A Theatre Project Comes to Fruition

Michael S. Eddy • Off the Shelf • August 1, 2011
Richard Pilbrow

Richard Pilbrow

[For the August Stage Directions issue, Michael S. Eddy reviewed Richard Pilbrow’s new book A Theatre Project. He also managed to speak with Pilbrow about the process of writing the book. Here is the complete interview. Eddy’s review of the book can be read here. -ed.]


Stage Directions: Tell me about the process of bringing this all together?
Richard Pilbrow:
I began the project back in 2006. The idea gradually grew that the Theatre Project’s story was an unusual one. Not too many upstart companies have lasted in our business over 50 years. I’d begun as a totally green ASM in my first-ever job and was now working around the world designing theatres.



Richard Pilbrow's new book, A Theatre Project

Richard Pilbrow’s new book, A Theatre Project

At the same time, I suppose, I lived with a sense of frustration that even after 50 years so few people actually knew what the theatre design consultant actually did. Also, TPC today is very successful, but the company had only survived and grown thanks to so many amazingly dedicated, talented individuals who’d been in the company over the years. I wanted to remember them and pay tribute to them. Next, I thought about what a period of extraordinary change we had lived through. Theatre technology, lighting, sound, video, stagecraft had changed so much. The theatre technology industry had exploded exponentially. This seemed a good story.

What was the most surprising thing you found or took away from the whole process of writing this book?
I suppose the self-evident thing is how small events accumulate. One serendipitous meeting that leads to another. It’s hard to understand that in my twenties I knew so little, but made it up as I went along. Ignorance really was bliss. But it was meetings and people—each and everyone led to something else. I suppose in my naiveté I thought I was responsible for all this stuff, but so much stemmed from these delightful and often almost accidental meetings, events and people.

What was it like working with David Collison on the book?
I’d talked with David from the outset. He had played such a pivotal role, both in his world of sound and, during the ghastly ’80s, as such a great businessman (to his complete surprise) at TPC and of course, as a dear friend throughout. He helped do a lot of the interviews for the book and also read and re-read the book throughout the development as well as contributed to it.

What is next for you?
I’ve built a website www.atheatreproject.com in part to promote the book, but also to encourage people to add their stories, reactions and remembrances. In my spare time I’m turning to writing a book on theatre architecture that has been percolating for many years. There really isn’t a good modern book on the subject.

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