Senior Lecturer Emeritus John Lucas, who died on August 29, 2015 at the age of 76, arrived at Brown as an assistant professor in the fall of 1969. He soon became, simultaneously, a set designer, lighting designer, technical director, costume supervisor, front-of-house supervisor, stage-management coordinator, class instructor, and, sometimes, a director within the English department’s nascent theater program. His presence was instrumental in the growth of that program, and, as his long-time colleague and collaborator Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Don Wilmeth remarks, “John’s arrival took us one more large step toward the kind of professionalism that we all desired.”

His job was converted to an administrative position with senior lecturer responsibilities. In 1978 John became cofounder of the Department of Theatre, Speech, and Dance (now Theatre Arts and Performance Studies). He helped get the Rites and Reason Theater and its Playwrights' Lab up and running; was adviser to the Brownbrokers, which mounted an original student musical each year; and ran the Brown Summer Theatre. In addition to overseeing design and technical direction for the department and teaching courses in thoese areas, John regularly offered a course on The Lyric Stage without further compensation. He remained a treasured mentor for many students.


John was a superb set and lighting designer with a lightning-fast mind and a wonderful ability to solve seemingly intractable problems. As Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Spencer Golub remembers, “He was the one who always got it, knowing what it should look like before I did.”

John also had a remarkable memory. He could see the run-through of a play or a dance piece in rehearsal, and with minimal notes (if any) recall the blocking patterns or choreography in meticulous detail—well enough to lay out a complex lighting design. He’d then laugh and shake his head ruefully weeks later, when a performer’s position on stage had changed.

A complex person, he could be acerbic and sharply critical—Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts Jim Barnhill cited him, without irony, as having the best critical mind in the department—but it didn’t take long for most students and colleagues to get beyond the fleeting pose of cynicism. There they found his passion and love for theater, as well as for young people who wanted to make theater better. These were the focus and core of John’s professional life.

After retiring from Brown in 2000, John continued in his calling, notably as designer, director, and administrator for the College Light Opera Company of the Highfield Theater on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He directed 63 productions there over a period of 14 years.

John had to withdraw from directing two shows at the College Light Opera Company in 2014, but he hoped to be able to return the next year for one last time. Unfortunately, he could not. He died on the closing night of a show he had once directed at the College Light Opera Company.

He knew how to make an exit.

He is survived by his mother, two aunts, nephew Philippe Blumenthal ’89, and many friends.

John Emigh is a professor emeritus of theatre arts and performance studies and English.

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Comments (2)
Gosh! I spent many hours with him, building sets and listening to opera. I learned a lot from John, in class & out, and for years after I left Brown.  
My wife recalls an afternoon listening to opera, & his showing this or that small miracle, e.g., a phrase sung by Rigoletto, easily missed but made gold by a great singer (and noticed & applauded by a savvy Italian audience). He taught in many different venues.
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It is said that the greatest compliment ever paid to a friend is the one Moses gives Jethro in the book of Numbers as he leaves the children of Israel for his home in Midyan…”for you were our eyes”—you, Uncle John, like Jethro, gave us perspective that no one else could and suggested creative ways to fix problems and issues. You gave us, your students, tools for life. 
No one who took Uncle John’s classes in set and lighting design was ever the same. You trained our eyes… we were trained to see the reality, the possible and the probable. We learned to read and create architectural and light plans and see them built in our minds. Rulers, tracing paper, lekos, fresnes, and gels were our tools—our imagination and your training—our guides.  
While watching Uncle John work we learned to see problems and imperfections and fix them. We became doomed to walk through life seeing wainscotings pealing, poor paint jobs, crooked walls, and other normal earthly wear-and-tear defects as things that needed to be noted, mentioned, and, if possible, fixed--both on and off stage.  
Yet we are blessed as we are able to marvel and appreciate a sunrise or sunset—the minute by minute changes of the colors of the earth and sky –the wonders of creation. We were trained to feel the texure of light and taught to try in some small try way to recreate it—the Paris street, the wilderness plains, or the green hue of a sky before a storm on Cape Cod during the summer.  
We were given exercises: go see a play and draw the light plot based upon what I taught you—or find problems on a set and write the director about them and how to fix them. None of us who did these exercises diligently forgot what we learned or how to apply what we learned to life. 
When I arrived in your class Uncle John, you insisted that everyone call you John (theatre after-all was where everyone was on a first name basis). I said at the time, that I had learned far too much from you to call you John—and thus we settled on Uncle John. 
Today, as we celebrate your life, you spirit is already in a place of light. I once asked you is it possible to get a white light on a stage by mixing various colored gels. You laughed and said white light is the only light you cant get by mixing colored light. Only G-d can actually do that. Today you can enjoy and bask in The pure white light—having mixed all other colors throughout your colorful life. I hope you don’t feel the need to critique it too much and maybe find a way to direct some to your friends and students. Thank you for having been our eyes. 
Your “nephew” Philippe Blumenthal Brown Class 1989
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