Behind the Scenes with … Warren Bertholet

We find out what it’s like to be the head  lighting technician at Winspear Centre.

Warren Bertholet has been obsessed with lighting ever since he was a high school student taking drama classes. Back then, he did everything from handling the lighting for school plays to helping with light and sound at school dances. In 1997, Bertholet was hired to be the first department head of lighting at the Winspear Centre, one month before the centre’s Concert Hall officially opened. 

How did you get into this field?

I started in high school at Bishop Grandin in Calgary, 1978. My high school had one of the best drama programs in the city. Knowing that I was not acting material, I [committed myself to be] the behind-the-scenes person. I inquired to my drama teacher, Marilyn Potts, if I could do the lighting for the first production of the year. She hooked me up with a Grade 12 student named Gord Williamson, who was handling all the production stuff already. He showed me the ropes about everything there was to know about lighting at that time. From then on, I lived in the drama room setting up the stage, lights and sets – whatever was needed. 

I won a drama scholarship for best lighting of a production at the annual high-school drama festival that took place at the University of Calgary campus. I spent two weeks of the summer at Drumheller Drama School Technical program. That’s all it took to become hooked on my career. I also went to Grant MacEwan Community College [now MacEwan University] and graduated from the Theatre Production program in 1982.

What are some of your duties and responsibilities?

The most important duties or responsibility is to the client. You have to make sure that you have fulfilled their needs when lighting their show. I am also responsible for maintenance and operation of all lighting instruments and related equipment. We advise clients on the technical needs of their show. I also do the scheduling for the department. 

Why are you a good fit for this job?

I know it helps to be able to handle large amounts of stress at all times. Also, communication skills are a must in dealing with many multicultural artists. I like to think that I am quite laid-back and open-minded, but not in a lazy way. The work has to get done first before relaxing. We are on a very tight schedule all of the time and you can’t fall behind.

How do you manage a work-life balance?

By having an incredibly supportive family. There are many days or even weeks when you are not home very much to see the family. One of the best things about my job is the flexibility of my schedule. It allows me go to see my kids play hockey, soccer or even go to a school function if it happens to be a dark day at work. It also helps to be able to have my family come visit me at work.  

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Still at the Winspear unless [I win] the lottery.

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