Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Tom Bussey '87

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Technical director of unique environments and events

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Think big. Really big. Like Y2K New Year’s Eve in Manhattan, New York City’s September 11 “Prayer for America” memorial at Yankee Stadium, Disney’s international tour of Tarzan. These gigantic events have one thing in common: Tom Bussey ’87 was technical director for all of them.
 
As founder, principal, technical supervisor, creative facilitator, and producer for his company Production Glue, Tom and his crew’s work encompasses installations, live broadcasts, Broadway theater, corporate events, meetings, what they describe as “spectacles and extravaganzas,” and more. For all these Tom draws on his extensive background in theater—which started back in his days at Catlin Gabel.
 
Tom flourished doing lighting design at Catlin Gabel. He tried to escape theater at Pitzer College, but he realized it truly was his passion. He went on to graduate school at the Yale School of Drama (where he has since taught as guest lecturer). The next step for Tom was working in Broadway theater.
 
From there Tom progressed into industrial or corporate theater. “It fueled my passion, and it helped us create our company,” he says. “In legitimate theater I had more responsibility on the technical side of realizing a vision. In the corporate world I have more vision and more input.
 
“What’s exciting about what we do is that we get to create unique experiences and environments. We take existing technology and elements such as lights and stages, and we put them together, from a technical standpoint, in new ways.”
 
The work is intensely creative and collaborative. “Depending on the project, either we bring our design side or work with the company’s designers,” says Tom. “We have input collectively to create the sets. There’s so much involved, including physics and math, and artistry. Every project is always different. Back to what Robert Medley always said, a good theater tech is a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
 

"Catlin Gabel’s theater arts program and Robert Medley’s guidance gave me the foundation for my professional life. At CGS I learned the value of learning by doing. It’s a principle that still holds true for me."