Dan Sheehan Lifetime Achievement Award
2022 EMACT DASH Award Ceremony August 20, 2022
Dan Sheehan has been with the Walpole Footlighters since 1990 and volunteered with The Un-Common Theatre Company prior to that. He has served as the Footlighters volunteer Technical Director for nearly 30 years, as well as the organization’s Facilities Manager. He has designed and built countless sets, lighting plots, and stage gimmicks, some of which have won awards. Dan volunteers his time with other community theatres as well, notably the Needham Community Theatre and the Milton Players, and additionally advises our sister company, the Walpole Children’s Theatre. He has trained many volunteers on lighting design, sound design, and set design and construction, always focusing on quality and efficiency. Some of those volunteers have gone on to professional work in the theatre industry. Dan himself trained as a mechanical engineer and electronics test engineer. He worked as a technician on the Apollo moon shot program, which must have given him his ‘we can do it’ approach to anything that is thrown his way.
Given a challenge from a director or designer, Dan will always come up with a clever and practical solution. His creativity and technical expertise have helped us to stage technically challenging shows like Something's Afoot, with 10 "lethal" gimmicks, Flemming, with multiple concealed entrances, and Blithe Spirit, which featured a dancing armchair in the middle of the stage. Flying signs, sneakers falling from the sky on cue, and self-spinning disco balls are all made possible by apparatuses that Dan created and built, which are still in place and used time and again.
Dan will use, and reuse, until a resource is totally used up. He saves cut outs from flats so that the flat can be made whole again after the show has closed. All those working with Dan learn how to do things the right way; no cutting corners or slapping it together. With Dan at the helm, anyone who comes to help during a set build day with the thought, “It’s just a set, so that’s good enough.”, always leaves understanding that quality doesn’t take that much more time but improves the finished product exponentially. Anything that has snuck by Dan's keen eye always gets corrected by him later after everyone has gone. The Footlighters depend on him to make things right and help our production teams achieve their artistic vision.
Regarding Walpole Children’s Theatre (WCT), Dan has been involved with them for as long as he has been with the Footlighters. It was with WCT that Dan designed his first (and he still says his best) set design for that company’s production of The Golden Grotto. He has designed and built sets, served as technical advisor, and trained crew members in every aspect of the theater. He has been a strong supporter of WCT, and when the group has a production question, like the best way to get a peach to grow to a gigantic size on stage, he has eagerly participated in creative discussion and shared his knowledge and experience to help solve the technical puzzle. Whether he had contributed to a WCT production or not, Dan could be counted on to be in his usual seat, L 109, with his wife Rosemary next to him, for at least one show. Directors would feel honored when he came to more than one show in the run because it meant he really liked it, and what Dan thinks about the production is held in high regard. His devotion to children's theatre has helped WCT tremendously and the group is forever indebted to him.
As the Footlighters Facilities Manager, Dan spent much of his spare time at the Footlighters Playhouse improving our safety systems and rewiring the electrical systems. He also cares for the rest of the building in such areas as heating, plumbing, and ventilation. He is always improving the use of the building and working out clever ways to keep things organized and in order. Dan is the "go-to" guy for almost everything. Dan signs his bio as "Fixer of Things that Break." That is no exaggeration.
As Dan begins to step back from his second home at the Footlighters Playhouse, it's nearly impossible to perform well the many, many things Dan does for the Footlighters. He has been a mentor, a voice of reason, a problem solver, a handy man, a friend, a clever designer… a fixer of things. The Footlighters will be forever grateful for all that Dan has given to them.