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Festival Acknowledges Passing of Prop Artisan Walter Stark

Walter Stark

By Liz Armstrong

“He offered advice and adopted many of us over the years,” Festival Properties Director Ben Hohman said. “I learned so much from Walter, about technology and electronic gadgets . . . but also about being an amazing human.” 

After a long battle with cancer, Walter Stark passed away at the age of 82. Stark was a senior prop artisan for ten years, and he was an integral part of the Festival. 

Interim Managing Director Michael Bahr would like to pass along Festival condolences to Stark’s friends and family, as well as express immense gratitude for his years of service at the Festival. 

Stark’s partner Judith Kilpatrick said that he discovered the Festival and was intrigued by the sets and props for the plays. 

“He made the acquaintance of [Hohman] and what he learned excited him so much he asked to be hired by the props department,” Kilpatrick said. “He grew more involved each year as he was presented with interesting demands for creativity.” 

Stark assisted in helping create the calliope in Scapin and the Model T in Ragtime. 

“He said props created magic for the audience,” Kilpatrick said. “He was immensely proud to be a part of the process, to the point of working his last seasons for only room and board.” 

In addition to Hohman and Marielle Boneau, former Festival Scenery Director Dan Giedeman expressed that Stark worked at the prop shop longer than any other employee. Working side by side with Stark, Giedeman noticed that he made a point to seek out each artisan, taking most to dinner to learn more about who they were. 

In addition to being personable and caring, Stark was a man of extreme intelligence. He was a nuclear scientist, and his thirst for knowledge became evident in the prop shop. 

“He had a fascination with the process of building and repairing props,” Giedeman said. “He used to say that he wanted to sit at my table for days and just watch me work.” 

Hohman voiced that although Stark came from a science background, he found his inner artist working at the Festival. Stark was willing to learn from other artisans, but he also took the time to get to know their dreams and aspirations.

“He took all his technical know-how and helped us create amazing props over the years,” Hohman said. “Although his attention to detail was impeccable, his attention to the people around him was what made Walter really stand out.”

Stark will be sorely missed, as he not only improved the quality of props here at the Festival, but was a shining example of what it means to be a “good human.”

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