Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr. / 1936 – 1983

Few theater artists have been more respected and loved than Gilbert Hemsley, who over the years created lighting for New York City Opera, Martha Graham Dance Company, Broadway plays and musicals, The Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, and numerous regional ballet, opera, and theater companies. He was trained both at the Yale School of Drama and by pioneers in the lighting field including Jean Rosenthal and Tharon Musser. Early success in his professional career allowed him to expand his focus to include the training of young theater artists in whom Gilbert saw both the desire for involvement and an innate spark of talent. He brought many young students with him when he worked, mostly at his own expense, to venues all over the country ranging from The Guthrie Theater and The Mark Taper Forum to The Metropolitan Opera House where he offered invaluable opportunities for them to engage with his fellow theater professionals and enter the doors he held open. His commitment to lighting as a nucleus for life in the theater acted as a magnet for students attracted to his love of life and his overwhelming need to share. He touched so many working in the theater, from stagehands to directors to performers, that bringing up his name to this day will result in a story that only further continues to illustrate his vibrancy. People throughout the industry personally recall his profound effect on their careers; others tell fond stories of Gilbert – his laughter, his love of all theater and the ever-present entourage of talented and eager assistants who worked with him. Gilbert passed away from cancer in 1983 at the age of forty seven. His legacy, in the form of The Hemsley Lighting Programs, is a tribute to not only the past but to the ever growing impact that he continues to have on so many in the field of theater.

The result of Gilbert’s rare approach to education is that there are hundreds of bright, sensitive young lighting people who will be the top names of tomorrow. They were known, with great affection, as Gilbert’s bunnies.
— Fred Weller, Former Publisher/Editor, Lighting Dimensions Magazine