Bernard R. Works (1925-2017)

Professor Emeritus Bernhard R. Works was a member of the original planning committee for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Works was Krannert’s first technical director and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1993.He worked closely with architect Max Abramovitz’s team to develop and design Krannert, including adding a window in his office so he could see his students below in the shop.

Dr. Works came to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in the fall of 1959 as an assistant professor from University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he earned his Master’s and PhD. He became an associate professor in 1967 and was promoted to full professor in 1972. Over his thirty-four years at Illinois, he taught courses in topics that include the history of design and technical production courses. His major interests include contemporary theatre architecture, history of theatre, scenic design, and technical production.

In his long career in technical theatre, Dr. Works has designed more than 100 productions in schools, colleges, community theatre, and professional summer stock. In 1975, he was credited with creating the concept for the first Illinois High School Theatre Festival (IHSTF) after convincing the theatre department how valuable it could be to the community. It was a huge success and since has been copied by a number of other states.

Dr. Works is one of the founding members of the Illinois Theatre Association and continues in the Lifetime Member category. He was the second ITA president (1975-77), editor of the ITA newsletter (1977-79), and the first College/University Representative. In 1983, he received the College/University Award and, in 1993, he was presented with the ITA Award of Honor.

Dr. Works joined the United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) as one of its earliest members in 1960, after Joel Rubin visited the university. He is a former vice president and served on the national board of directors for USITT. As a member of the USITT Standards Committee, he helped to develop standard safety codes for stage rigging. He has served on the editorial board of the USITT journal, Theatre Design and Technology. In 1980, he was active in establishing the Midwest section of USITT.

As a member of the USITT International Liaison Committee, Dr. Works served as a United States delegate to several Prague Quadrennial exhibitions and meetings. He hosted master classes in this country taught by well-known international theatre figures. In 1980, he was elected to receive the title, “Fellow of the Institute” at the USITT convention. In 2011, he earned USITT’s highest honor, the Joel E. Rubin Founders Award for his dedication to education and his commitment to improving the skills of technicians of all ages, which embodies the ideals of USITT. Under USITT’s Young Designers and Technicians program, Dr. Works established the Frederick A. Buerki Golden Hammer Award, which provides a sizeable monetary award given annually to an outstanding student technician.

After his retirement from teaching and designing at Krannert, Dr. Works stayed busy in the theatre community, including establishing more student scholarships for Parkland College Students and serving as chair of their theatre advisory board 1991-97. In 2009, Dr. Works and his wife,  Nancy moved back to Madison, Wisconsin. They spent the final decade of their 64-year marriage there, and Dr. Works remained active in USITT and as an aviation hobbyist and enthusiast.