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Insightful Q&A With Award Winning Entertainment Engineer, Bill Gorlin

Media Coverage
Source: Lighting and Sound America
February 22, 2024
Insightful Q&A With Award Winning Entertainment Engineer, Bill Gorlin

McLaren Engineering Group’s Entertainment VP, Bill Gorlin, PE, SE, was featured as “People Worth Knowing” in Lighting and Sound America’s February 2024 Issue.

In celebration of Bill Gorlin, PE, SE’s prestigious recognition with SUNY Purchase’s Broadway Technical Theatre History Projects Backstage Legends and Masters Award, Lighting and Sound America sat down with him for an insightful Q&A session.

Delving deep into his entertainment engineering career, Bill shares highlights from his journey, tracing his passion for engineering from its roots to his pivotal role in McLaren’s Entertainment Division.

Ranging from Las Vegas spectacles, to theme parks, and even the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Broadway production, Bill narrates his most memorable projects and career milestones in Light and Sound America.

VIEW THE ARTICLE

Lighting & Sound America (LSA): How did you get started in engineering?

Bill Gorlin: From a young age, I’ve been captivated by the intricate interplay between nature and the built environment. As a child, I was drawn to the wonders of the world, curious about how structures interacted with natural elements.

LSA: How did you get involved in entertainment projects?

Bill Gorlin: I worked for a small engineering firm in Connecticut doing buildings, and when you work for a little company, you do everything. In 1988, Bill Mensching, from Showtech, reached out to our company seeking a structural engineer for a project involving the Moscow Circus. My boss pointed to me and said, “You like weird projects, why don’t you take this one?” I found myself thrust into the vibrant world of entertainment engineering. Showtech was my gateway, immersing me in a realm where creativity knows no bounds.

LSA: How did you join PRG?

Bill Gorlin: Peter Mensching recruited me. Initially, I served as an in-house engineer at the Las Vegas office. However, my path crossed independently with Fred Gallo from PRG who expressed interest in having me contribute to projects for the New York office. This led to my eventual transfer to New York. During my time there, I had the opportunity to work on exciting ventures such as The Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast tours. I was also involved in creating spectacles for Las Vegas, including the Sky Parade at the Rio Hotel and Casino, and Star Trek: The Experience. These projects were not only professionally rewarding but also incredibly enjoyable experiences.

LSA: And then you joined McLaren?

Bill Gorlin: Before joining PRG, I had interviewed with McLaren, although I ultimately turned down their job offer. Despite this, I was impressed by Mal McLaren, and I saw an opportunity to collaborate with him as a consultant for PRG. I eventually felt the pull to return to the consulting realm, leading me to join McLaren in January of 2000.

LSA: What are your top experiences at McLaren?

Bill Gorlin: One of my most significant accomplishments was spearheading the development of a division dedicated to servicing a diverse range of entertainment projects. While I’ve enjoyed the work on theatre productions, concerts, theme parks, and Las Vegas spectacles, some of the most fulfilling experiences have been on Broadway. The theatre community is filled with exceptionally talented and forwardthinking individuals who are constantly pushing creative boundaries. Through our projects, we’ve been able to contribute to the evolution of Broadway, ensuring that it remains relevant and adaptive to the demands of modern productions while prioritizing safety and excellence.

LSA: What was your involvement in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?

Bill Gorlin: We were brought in by Ambassador Theatre Group. The designers wanted to make the theatre environment more intimate. They brought in the walls on the sides, making the auditorium narrower and shallower, but extended the balcony by several rows, which is expensive. McLaren added two columns, associated steel reinforcing, and footings. We also had an existing roof with a landmarked plaster ceiling that had to be removed, stored, and preserved. They are required to restore the theatre to the original configuration if there’s ever a desire to do so. We came up with an innovative approach for supporting the ceiling. It was a terrific endeavor. The vision by the designer was just beautiful.

LSA: How do look back on your career so far?

Bill Gorlin: It’s been a journey filled with diverse, meaningful experiences. One particularly impactful moment was the aftermath of 9/11 when the entire entertainment industry came to a standstill. I found myself involved in providing engineering expertise on the Ground Zero site to support the demolition efforts. For about three months, I dedicated myself to 12-hour shifts every few days, offering whatever assistance I could. The first day, a security guy came up and said, “Where’s your ID?” I pulled out my business card and it said, “Entertainment Division.” He started yelling at me. I said, “No, that’s what I do in my real life!” Despite the gravity of the situation, I found that the quick decision-making skills honed in the entertainment industry were remarkably applicable to the tasks at hand.