This year's spring musical at Pine-Richland High School will be dedicated to Brad Oberg, 64, who died March 10 of a heart attack while working on the set for "Thoroughly Modern Millie," which opens a five-show run at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Theater director Tim Marquette was a high school student at Pine-Richland when he first met Mr. Oberg, who has designed lighting and theater sets for student musical productions for 20 years.
“We’re dedicating the entire run to him and his family,” said Mr. Marquette, noting that many people have been showing up to offer help. “It’s been so difficult, but it’s all coming together, thanks to this most incredible community."
Mr. Marquette said he is confident the performers will be able to take what they’ve learned from Mr. Oberg and fly.
“We’ve been thinking we have such a hole in our fabric to patch up, but we also trust his mentorship," Mr. Marquette said. "He always encouraged us. He’d say, ‘You learned it, now you do it.’ He gave that gift to all the students, and now we have to trust and move forward without him.'”
Mr. Oberg's wife, Lynn, said her husband had had heart trouble the past couple of years and was taking medication.
“He was on a scaffold working on lighting, and he collapsed and fell," she said. "He died doing what he loved.”
She visited the show rehearsal two nights after her husband's accident to “let them know we’re okay, and we’ll be there for opening night.”
Theater students at Pine-Richland said he was always teaching them something.
Senior Mariah Kutchko recalled that he constructed a turntable for the set of "Les Miserables" when she was a freshman and he taught the performers how to walk on it. When the motor broke, Mr.Oberg used a rope to make it operate.
"I know Mr.Oberg would say, 'the show must go on.' I can't wait to get back to rehearsal and put on an amazing show in his honor,” Mariah said.
Senior Jillian Schmidt first met Mr. Oberg when she was in 7th grade, performing in "Willy Wonka."
“I had to be fitted for a flight suit," she recalled. “He immediately tied me tightly into the suit and, to my surprise, lifted me up with one hand using the clip in the back. While holding me in the air, he reassured me I would be safe and secure when I flew, and from then on, I felt nothing but safe and secure under his control."
Performances of "Throughly Modern Millie" will continue at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 p.m. March 28; and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 29 in the high school, 700 Warrendale Road, Pine.
Mr. Oberg will be missed in the community at large, too.
Karen Cordaro, owner of Act One Theatre School in Shaler, said she met Mr. Oberg in 1992.
“He had some experience with lighting, background as a respected architect and a genuine love for theatre,” she recalled. “His girls took classes with us, and his wife became our costumer while Brad took over sets and lighting for us.”
In addition to building creative sets, Mrs. Cordaro said he taught her students how to handle tools and actually help with building. “He taught them to hang, gel and focus lights and how to run the light board and develop cues. In the days when it was all done manually, this was an amazing feat for seventh-graders, but with Brad as their mentor, they ran the shows, both on and off-stage, professionally, without a hitch.”
Mrs. Oberg said her husband was a man of great faith and was very active volunteering at New Community Church in Pine.
"If he wasn’t doing sets at Act One, he was working on sets at the church," she said. "He would start planning in the fall, then start construction on Pine-Richland’s set right after Christmas. After the show, he would get two weeks off before beginning construction for Act One.”
Mr. Oberg was co-founder of the Pittsburgh-based housing innovation company IBACOS, where he was revered as as building scientist and was among a group who partnered with the Department of Energy to create the Building America program.
He received his bachelor's degree in fine arts and architecture from Lehigh University. He also held a master’s degree in architecture from Ohio State University and was a member of the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Environmental Committee of the International Code Council Evaluation Service.
Mr. Oberg is survived by his wife of 43 years; daughters, Amanda Stadler and Jena Oberg; son Carlos Quesada; and stepmother, Betsy Oberg.
The family has created The Brad Oberg Technical Theatre Scholarship fund for students pursing technical theater either through a university degree or special summer course. Donations can be sent to PNC Bank 915 Freeport Road, Pittsburgh 15238.
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.