Dr. Bernhard R. Works

Dr. Bernhard R. Works

Bernhard (Bernie) Works, of Middleton Wisconsin, passed away peacefully on Saturday, October 28th surrounded by his loving family and friends at Attic Angel Retirement Community in Middleton Wisconsin.

Bernhard Russell Works was born August 4th, 1925 to the late Homer Lawrence Works and Christine (Briegel) Works in Baltimore Maryland.

After graduating from Baltimore Polytechnic high school, Bernhard enlisted at 17 in the Navy and learned to fly. After serving in WWII overseas he was honorably discharged.

He enrolled in the University Of Maryland in Theatre where he met the love of his love Nancy McKinney. Nancy tagged along with a sorority sister to a theatre audition and ended up working in scene shop working for Bernie. They were married September 12, 1953.

He ended up working two summers at the University of Wisconsin and designed the 1st production at the Union Theatre in Madison.

Bernhard moved his wife and two small children to the University of Illinois in 1959.

Professor Emeritus Bernhard R. Works was a member of the original planning committee for the 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 in developing and designing the Krannert including adding the window in his office to look down on his students below in the shop.

Dr. Works came to the University of Illinois in the fall of 1959 as an assistant professor from the University of Wisconsin Madison where he earned his Master’s and PhD.

He then became an associate professor in 1967 and full professor in 1972.

In his long career in technical theatre, Dr. Works has designed over 200 productions in schools, colleges, community theatre, and professional summer stock.

Dr. Works taught courses in various topics including theatre history of design, and technical production courses at the U of I, over his 34 year tenure. His major interests include contemporary theatre architecture, history of theatre, scene design and technical production.

In 1975, Dr. Works was credited for creating the concept for the first Illinois High School Theatre Festival after convincing the theatre department at the Krannert how valuable it could be for 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 continued in the Lifetime Member category. He was the second ITA president (1975-77), editor of the ITA newsletter (1977-79), and the very 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 in 1960, after Joel Rubin visited the U of I with his wife and Dr. Works was one of its earliest members. 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 also was active in establishing the Midwest section of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology.

As a member of the USITT International Liaison Committee, Dr. Works served as a U.S. delegate to several Prague Quadrennial exhibitions and meetings. He hosted master classes in this country taught by well-known international theatre figures.

In 1980, Dr. Works was elected to receive the title, “Fellow of the Institute” at their annual convention.

In 2011, Dr. Works 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 that provides a sizeable momentary award given annually to an outstanding student technician.

One of the important safety features that Dr. Works insisted his students learned was “One hand high, one hand low, that’s what makes the scenery go!”

After his retirement from teaching and designing at the Krannert, Dr. Works stayed busy in the theatre community including establishing more student scholarships for students through Parkland College where he taught for a year after leaving the Krannert.

Dr. Works earned recognition from the Parkland College Board of Directors for creating and serving as chairman of the theatre advisory board from 1991 through 1997.

Dr. Works and his wife of 64 years Nancy moved back to Madison Wisconsin in 2009, where he remained active in USITT. along with his second passion aviation.

Thanks to his Navy pilot training, he continued to volunteer at a local airport with the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle program where plane rides are given to young people to gain their interest in flying.

Bernie continued to travel every summer to Canada to fish with a small group of close friends. He loved to tell stories of his adventures.

Bernie is survived by his wife Nancy, son Larry of Ann Arbor Michigan, two grandsons Robert and Sam; and daughter Chris (John) Gustafson of New Glarus Wisconsin.

The family would like to thank and acknowledge Agrace Hospice, the Attic Angel Community, especially the staff of the Health Center for their compassionate care of Bernhard Russell Works, husband, father, teacher, colleague and mentor.

A Celebration of Life Reception will be held Saturday, November 4th from 1-4pm in the Community Room at Attic Angel Place 8301 Old Sauk Road Middleton, Wisconsin.

Cress Center
6021 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53705