I always tell the truth, probably to my own detriment. You have to be able to deal with all the lies that surround you, and the manipulation that occurs, and if you can stay truthful, it’s not going to affect you as much. Stand your ground, and the truth ultimately will come out.

As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marc Brickman.

When Pepo Sol, CEO of Ogilvy Mather and Executive Producer of the Barcelona Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies called, he said, ‘Marc Brickman, I have your name and beside it is the word ‘RISK’. Is this true?’ The rumor was admittedly true, not for projects that didn’t work, but for their cutting edge and bold attempts to push the creative envelope in live entertainment.

Brickman is unapologetic for his drive to explore the new, the never been done and even the ‘can’t be done.’ ‘The only time something can’t be done,’ he says, ‘is if you don’t try to do it.’

Marc’s groundbreaking work as an artist, director, producer and lighting designer has reached audiences of millions world-wide. Marc’s work includes productions for Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, The Barcelona and Nagano Olympics Ceremonies, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, and Bruce Springsteen among hundreds of others.

In 2012 Anthony Malkin, chairman, president and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust tapped Brickman to re-imagine the lighting of the Empire State Building. Since then Marc’s work with The Empire State Building has transcended definition.

Brickman made his Broadway debut in 2007 with Young Frankenstein. Marc co-directed and co-produced, Once Upon A Dream starring The Rascals which completed a sold out Broadway run.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Well, I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my parents were happily married for sixty-plus years before they passed away. I grew up in the nineteen-fifties, a picturesque childhood of middle-class America. Incredible time for the country, and for everyone. It was a very happy childhood. I grew up on rock and roll, Ed Sullivan, and Soupy Sales and the greatest influence was Jerry Blavat.

I went to one public primary school, and then in eighth grade, my father decided that I should go to Central High School, which is the second oldest high school in America, an all-academic boys public high school in Philadelphia. I did ninth grade through twelfth grade there, graduated, got into college, the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. Then was dismissed from that college 6 months from the start for not attending gym classes.

In tenth grade, I started building a light show. By the time I hit twelfth grade, I found marijuana. And um, yeah. The direction of my life changed a bit.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started doing light shows when I was in tenth grade, selling light boxes to my classmates. At night after my classmates did their homework like good children, they could turn on these weird psychedelic light effects in white Plexiglass boxes. Very funny, actually.

And somehow, I don’t know how this happened, as I came to the end of my high school career, I received a phone call from the local radio station, WIP in Philadelphia, and they started offering me jobs to light Count Basie, Duke Ellington and other stars for live nights with recording artists. I ended up doing the lighting for the shows, renting equipment from this established lighting company in Philadelphia.

After being asked to leave college, my father suggested that I go ask for a job at this lighting company, which I did. Then, as fate would have it, unfortunately, the owner of the company who was a twenty-five-year-old guy called Adam Cutler, passed away in a motorcycle accident. His father, who had bought the company for Adam, then asked my father if he wanted to buy his (Adam’s) share. The other partner was a gentleman named Louis Kellman. At that time Lou was famous in Philadelphia for all his inventions in the entertainment and science industries, but mostly focused around photography and cinematography. I was nineteen years old; Lou was 63.

We became partners in this lighting company that I used to rent lights from.

Wm. A. MacAvoy Jr. Inc. was the only lighting company in Philadelphia, so I had an entry to all the Broadway shows that would start out in Philadelphia.

I would supply equipment to the local shows, to colleges and universities, and I would do rock concerts. I had quite an education in the fundamentals of theater, ballet, and concert production with TV and film sprinkled on top.

That went on until I met a guy called Bruce Springsteen in 1972. I then started doing all of Bruce’s shows around the tri state area. Philly, Jersey, New York State.

I did such a good job with Bruce Springsteen, they asked me to call the promoters in advance of Bruce appearing. Management gave me a list of dates, and I would tell the promoter they had to hire me because I was the vendor for Springsteen, his in-house designer. I began to be recognized for my artistic talents rather than for renting lights. And that pretty much started the path.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say Lou Kellman. Lou produced a film called The Burglar in the 50s. In 1967 he produced another film called Sweet Love, Bitter. He had financed the film himself because he had made money with some of his inventions. The film was controversial, an early interracial film with Dick Gregory and Diane Varsi.

Around the same time he helped start NFL Films with his cousins. As he was the first to film high school football contests. Later, Lou went bankrupt, and that’s how he ended up with a nineteen year old partner named Marc .

