed an assistant for Brooklyn Boy, he remembered me and gave me a call. I was already booked on another show, but hoped things would work out next time. I have seen his influence through his students, who are among the best of my contemporaries and coworkers. I send my thoughts out to them, and I am saddened that I came so close to knowing an extraordinary designer, and now there will be no ‘next time.’"
—Mark T. Simpson, lighting designer, MTSpace Inc.

“Around the time of Tommy's huge success on Broadway I was lighting Pete Townshend’s solo tour of the US. Pete generously gave me his seats one night to go and watch the show while we where in NYC. I sat in the second row and loved every minute of the production and thought I’d get to meet Chris soon and I could congratulate him personally on what an awesome job he had done. That was 1993...
Fast forward to today, 2007, and I saw recently we are playing San Diego on The Who's current world tour and thought to myself, ‘”Maybe I’ll finally get to meet Chris and pass on my regards as I’m sure a throng of Pete’s Tommy pals will turn up.
As my meeting with Chris never happened I’ll think of him on that night in San Diego when I dip the lights down and Pete plays the opening chords of “Pinball Wizard...”
—Tom Kenny, The Who’s lighting designer

"As Chris would often tell me:
'Lighting is like a salad. You need lots of lettuce of course, but you have to have some tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and croutons too.' That was is in response to me asking about his love affair with 5K and 2K fresnels.
Followed by:
'You wouldn’t paint a picture with just one kind of brush, you need many different brushes.'
Then we would go and eat something 'uncomplicated,' like bangers and mash.
Chris called me on Friday to make sure I knew just how he wanted those 5K and 2Ks hung, he had his plot in on Monday (on time), and he was gone. His eye, his heart, his personality have left a lasting impression on me and he will be sorely missed.”
—Clint Allen, lighting supervisor, The Alley Theatre

“Chris was a lovely guy and always a good friend. He was the type of guy who always kept in touch. Usually we talked about products he thought someone should make and he had an endless stream of good ideas. He was one of the most talented designers of our generation. The loss of Chris is a tragedy to our small industry.”
—Gary Fails, president, City Theatrical, Inc.

“Chris was such an agreeable and decent fellow who gave so much to his students and inspired an entire generation. The friendships we make when we work together are so deep and yet so tenuous; we part feeling secure that our next show together is just around the corner. “See you later,” we say, and then we don't. Everything one wants to say now feels trite; the trite-est though seems truest: 'A good man, gone too soon.'"
—Wendall K. Harrington, projection designer

"As lighting designers, our paths tend not to cross too often. So I was pleased to be able to spend time on a semi-regular basis with Chris at UCSD. We would discuss design issues, the state of the theatre, the training of students, and our lives. Smart and with a great sense of humor, Chris inspired me to think in new ways about lighting, design in general, and the way we do it. I will miss him."
—Jim Ingalls, lighting designer

"Chris was basically my first teacher and mentor, and a dear friend to me as well. All of the designers' work, particularly Chris', on Tommy was one of the essential reasons I became a designer in the first place. When I was as young as 17, Chris communicated with me quite often to talk about lighting design and how to proceed in the world of lighting, and we had kept in touch still, as late as last month. I'm with Marjorie Kellogg in Syracuse doing a play and she gave me a great piece of advice. She told me the only way I can really honor his life is to be as good a lighting designer as he wanted me to be. So with a heavy heart I begin that today. "
—Thom Weaver, lighting designer

"I first met Chris Parry in the early days of LDI, almost 20 years ago. He was always generous with his time in sharing information with the attendees, and offered some wonderful sessions—from the use of large HMI fixtures to his work on Hitchcock Blonde, converging his lighting design with the projected scenery by Bill Dudley in a compelling way. We will miss his presence at LDI and in the lighting community at large."
—Ellen Lampert-Gréaux, LDI conference director

“Chris Parry was a great colleague and a brilliant designer. We met on a panel at LDI in '94, became fast friends and hung out there every year since. I turned to Anne Militello and said 'I just met Chris Parry' and she said 'What? That's not him! When I met him he was fat and bald and straight. Now he's thin, has hair and is gay!" With a twinkle in his eye he was always up for a juicy bit of theatre gossip and we shared a lot of good laughs over the years. We commiserated about the vagaries of this business, balancing a personal life, and the travails of teaching. The phone hasn't stopped ringing as we have all reached out to each other to try to make some sense of this. He is one of the great ones and will be sorely missed. God speed my friend.'
—Heather Carson, lighting designer

Remembering Chris Parry Continued...

Suggested Articles:

Meet David Stewart, a production manager with an important mission.

Happy 4th of July y'all ... see what's on the online menu this weekend.

Scenic designer Christine Jones shares how she is coping with COVID-19 closings.