Richard D. Thompson

Read Dick Thompson's Sightlines Tribute

DOB: 9/30/1933 Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan  
DOD: 2/12/2007                      Location: Van Nuys, California




  • University of Texas at Austin, BFA in Technical Production (1955)
  • Yale University School of Drama, MFA in Technical Production and Lighting (1961)

Employment history:

  • IATSE Stagehand, local 205, Austin, TX.
  • U.S. Army, NIKE missile program specializing in fire suppression systems (1956-1958) Editor’s note: This experience was to prove extremely valuable and eventually changed the course of Mr. Thompson’s career. The NIKE missile program used a number of fire suppression systems including a “deluge curtain” of water that could instantly protect crewmen if a fire broke out while working on the missiles. Following his discharge from the army Mr. Thompson attended the Yale School of Drama.  While there he wrote a paper for legendary technical director Ed Cole describing the concept and suggesting it as an alternative to the traditional asbestos fire curtain that was required by code.  Following Mr. Thompson’s graduation, USITT Vice President and Architect Ben Schlanger was asked to chair the panel examining “places of assembly” for a rewrite of the NYC building codes.  Mr. Cole remembered Mr. Thompson’s paper and suggested that he be included on the panel.  The resulting work of the committee, based on Mr. Thompson’s theories, changed the code and allowed theatre productions in New York City to “burst through the proscenium and come forward into the audience chamber,” forever changing the face of the New York Theatre. 
  • Stagehand, at various theatres in the New Haven area during grad school (1959-1961)
  • Sales Engineer, Ward Leonard Electric Company, NYC (1961-1965)
  • Manager, Theatre and Television Lighting Division, Lighting and Electronics, Yonkers, NY (1965-1967)
  • Director, Theatre and Television Studio Facilities Planning, Imero Fiorentino Associates, Inc., New York, NY (1968-1972)
  • Senior Consultant, George Thomas Howard & Associates, Hollywood, California (1972)
  • Owner and Principal Consultant, Richard Thomas and Assoc., Los Angeles, CA (1972-2007) Editors note: Over the years Mr. Thompson not only worked on numerous performance facility projects throughout the country, but early in his consulting career he developed an association with Milton Forman, then the doyen of motion picture studio design.  This relationship introduced Mr. Thompson into the middle of Hollywood studio practice and opened a new field in which to practice his skills.


  • Author, “Preliminary Architectural Study of a Music Theatre Project for the Connecticut Performing Arts Foundation, Inc.” Master’s Thesis, Yale School of Drama (1961)
  • Author, “A Proposed System for Fire Protection of the Proscenium Arch in the Flexible Theatre” Journal of the American Institute of Architecture (1961)
  • Author, “Guides to Stage Lighting Control Systems for High Schools, Colleges and Television Studios” Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, New York, NY (1966)
  • Author, “Lighting Control Systems for Television” Broadcast Journal, Los Angeles, CA (1970)
  • Author, “Market Analysis in the Performing Arts: You Have to Know the Territory” Theatre Crafts, New York, NY (1970)
  • Author, “Architectural and Space Allocations for Management and Industrial Television Studios” Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, New York, NY (1971)
  • Associate Editor, “Recent Developments” feature, Theatre Design and Technology, (1972-1973)

USITT Involvement and Offices Held:

  • Engineering Commission
  • Chair, Membership Committee (1962-1963 Editor’s note: Mr. Thompson’s position with Ward Leonard involved considerable travel, and he took to carrying a stack of USITT membership brochures and signed up new members at every opportunity. His efforts drew immediate attention, and he was soon approached by then president Tom DeGaetani. Dick’s efforts had single-handedly almost doubled the Institute’s membership; would he consider becoming the membership chair? As chair, Dick set up a file card system, which continued to be used until the records were transferred to computers in the 1980s.
  • Secretary-Treasurer (1963-1964 & 1966-1968)
  • Technical Secretary (1965)
  • Conference Chair, New York City (1964) Editor’s note: This conference coincided with the opening of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair,  The conference included a pre-conference tour beginning at 7:00 a.m. at Radio City Music Hall, then to the World’s Fair Grounds to for a 9:00 a.m. test ride of the Bell Telephone exhibit (designed by Jo Mielziner, managed by David Mintz, who was at that time Jo’s assistant), to the GE Pavilion (Olaf Sööt was the engineer), to the IBM exhibit, breaking for lunch in Greenwich Village; regrouping after lunch at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre; and ending at the New York State Theatre.  It was also the genesis of commercial exhibits that would later grow into Stage Expo.
  • Board of Directors
  • Anaheim Conference Exhibits Chair (1975) Editor’s note: This was the first full blown Stage Expo and generated largest conference profit to date ($10,000+). 
  • NEC Standards Committee, USITT representative for 30+ years

Awards and Honors:

  • Elected USITT Fellow (1978)
  • USITT International Health and Safety Award (1988)
  • Sustaining Member, American Theatre Association (ATA)
  • Member, Illuminating Engineering Society (IES); Theatre, Television and Film Lighting Committee; Industrial Television Association (ITVA); Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)
  • Panelist, National Fire Protection Association’s National Electric Code Panel 70