Lou Kellman influenced my life — the idea that if you want something, you pay for the creative yourself, which is really a crazy way of creating. But that set me on the path of being an artist. I give a lot of credit to Lou.

I obviously must give a lot of credit to my parents. They were just incredible in terms of always being there for me, as I made all kinds of mistakes.

Other than that, people professionally that I look up to include Jules Fisher, Tharon Musser, Jose Limon and others in the Broadway world. I was exposed to these incredible artists and directors and designers early on… nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old.

Rock and roll was just really starting to become an industry. Woodstock was only three years in the rearview mirror. There were no rules. And I love music, my uncle had played in the Tommy Dorsey band, and he taught me photography. He was the outcast of the family. He smoked dope. And it was a really heady time, it was a different world in America. It was really the Golden Age of music and art.

The renaissance we thought.

You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was starting out at nineteen, twenty, there was the Air Force base in Dover, Delaware, which back then was used for, I guess rocket boosters?

A couple of times, I was tasked to light up the runway at nighttime. It was top secret, we had to get clearance. I did it with the old theatrical scoops. They had a cargo plane, maybe it was a C130, and the rear opened up and they had to put a rocket in it. The clearance on either side of the rocket was about a quarter inch on either side. So it took all night to insert the rocket into the plane.

I could go from doing a Bruce Springsteen show to doing lighting for NASA rocket, or as I achieved success being around people like Frank Geary, Norman Foster, Timothy Leary Paul McCartney. and for a period of time working with the royal family in Riyadh. All the adventures, and there are hundreds, really builds character and teaches you how to create, to think on your feet in the moment without spreadsheets, without theoretical formulas. No surveys. My education was in the moment.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was on tour with Bruce. I had a big mouth and Lou Kellman always told me to shut up because I talked too much. I was playing Syracuse University with Bruce, I can’t remember the year, it was early on. Someone had come up to me, I guess they were from the local newspaper, and they asked me a question, like a really personal question, about Bruce. The question and answer came out in the newspaper the day of the show. I was called backstage before the show and Bruce was getting a massage. I remember him looking at me, being angry with me, that I had opened my mouth. I mean, really angry, to the point that it looked like he was going to punch me out, even though he was laying down to get a massage.

It was scary, because my parents never really got mad at me. Nobody ever really got mad at me. And I remember walking out of there, and I was really shaking, knowing that anger was just because I spoke. And from that moment on, I, you know, stopped talking. I talk. But I pick my audiences. I stopped being a self-promoter.

In terms of technical mistakes, I always loved mistakes when I was programming or designing or creating shows. Mistakes for me were always where I found the truth. They always end up being the greatest cues or creations.

One great mistake, if you could call it that, would be Barbara Streisand opening the hotel NYE at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, 1992 going into 93. Barbara hadn’t been on stage, I think, in 28 years. I was the first one hired. I was honored.

We were up late, the night before we were opening. I have one song left to program, the encore of the show, it was the song Evergreen. Everyone was tired. It’s like 3:30 in the morning. I say — Yeah, you know. Evergreen. How about we do all different shades of green? And everybody looked at me and they say no, Marc, you can’t do that. You’re gonna be thrown out of the building. You’re gonna be selling pencils at the backstage door tomorrow. And I said no, come on, just show it to me.

We start running the song, and it’s not looking bad, but something’s missing. I turn around, and there’s a woman behind me, cleaning the venue. I go. Hey? Hi! What’s your name? She goes “Laura” and I go, oh, Laura, nice to meet you! Do you like Barbara Streisand? She says, “I love Barbara Streisand”. Fantastic! Do me a favor. Could you just take a seat for a minute? I just want to show you something and see how you feel.

So, we play the whole song. And it’s going through different shades of green, and it’s actually looking okay. But it wasn’t quite right. I said to her, Laura, what do you think? And she goes “Well, it’s good, but it could use a bit of purple”. I said, purple! Oh, you want more purple in it. Fantastic! And so, we threw some purple in it, and then we played again. She made a couple of more changes. And then I heard this “Oh, yes, that’s just great”. I said, well, thank you very much, and it was really nice meeting you. And I looked at everybody and said that’s a wrap. And everybody’s like you’re nuts, Marc. You’re absolutely crazy.

The next day is the dress rehearsal. We play the song, and all these people come running up to me at the very end. I thought, oh, here it comes. I’m in trouble, right? And everyone’s looking at me, and I forget who it was. It wasn’t her manager, but somebody else pretty high up. Record company somebody, and they said to me “Oh, my God, you did it, it just looks amazing we’re so happy!” I say, thank you very much.

