Winkler shares a lifetime of Broadway experience

  • Richard Winker listens to a student's question.

  • Director of Theatre William Church reacts to one of Winkler's stories.

  • Theatre students respond to Winkler's lecture.

  • Theatre students talk with Winkler after the lecture.

December 14, 2017

On Dec. 8, Broadway lighting designer and producer Richard Winkler (IAC/NMC 58-63, 65) visited Arts Academy theatre students for a lecture and master class.

Winkler spent the afternoon in Harvey Theatre for a question-and-answer session with the entire theatre student body. “It’s wonderful to be back,” said Winkler. “This is the first place where I was accepted as a human being.”

Before beginning the question-and-answer session, Director of Theatre Bill Church discussed Winkler’s background, including his time at Interlochen, college days and early work. Winkler first entered theatre as a performer, switching to lighting design midway through his studies at the University of Michigan. Upon his graduation, Winkler moved to New York and began working in the theatre, making his Broadway debut as the assistant to famed lighting designer Tharon Musser in A Little Night Music. Winkler worked alongside Musser in shows including Candide and A Chorus Line before earning his own design credit in Shirley MacLaine. He continued as a lighting designer for 30 years before making the transition to producer in the 2000s. Winkler’s production credits include Memphis, Catch Me If You Can, and more recently, Come From Away. Winkler also continues to design, serving as the primary lighting designer for the touring production of Evita since 1995.

After sharing his journey, Winkler gave the students a few introductory words of encouragement.

“Follow your dream,” he said. “Do what you want to do. If you are talented and you are tenacious, you will get what you want.”

Church and Winkler then opened the floor for student questions. “How do you raise money for a show?” one student asked, referencing the producer’s job of finding investors for a production. “I’m not sure!” Winkler responded with a laugh, going on to explain that his strategy is simply to talk to everyone and share his love of theatre.

Another student asked about Winkler’s work as a lighting designer. “I like to think of lighting design as painting with emotion,” Winkler said. “The lighting designer creates the air the actors breathe. The key to it is understanding the piece of theatre, what the actors are going through, and the emotion of the scene.”

Other questions ranged from choosing a production to work on, being tenacious and Winkler’s future projects.

After the question-and-answer session, Winkler joined the Design and Production majors for an hourlong masterclass about lighting design and producing.

Winkler’s latest production, Ain’t Too Proud, will open in mid-June.