March 21, 2024
On Campus

Behind the Curtains

Next Why Witt? welcomes stage and screen experts Chris Conti ’98, and Tom Wirtshafter ’76

Learn what’s “Behind the Curtains” during the next Why Witt? Podcast, March 27, when Chris Conti, Wittenberg class of 1998, and Tom Wirtshafter, Wittenberg class of 1976, share their stage and screen career experiences. The event begins in-person at 7 p.m. in Founders Pub, on the lower level of Benham-Pence Student Center.

Conti, current chief innovation officer for the Production Resource Group (PRG), began his lighting career early on when he worked on productions in high school. Earning a BA in theatre from Wittenberg in 1998, he became a shop technician after graduation at Vari-Lite in New York. He eventually went on to join Vari-Lite’s road staff where he held multiple positions including Vari-Lite tech, system tech, crew chief, and lighting director.

In 2004, Conti joined PRG where he has worked on multiple concert tours, TV shows, corporate events, trade shows, and special events. Some highlights of his career have been working on sets for Coldplay, Josh Groban, Fleetwood Mac, Guns & Roses, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Britney Spears, N’Sync, The Tony Awards, The Victoria Secret Fashion Show, The MTV Video Music Awards, and several opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics.

In 2007, he became the product manager for PRG's Proprietary Luminaires and the Series 400 System. As product manager, Conti has led a team of engineers in the development of PRG’s proprietary lighting products ranging from high output automated luminaires to advanced lighting control systems. During his tenure as a product manager, he has been listed as an inventor on 15 U.S. patents (and counting) and has continued to provide technical assistance and support to multiple shows.  Some of the shows have been for U2, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, Beyonce, Drake, and multiple Super Bowl halftime shows.  

Conti was named to the StudioDaily50 in 2017 for his work in advancing technological achievement in the entertainment industry. In 2018, he led the team that was recognized with a Technology & Engineering Emmy® Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for outstanding achievement in engineering development of the PRG Ground Control Followspot System. Shortly thereafter, Conti was named chief innovation officer for PRG in 2019.  As CIO, he leads PRG Innovation, which brings into a single organization all of PRG’s global talent focused on product development. He also continues to participate is some of PRG’s most ambitions productions.

Wirtshafter served as president of The Town Hall, New York’s legendary concert hall from 2013 to 2023. Town Hall’s rich history includes Marion Anderson’s debut (1935), the first be-bob concert by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (1945) and Bob Dylan’s first major concert (1963).

Founder and the executive director of Barrow Street Theatricals, an off-Broadway producer, Wirtshafter operated the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village from 2003 to 2018 and helped produce many long-running shows including BUG (Tracy Letts), Orson’s Shadow (Austin Pendleton), Gone Missing (The Civilians), No Child … (Nilaja Sun), Our Town (Thornton Wilder), Mistakes were Made (Craig Wright), Tribes (Nina Raine), The Effect (Lucy Prebble), Buyer & Cellar (Jonathan Tolins), Every Brilliant Thing (Duncan McMillan) and Sweeney Todd (Steven Sondheim). Among the productions Wirtshafter has helped bring to the stage are TJ & Dave, Underneath the Lintel, Sarah Jones – Bridge & Tunnel, and Adding MachineThe Musical and Book of Mormons.

Wirtshafter has also had a career in financial services recently retiring as a senior vice president of American Portfolios Financial Services, a broker-dealer, and American Portfolios Advisors, an investment advisor. He served as the companies’ president from 2009 to 2011 and served on the board of the companies and their holding company until 2022 when the firms were purchased by Advisor Group, now known as Osaic. Prior to that he was an executive in the financial services industry at AXA Advisors, MetLife, and Nathan & Lewis Securities.

He received his BA from Wittenberg in 1976 and his MBA from New York University in 1979.

The brainchild of entrepreneurs Timmy McCarthy, class of 2002 and Wittenberg’s first-ever Professional in Residence, and John “HUD” Hudson, business owner, friend, and former classmate, Why Witt? debuted in summer 2023. The program airs in front of a live studio audience once a month. Featured guests are Wittenberg alumni, who are then expected to mentor a current Wittenberg student following their participation in the program.

Why Witt? asks the following primary questions of all its guests: what led them to Wittenberg; what happened while they were here; and how did they navigate the path after leaving Wittenberg? Each show is approximately one hour – 50 minutes for conversation and 10 minutes for audience questions. A link to listen will be posted on the program’s YouTube channel after each conversation, as well as Spotify. Contact information for connecting with the Why Witt? creators can also be found on the program’s website here.

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

Back to top