I guess the moral of the story is that I always want to know what the audience is thinking, feeling, and responding rather than myself.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on myself these days… I’m working on my art, my painting. I get such pleasure out of painting, learning new things every day about image, the properties of paint, and physically doing the work, rather than directing all the time, or having other people actually push buttons for me.

In addition, I have an incredible team of people, Elisha Griego and Dietrich Juengling. Who has worked with me for years. We light the Empire State Building on a daily basis. There’s lots of great things happening at the Empire State Building.

Creatively it’s always a challenge.

And then finally, drones. Last November. We began a path to reinvent the new technology as an art form rather than advertising. The idea that the audience really needs to be involved and not just have some flashing lights up in the sky. There needs to be some sort of context and story. We have created proprietary apps and controls to tell stories in real time with audio capabilities on your mobile devices. You don’t need to travel to a location to view. rather, the sky is the canvas.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?

As David Gilmour always told me, “Just be yourself”.

Trust what your inner voice is telling you in the moment. Don’t look around to others for your answer. You can listen to others. You have to listen to others, but ultimately you need to take in all the information yourself, and then trust yourself to export the correct answer. Sometimes it might not be possible, and you will fail, but you will learn from the failure. So valuable, the failures.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.

You burn out from not growing and trying and taking risks, but from repeating yourself. I’m hoping that at some point everyone’s gonna realize that all the lights that flash in everyone’s eyes at every show, result in a single fact, you never see the performance or the context of why you’re there, you’re so blinded by spectacle…

The acts don’t really seem to care. It’s just about the spectacle, and I might sound like a grumpy old man. But I’m not, I’m a really happy, old man. It all looks great on Instagram and YouTube. But think about standing in an audience, not even sitting, but standing in an audience with between 25,00–75,000 others of your close personal friends. Getting blinded, assaulted. I think that the burnout is hiding in the repetitive nature of whats being served up to the public.

Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why?

Humility, Belief, Truth, Punctuality, and Love.

Humility — I don’t think most people would think that I’m humble, surprise!.

I mean, I’ve kept my mouth shut all these years, for the most part, unless I’m asked to talk about myself. That helped me understand, and also helped me to fly below the radar, to be able to experience all kinds of things. Inside of the humility, I always try to be very respectful when I’m working and respect everyone else. It’s just the way I am.


Believing in what you’re creating, and that’s the scary one. To actually believe that what you’re creating is going to be acknowledged and recognized and have an impact.

A specific story about belief — So it’s 1980. Pink Floyd had been in LA for 2 months, spending millions of dollars on a production called The Wall. Everyone knew it was the largest production anyone tried to ever mount. It was the night before it opened. I had no tickets. My phone rings. I picked up the phone and the person on the line said, “This is Steve O’Rourke, Pink Floyd’s manager, and we’re having a bit of a problem down here at the sports arena. Could you join us for a meeting”? I thought it was a British friend, you know, somebody winding me up. So I went, sure, but I need 25 tickets for tomorrow night.

And there was silence on the phone.

And then you heard this somewhat irritated person. “No. I am Steve O’Rourke. I am Pink Floyd’s manager, and we do need a meeting with you. Can you make it”? And then I realized that this was for real. And so, I went.

I go down there. They walk me around. It’s total insanity. Everyone’s running around because there’s only hours left to put it all together, and they’re way behind. I’m overwhelmed. And then they say to me, you know, would you come back for the dress rehearsal at 8 pm. And I said, Sure.

I had this pack of 3 by 5 cards in my hand, and they said, “What’s that”? I said, I’m just gonna take some notes. So, they do the rehearsal and I’m summoned to Roger Waters’ trailer right after rehearsal, and he says to me, “What do you think”? And I whip out the cards, and I say, well, first of all, you’ve got all the lights on all the time. It’s just complete chaos. It doesn’t mean anything. You’re trying to do an opera, it needs direction in terms of visual. They said, “Give us an example”. I said, Okay, well, when you first start to show everything’s on. I get that it’s In The Flesh, and I get that it’s this extravaganza. But you can do it in a way where you save some stuff. So that’s number one.

And then there were the cherry pickers. These hydraulic man lifts, but they had been outfitted with follow spots and men driving them, so they look very ominous. I said, so when you get to Another Brick part 2., you have a helicopter sound. The whole of the stage should be black, and all you see are these things rising up and starting to sweep over. That’s going to take you up another notch from where you started.

