Ken Billington: A Performing Arts Legacy Project site


In the mid 1980s Helen Marie Guditis created Direct from Broadway with the intent of starting a Broadway Theatre Museum. To get stated she organized design panels on Lighting, Scenery, Costumes and Sound. Helen asked me to put the Lighting Panel together. I called my colleagues, and they all were eager to join Abe Feder (1908 – 1997), Peggy Clark (1916 – 1996), Tharon Musser (1925 – 2009), Jeff Davis and myself as moderator. The panel was held in the auditorium of the Museum of the City of New York in the Spring of 1989 and was open to the public. Helen tried for years to get the theatre museum off the ground, but it never happened. For this panel the sound designer put a home video camera in the back of the room which is why this record exists.

The importance of this video is the history of lighting design. Lighting was usually done by the head electrician working with the director, scenic designer and producer; this went on until the late 1940’s. Lighting designers were the newest addition to the design field to be followed by sound designers and now video designers. Abe Feder who was usually credited as Lighting by Feder created the term Lighting Designer in the 1920s. Peggy was one the first lighting designers with her career starting on Broadway in the 1940s; in fact, she was the first lighting designer ever listed on a poster which was for the Broadway production of Medea in 1947. Tharon Musser whose first Broadway show was the original 1956 production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, sent lighting to new heights when she added the first computer on Broadway to operate the lighting of the new musical, A Chorus Line. 250 is the combined number of Broadway shows Abe, Peggy and Tharon lit. With this history, I said to Jeff Davis in the 90 minutes of the panel, we do not have much to add. Let’s leave it to Abe, Peggy and Tharon to give us the history. I must say I was so in awe of the panelists I probably could have done better as the moderator. When I introduce everyone on the video you will hear their amazing credits, or you can go to for a full list.