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In Memoriam: Robert R. Scales

Robert R. Scales

Lighting&Sound America has learned of the passing of Robert R. Scales the noted theatre consultant, designer, and educator, of multiple myeloma. He was 83.

Robert Ray Scales was born on November 22, 1935 in Lindsay, Oklahoma to Robert Sylvesta Scales and Inez Griffith. He earned a BS degree in education and speech from Oklahoma Baptist University, followed by an MA in theatre from UCLA in 1961, and a Ph.D. from University of Minnesota in 1968. (His dissertation was titled Stage Lighting Theory, Equipment and Practice in the United States, 1900 - 1935.) Early in his career, he worked as a high school drama teacher in Colorado, followed by college-level positions at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas and University of Minnesota. In 1968, he became technical production director/lighting designer at the Guthrie Theatre in Minnesota. He subsequently held technical production positions at Annenberg Center of Performing at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; Stratford Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario; and Missouri Repertory Theatre and University of Missouri, Kansas City.

His experience in the first half of the 1970s included stints as technical director on national and international tours of several Stratford Festival productions, including As You Like It, King Lear, The Imaginary Invalid, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Hamlet. In 1977, he organized and directed Missouri Repertory's move to a Jewish community center facility in Kansas City when the company's playhouse was condemned following a storm. He also served as technical director on tours for Missouri Repertory and Seattle Repertory Theatres. Other positions included transition production coordinator for the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, assisting the company's move into the renovated Ohio Theatre (1982), and, in 1988, technical coordinator for the construction and opening of the McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert, California.

As a theatre consultant, working both for Theatre Projects and independently, his projects included Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago; Addison Center Theater, Addison, Texas; Head Theatre, Center Stage, Baltimore; Dallas Theatre Center; Minneapolis Children's Theatre Company; Escondido Performing Arts Center; Bagley Wright Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre; Kenyon College, Kenyon, Ohio; Walker Art Institute, Minneapolis; Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco; Actors Theatre of Louisville; and San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Scales was dean of the USC School of Dramatic Arts and a professor from 1993-2003. "Bob laid the foundation for the current scope and success of the school, and in his warmth, kindness, and unwavering devotion to USC, he modeled qualities of leadership that continue to resonate today," Dean David Bridel said in a statement.

Scales also taught at several more institutions and published a number of articles in such publications as Theatre Design and Technology, Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, and Theatre Crafts. He was also part of many studies and reviews of theatre buildings, and designed lighting at Minnesota Opera, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Intiman Theatre, and UCLA, among others. A member of United Scenic Artists, he was also affiliated with USITT, CITT, ATHE, ESTA, and PLASA.

Scales married Peggy Lynn Scales in 1957; the couple divorced in 1989. He married Marie Carolyn Suzanne Grossman-Scales in 1997; a writer and actress, her credits include the original Broadway production of The Lion in Winter; The Show-Off, starring Helen Hayes; and Private Lives, with Tammy Grimes and Brian Bedford. She also adapted a number of Feydeau farces for Broadway. She died of emphysema in 2010. His survivors include his son Robert (Debbie Jenkins-Scales), daughter Amanda Kathleen, brother John Jay Scales, sister Freda Suellen Scales, grandson Sebastian, and a niece and nephew.

His daughter, Amanda, said in a statement, "When he smiled or laughed, he always had a twinkle that shone, filling the room. If something needed to be done, he was your guy. He loved working on 'things' and getting projects done! He loved attending the theatre for shows, plays, musicals, etc... He enjoyed walking through museums or art galleries and seeing things that made him 'think'. He was athletic and loved sport and play. He loved the great outdoors and nature. He believed in other people and their abilities to do great things and helped them discover this and achieve great things through their own efforts. He was confident but not arrogant and talented but not boastful. He was humble. He was a legend in the theatrical world/profession. He was adventurous!"

Patricia MacKay, former publisher of Theatre Crafts and Lighting Dimensions magazines and a founder of LDI, said, "He brought out the best in any production -- no matter the budget or the venue, Bob designed and brought to life better theatres for people on both sides of the curtain. He nurtured talents and helped create careers. He made every colleague and collaborator's work better, brighter, and more thoughtful. With Bob on the team every production meeting was illuminated by the crackling sparkle of his mind at work -- devising yet another way to solve the challenge."

Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Scales' name to The Bob Scales and Suzanne Grossman-Scales Scholarship Fund at University of Southern California School of Theatre/Drama, The Suzanne Grossman Fund at National Theatre School of Canada, the Robert Scales Scholarship Fund at Oklahoma Baptist University, or The 24th Street Theatre in Los Angeles.


(3 June 2019)

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