And they looked at me, and they said, “You’re hired”. I can go on and on. But basically, it was the belief in what I saw. And that really was a springboard for me to get to this next level.


I always tell the truth, probably to my own detriment. You have to be able to deal with all the lies that surround you, and the manipulation that occurs, and if you can stay truthful, it’s not going to affect you as much. Stand your ground, and the truth ultimately will come out.

Punctuality — Well, the best that I can say is my dad, who I miss, always said to me, “The early bird catches the worm”. I think that applies to every second of your life.

And what was the last one?


There’s nothing stronger in the world. And yes, I am an old hippie, but you know this concept of love is part of us as humans, and it’s very important to always have a big, open heart and lots of love for everyone that you meet every day. Going back to Laura. I mean, you know she was fantastic for those few minute moments we spent together. Right? It was. I’m still talking about her 31 years later.

For the benefit of our readers, could you describe how the skill-sets you need in a theater performance are different than the skill-sets you need for TV or Film?

Live performance is way different than TV or film. The big difference is that in live events you don’t get another chance. You don’t get to say, cut, let’s do it again. The energy of the audience. The energy of your performance is all one emotion happening in the moment. It’s so strong. Live music is the same way, you don’t stop the show.

For instance, the same Pink Floyd show we just talked about. Opening night, the house lights go out, the fireworks start, and as the fireworks started, they shot up into the ceiling of the sports arena. Well, during On Thin Ice, the second song into the show, these huge chunks of flaming curtains coming down on top of Roger and David’s heads in the middle of the stage, and I’m watching this thing that I didn’t see in rehearsal last night. But I was new to the whole deal, so I thought it was okay, I thought it was part of the show. It wasn’t okay, it was a real fire. They’d set the curtains on fire. So, you know again, they had to deal with that action.

In film you yell cut. The audience never would have experienced that. You would have shot that scene the next day. I’ve been on a lot of film sets, and you know, film is amazing. But it’s a different art form, because everyone knows in the back of their head, if it doesn’t go quite right, they get another chance, and that’s a different rhythm. Live performance is really exciting because of the unknown.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

How about Habitat for Humanity, but a version where you build new minds. A totally egoless form of education, without polarization. Education is so important. And this country is now educated by huge companies that only care about the bottom line. Art in schools has been pretty much eliminated. Artists are really on the ropes globally, unless you’ve been blessed by having gone to the right parties.

But the good news is that, given the blockchain, NFTs, and social media, you’re able to talk directly to your audience. The gatekeepers will always be there. They’re not going anywhere. If you really want to be an artist, a true artist, a real artist, that opportunity is there. You don’t have to be a starving artist anymore. You actually can make a living from it. I feel like that’s the really big, bright light that’s at the end of the tunnel for everyone who does want to pursue a career in the arts, that you really can have your own voice. I think that’s really important, and I think that will bring the most amount of good to the largest number of people. To have a life that is fulfilling to you, and you still have your dignity.

The movement is people really understanding and not being afraid of the fact that if they really apply themselves and they focus on what they want to say individually, then they can do it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My father told me “It’s hard to hit a moving target”. My father also told me “Don’t be so angry”. Those are actually his last words — don’t be so angry. Don’t announce it! And when he told me that, he had just days left, and I was waiting for that wisdom. I would go religiously to his hospital every day and wait for the words, and I got it one afternoon.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I want to meet Banksy! Banksy has touched millions of people worldwide, and we don’t even know who they are as a collective, or as an individual. I think they’ve had a huge impact. And they did it in a way that I really admire.

I would’ve loved to have met Picasso, Mark Rothko. Although, once you meet your heroes, it’s never the same — It’s better to not meet them. I remember when they wanted me to meet Steven Spielberg, I didn’t want to meet him, and the producers were getting really angry with me, and I said, I don’t want to meet him because I just have a great image of Steven in my head. I just want to keep that honest. I don’t want it to be destroyed.

Or maybe another Laura. You know, just a person that is walking along the planet unknown. I won’t say- Oh, my God! I want to meet Elon Musk. I already know what that would be like, and I’m not that interested. I mean, I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of people like Elon Musk my whole life, very famous, and I’ve been blessed to know them off the stage. But I get more inspiration from everyday people.

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

My website, marcbrickman.com or on instagram @marcbrickman_art are the most active platforms

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.