Alum spotlight: Michael Pitzer (BFA ’90)

man standing on Madison square garden stage

Mike Pitzer 1990 BFA Technical Theatre Design and Production

 Michael (right) on the set of the Sunset Boulevard Reveal in 2017 as the Production Electrician

On the first weekend of his freshman semester, Lou Szari (former Head of Technical Direction and Lighting) put Mike to work on the set for Anything Goes with the greeting, “Welcome to the theatre marines. You have to work this weekend because we’re building a 3-story set.” Mike remembers, “I should have realized that I didn’t get many nights and weekends off in the theatre.”

And even though he’s now House Head Electrician at the fabled Winter Garden Theater on Broadway, he still lives on that schedule. His responsibilities at the theatre include supervising all of the lighting, sound and video.

 The Lighting Crew for School of Rock Broadway at the Winter Garden. Michael (far right) was Production electrician and the House Electrician.

Like so many VCU students, Mike worked at Kings Dominion every summer, which is where he met people working on cruise ships. Post graduation he spent seven months running lights and sound on a ship for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Next, Mike went to work as Master Electrician for Kings Productions (the producing arm of KD). When they expanded into cruise ships in 1991, he became Assistant Lighting Designer for Royal Caribbean. “I ran a crew of 15 installing ice rinks, event spaces and small entertainment spaces. As the ships got bigger, we were working with full stage elevators, flying scenery and flying light ladders.”

Mike’s brother Mark also graduated from the department (BFA ’96) and he initially worked for Mike during his stint doing cruise ship lighting installations. Mark now works for the events staging company Hargrove in DC.

Michael (back row, far left) and members of the lighting crew for The Music Man at the Winter Garden

When Mike moved to NYC in 2002, his first show was Gypsy with Bernadette Peters.

He notes that his job has evolved with the addition of so much technology. When he worked Beetlejuice, there were four projectors and a full-stage LED wall that could animate the scenery and adjust the lighting to match. Mike’s first show after the pandemic is Music Man. About the stars Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, Mike says, “They are the wonderful people you read about. Super nice.”

Michael with his wife Lindsay, 9 year old Leo, and 4 year old Samantha

COVID shut down the show on March 12, 2020. “I left with my family on the 13th and didn’t come back until that September. We went to Florida and stayed with my family for 80 days, then 80 days in Colorado with my wife’s family.” His wife, Lindsay, trained at NYU as a Stage Manger and is now a senior event manager for Production Glue, which stages large-scale events. They have two children and Leo, the older one, “has grown up at the Winter Garden, and he knows every usher and stagehand. The electrician even spelled out his name on stage, so he has the bug.” Maybe Leo will follow in his father’s very successful footsteps!

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the July 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter