Michael Ramsaur

Ramsaur2Stanford, California

Inducted as a Fellow: 2012

Your earliest memories of the Institute?

I think I first joined USITT in about 1969 when I was a student at Carnegie Mellon University at the urging of Robert Wolf who was teaching there at that time. Shortly after I moved to California to teach at Stanford and became a founding member of the Nor-Cal USITT.  We hosted the Conference in 1972.  At the conference we had an opening reception that included an “open bar” at the Top of the Mark.  The reception was supposed to be a “no host bar”, but by mistake it was offered “open”.  The result was a very expensive bar tab for Nor-Cal.  We passed the hat at the sessions of that conference to try to get money to cover the tab, I’m not sure we ever recovered enough money.

Favorite USITT memory?

My deep involvement came when Joel Rubin asked if I wanted to attend an International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians, OISTAT meeting in Riga, Latvia in January of 1986 (I don’t think he could find anyone else who wanted to go to Latvia in January). I became hooked on internationalism and have been active with OISTAT ever since. 

Short list of career highlights:

  • Teacher at Stanford University for over 40 years
  • Owner, operator San Francisco Theatrical Supply [1976-1982]
  • Member IATSE Local 16 Stagehands, and IATSE Local 829 Scenic Artists
  • Many years working rock concerts at the Cow Palace in San Francisco
  • Honorary Professor Central Academy of Drama, Beijing
  • Previous teaching at University of the Arts Belgrade, Bavarian Theater Academy Munich, Trinity College Dublin, Taiwan National University of the Arts Taipei.
  • Creator, with Pamela Howard and Chris van Gothem, of Scenofest at the PQ – Now Scenofest at World Stage Design WSD
  • OISTAT – Chairman of the Education Commission and President of the OISTAT

Short list of your involvement in the Institute:

  • USITT Board of Directors 1980-83
  • Chair 1981 Cleveland Conference
  • Member, officer, and newsletter editor for the the Ohio Section of USITT from 1978 to 1994
  • USITT Board member and Officer VP for Marketing and Membership 1985-2000
  • USITT President-elect, President, and then Past-President 2000-2004
  • Member of USITT Finance Committee 2005-2009 and member of the Management Commission for many years
  • Chair of USITT 21st Century Task Force 2007-2009
  • Member of USITT Executive Director Search Committee 2009-10

If you were to make a short list of the memorable USITT characters that have made a difference to you, who would they be?

Robert Wolf, Ned Bowman, Joel Rubin, Richard Hay, Arnold Aronson, Helmut Grosser, Leon Brauner, Dick Devin, Randy Earle, and Eric Fielding.

Anything you want to say about being a Fellow?

Being a relatively new Fellow, I can only say that I feel honored to be among this group.

What USITT means to you personally?

USITT has opened a world of doors to me internationally.  Colleagues have become friends.

List of books that you recommend about the field:


  • Light Fantastic by Max Keller
  • Stage Lighting Design by Richard Pilbrow
  • The Magic Of Light by Jean Rosenthal

Theatre technology and history:

  • Bühnentechnik der Gegenwart by Friedrich Kranich.  In two volumes published in 1929, in German
  • Theatre Lighting; by Louis Hartmann 1930 but reprinted in 1970.


I would be glad to give advice or mentor USITT folks about anything international, I have been to over 40 countries and have contacts with most of those countries.

Contact:  mram@stanford.edu or 650-723-4762