September 24, 2013
David Yergan, a longtime member of the Theater Department and an alumnus, died September 22, 2013, in Albany after suffering a stroke. He was 54.
A New York City native, he grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., and graduated in 1976 from its high school. He earned a B.S. degree in theater at Skidmore in 1980, in his senior year receiving the Margaret Ellen Clifford Award recognizing his “remarkable abilities, commitment, and work as a student of design and technical theater,” said Lary Opitz, professor and chair of the department. Lary knew David as both student and colleague; the two shared a close bond over many years.
Following graduate studies at New York University and work at a number of Manhattan-based theater groups, David returned to Skidmore in 1986 as the Theater Department’s technical director, overseeing lighting design, managing productions, and teaching students. He established the department’s scene shop and many of its technical theater courses. When the Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater building opened in 1987, David was named its manager, and there he created lighting and sound for countless productions over two decades.
Memories of David on a Facebook page included: “From Dave I learned that you hang a light with the same integrity that you direct Shakespeare, and it's this sense of pride in hard work, regardless of the public glory it brings, that I remember learning from him most,” by English and theater major Risa Shoup ’05.
David was also deeply involved in regional performing arts, sharing his skills as lighting designer and production director for Opera Saratoga, as technical director for Saratoga Shakespeare Company, and as lighting designer for Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, Maude Baum and Co., Proctor’s, Curtain Call Theater, and Home Made Theater. HMT general manager Stacey Mayette Barnes wrote on Facebook, “He was the lighting designer for over 30 productions with HMT, along with occasional sound and scenic designs. David also served as a member of HMT’s Artistic Advisory Board. HMT has been enriched over the years by David’s talent, knowledge, and generosity. He always took the time to share his knowledge with newer crew members and he seemed to delight in the opportunity to teach.”
Skidmore’s summer programs also benefited from David’s creativity, including the Saratoga International Theater Institute and the Jazz Institute, which performed many years on the JKB main stage. The Jazz Institute’s director, Todd Coolman, called David “the best of silent partners. He really took care of us and all the fine details, and managed the stage and staff well. He never sought recognition, but was content to be in the background and make sure everything was professional and optimal. He was our guardian angel, allowing us to keep our minds on teaching and playing music.” Last year the dance school of the New York State Summer School of the Arts honored David in a ceremony that included a testimonial from famed choreographer Robert Battle, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Company.
David is survived by his wife, Michelle Summerlin, and their daughter Evangeline, a 2016 Skidmore graduate, both of Saratoga Springs; mother Joan Yergan and brother Steven Yergan of New Rochelle; and sister Donna Yergan White (Charles) and two nephews of New York City.
We remember David’s skills at a teacher and mentor, and the creativity that marked countless productions.
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