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Christopher Sprague, BA ’98, Consulting on Lincoln Center

Chris SpragueIn just 18 months, the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was renovated to bring the latest technology to the 40-year-old building, thanks in part to Christopher Sprague, BA ’98.

Sprague majored in theatre and minored in industrial technologies. Visiting the campus on Jan. 22, he told five current theatre students he wishes he had added public speaking and contract law to his college mix. It would have helped in his move from theatre lighting and technical direction to working as a theatre consultant with Schuler Shook Theatre Planners.

While an undergraduate, Sprague learned the technical side of theatre, including lighting, stage managing productions, even appearing on stage as the first Frosty in the Holiday Spectacular! While still a student, he was part of an apprentice program at the Santa Fe Opera for electricians. He not only learned his craft, he made important contacts with professionals like designer Duane Schuler, a founding partner in Schuler Shook. And he fell in love with opera.

After graduation, Sprague joined the Arkansas Repertory Theatre as master electrician and lighting designer.

In 1999 he became lighting assistant with the Houston Grand Opera, a company known for debuting both American and international productions. He moved up to resident assistant lighting designer and served as associate lighting designer for “The Little Prince,” directed by Francesca Zambello. When that production went on the road, Sprague was responsible for the lighting rig, focusing and cueing for productions at the Boston Lyric Opera, Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee, Wis., New York City Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre.

An accident on stage convinced Sprague to take on the role of safety manager at the Houston Grand Opera, learning about OSHA regulations and safety training requirements. In 2004 he added associate technical director to his resume, using the AutoCAD skills he had learned in ONU’s technologies program to draft theatre productions.

It was in 2006 that he was invited to join Schuler Shook Theatre Planners of Chicago as a theatre consultant and project manager. His 30 current projects range from an off–the-loop Chicago theatre company considering the feasibility of building their own building to a high school performing arts project to the just-completed renovation of the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

The theatre, formerly the New York State Theater, for ballet and opera was opened in 1964 and the $110 million renovation was structured to allow the facility to continue to house ballet performances. The orchestra pit was redesigned and a lift added; lighting and technical equipment were upgraded; seats were replaced and reconfigured to add two aisles to the orchestra level.

Working with architects and contractors in New York, the role of Schuler Shook was to ensure that the theatrical requirements of the facility were integrated into the design changes. All his experience lighting and managing productions was put to use in working on the Koch Theater project.

And, he told the students, “Everything I do now stems from what I did here at Ohio Northern.”