ASTC remembers Jim Read
Monday, 14 November 2022
jim-read-fastc-sqJim Read
USA - The American Society of Theatre Consultants (ASTC) mourns the loss of long-time member and Fellow, James “Jim” Read, FASTC, who passed away on November 2, 2022.
Read served as a president of the ASTC and was a constant presence at organisation events. Even as he retired from consulting and moved to emeritus status, Read was often present online or in person, always contributing observations and information.
Read was born in Fulton, KY in 1933, where he built his first theatre in his basement, complete with a stage, screen, footlights, and a control booth, in 1948. He rarely strayed far from the business after that. He continued in high school where he and a crew of friends ran a community high school auditorium; he apparently kept up with members of that crew until his death.
Before joining the US Navy as an officer and pilot Read attended the University of Kentucky, where he majored in English and Speech & Dramatic Arts, with a minor in math. Lieutenant Read served as an Electronics and Ordinance Officer, flying jets out of Jacksonville and from aircraft carriers at sea. His long-time associate, R. Duane Wilson noted Read still flew when he could. Instructors observed he would land the plane near the beginning of the runway, “a holdover from his carrier landing training”. Wilson also said Read loved computerised flight simulators, saying he “usually ending by flying through the hanger before landing.”
While in the Navy, Read found time to work with the Guild Players in Jacksonville, FL before returning to civilian life and the theatre full time. He was the first Theatre Engineering graduate of the Yale School of Drama MFA programme in 1962. His thesis on the design of a six-channel SCR dimmer pack was later developed into a commercial product.
Immediately after graduating, he began his long association with George C. Izenour, the well-known Yale professor and theatre consultant, researching and developing controls systems for stage mechanics. His work could be found at UCLA, Loeb Drama Centre, Harvard University, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, and many other venues. While working with Izenour, Read designed and built the first 12 kW electronic dimmer as well as a computer to reposition architectural elements for Jones Hall.
In 1965 he co-founded Theatre Techniques, Inc. (TTI) which built popular dimmers and controls used in many theatres throughout the country. At one point, TTI had 45 employees. He remained with the company until 1977.
He began consulting on theatre design and management in 1977, before spending a year as an associate professor at Carnegie-Mellon through the 1984-1985 school year.
In 1985 Read returned to full time theatre consulting, occasionally in association with his mentor, George Izenour. In 1998, along with R. Duane Wilson and Jeffery Millet, they purchased George C. Izenour Associates and continued the firm after Izenour’s death in 2007. During this time Read became an early adopter of AutoCAD software, developing programs to assist in sightline studies, seating layouts, and other tasks.
Read was accepted into membership in 1988 after being an associate for one year. He was a strong supporter of the ASTC, where he served as its president from 2006 to 2012. He was also instrumental in developing and maintaining the ASTC’s Code of Ethics.
ASTC President Heather McAvoy noted, “Jim’s long and varied career is a source of inspiration for ASTC members. The Society benefitted from his many years of dedicated leadership, and his good nature and humility made him a congenial colleague at ASTC functions. We will miss him.”

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