On August 14, 2020, the theater community lost a titan of lighting design as we learned of the passing of Howell Binkley at the age of 64. A perusal of Binkley’s résumé of Broadway credits reads like a “best of” list from Broadway’s past three decades. Yes, there was Hamilton, but there was also Avenue Q, The Full Monty, Parade, Jersey Boys, In the Heights, Memphis, Honeymoon in Vegas and Come from Away. Binkley has 52 Broadway credits in all, which garnered him nine Tony Award nominations along the way.
Our beloved friend and collaborator Howell Binkley passed away today. He painted with light and took us to places and times we could only dream of going. One of the finest lighting designers in the business and an even better human being. We will miss him terribly. pic.twitter.com/aipkxvGTXh— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) August 15, 2020
Two of his designs, Jersey Boys and Hamilton, won the Tony, and his work on Kiss of the Spider Woman and Hamilton both earned him the Olivier. Those of us in the lighting design community that have seen Hamilton on Disney+ recognize how his lighting helped lift that story off of the stage and into our living rooms.
Howell will be remembered as a charismatic, compassionate man and generous collaborator. He was a co-founder and the longtime resident lighting designer for Parson’s Dance Company, and his designs were experienced at regional theaters around the United States.
Howell’s Love For R77760 Internal Reflections
Shortly after he passed, Broadway Production Electrician Jimmy Fedigan posted a simple tribute to Howell on Facebook — a sandwich-style gobo holder loaded an R77760 Internal Reflections gobo. The reactions and comments on his post were very touching. It was humbling to see how much this one Rosco pattern had meant to Howell and his collaborators.
R77760 has been a stalwart of Howell’s designs, and a signature component of his artistry. It became well known that if you worked on a show with Howell, you could count on Internal Reflections being a large part of his design. “Production electricians would keep stacks of these gobos on hand when they were doing a show with Howell,” recalled Al Ridella from 4Wall Entertainment.
A short time later, a new image began appearing on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. Projection Designer Jason Thompson had created a collage of photos of Howell viewed through the soft focus of an R77760 pattern.
How important was R77760 to Howell Binkley? Lighting Designer Ryan O’Gara, who assisted Howell on over 30 Broadway shows (and 100+ total productions) showed us. He dug through the archives on our behalf, and shared several images that showcased how Howell had used the pattern in some of his most famous designs.
After all the years working with him, O’Gara recounted the greatest lesson he learned from Howell Binkley: “Listen to the director and the choreographer. Howell would always listen to what they wanted. He was very caring and humble, and never had any ego. He knew that his work would stand for itself. He always kept calm and composed, despite the stressful environment around him.”
Introducing R77760 Binkley Reflections
We were inspired by how people were using this particular Rosco gobo to express their affection for Howell Binkley. We realized that bestowing his name on this pattern was the best way to honor his career, the impact his work has had on the lighting design industry, and his love for this particular gobo. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we are honored to announce that Rosco Gobo # R77760 from this day forward will be named “Binkley Reflections.”
R77760 has been in Rosco’s gobo catalog for decades. It was originally designed by Lighting Designer Dennis Parichy. The first thing we did when we decided to rename the pattern was ask Dennis for permission to rebrand his gobo design. Parichy graciously and immediately agreed. “I met Howell when he was just starting out,” Parichy recalled. “He was such a nice man.”
Rosco offers our deepest condolences to Howell’s wife, Joyce Storey, to his family and friends, and to those who worked closest with him. We thank them, and everyone that shared their stories about Howell Binkley with us. Most of all, we are thankful for the opportunity to honor the life and career of such a distinguished designer with this humble tribute.