A Tribute to Adam Wilkinson

I first met Adam when I was just a student, 20 years old, I barely knew what direction the lights were supposed to point. I didn’t realize it at the time but that first time I shook his hand would be the start of an occurrence that took place almost every year for the next 20 years.

Working, 2018 | photo Peter Pokorny

As my life continued from a student to an actor, to a stage hand, to a designer, to a production manager, Adam was there every step of the way. When I think of all those milestones and all those successes a theme that keeps rerunning in my mind is how much I have learned along the way. Without exception every time I have darkened the McPherson’s doorway I have walked away with a lesson. Some were easier than others, some were learned right away and others had to be learned and then re learned. But, no matter what the lesson Adam was always at the center of it.

I learned from watching Adam, I learned from watching his shows and his designs, I learned from watching him interact with the crew, I learned from watching him talk to people on a break, and if I’m totally honest I learned from having Adam yell at me when I’d made a mistake. I am grateful for the things I’ve learned and so proud of the things I have accomplished while collaborating with Adam. I’ve heard this said a few times now but it’s true: He always pushed me to do my best.

Young Frankenstein, 2014 | photo David Lowes

The CCPA is small school with a big heart and even bigger ideas and this sentiment always culminates in the Year-End show at the McPherson. Adam has brought our wildest dreams to life for the last 20 years. He was truly a wizard of light and over the last 20 years he cared enough to show me behind the curtain and for that I will never forget the large tanned man that turned the light on.

-R.J. Peters, Production Manager

How to Succeed…, 2013 | photo David Lowes

I was a UVic Theatre student when I first met Adam more than 20 years ago. I was fortunate in all the time since to work with Adam on countless productions for Pacific Opera Victoria, Ken Lavigne in Concert, St. Michaels University School, Dansko and of course CCPA. Adam had a way of seeing things the way few people do, in light and in shadow. He understood instinctively how to enhance a scene without overpowering it, how to accentuate a moment and help an audience feel with just a shift in colour, intensity or movement.

As a student and as a rookie Stage Manager I took my cues from Adam. I spent hour after hour on headset listening to him work with a Director and watching him paint the stage with light. When it was my turn to walk into the theatre with a show as Production Designer, I had the tools to communicate with him and tell him what I wanted. I’ll never forget the feeling I had watching him interpret my words and vision as he built looks for a show I was responsible for – it was pure magic to me. I was touched when the time came and Adam first said to me “You’ll know where that cue goes Jack, just call it when you feel it.” I think those moments only happen when there is trust and mutual respect – I was honoured that he trusted me with his work.

Mary Poppins, 2016 | photo Leanne Green

Adam wasn’t always easy to work with, he could be cranky and crusty, and did a lot of barking – but as they say, his bark was far worse than his bite. Adam had a huge heart and a soft side that we all knew was there. He showed it to us over and over again. Without question he loved his work and the people he worked with. He gave so much of himself to every project because he cared.

At the start of tech week for our Year-End production, Adam said to me “This is going to be my last West Side Story, so it has to be the best.” When we looked at the show photos in the hospital I asked him if it was “his best West Side Story”, he kissed my hand and smiled and said that it was. I know he was proud of his work on that show and was grateful that he got to finish the design.

West Side Story, 2019 | photo Peter Pokorny

If you’ve never shared a booth with Adam you likely don’t know, he loved to hum. He turned off his mic once the house lights had gone down, and while I called the show he would hum – every note, of every line, of every song. It was quiet in the booth on West Side Story.

Thank you Adam for teaching me and trusting me. Thank you for the care and attention you have always shown our students. Thank you for always doing your best and for pushing us to always be our best. You will be missed, so much more than you could have ever guessed.

-Jackie Adamthwaite, Theatre Operations and Outreach Manager