Today, Shannon Hall, as the Union Theater is now known, sports a full line of ETC equipment.

In 1996, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City installed its first ETC lighting console. That was the same house where, more than 20 years previously, Fred Foster fell in love with theater and live performance — especially the view from backstage or the lighting booth.


As the frantic pressures on a young company have abated, the major shareholders have been able to think long-term, a process that led to an employee stock ownership program in 2015. The ESOP conferred one-third of the company’s shares to its long-term employees. When asked to explain, Foster described what he’s learned over the years. “We were a flyspeck on the side of the industry. For decades, the bigs would laugh at us at trade shows, but one by one, they dissolved after they were sold from one conglomerate to another. They lost good people; it was like peeling off layers of skin — eventually only a skeleton was left.”

Corporations supposedly exist to maximize shareholder value, generally measured by share price and earnings. As they pondered the future, the stockholders adopted an alternative definition proposed by co-founder Gary Bewick: a company that would be independent and thriving in 100 years.

That premise lead inexorably to the employee stock ownership program, Foster says. “The real reason for our success is the people who have dedicated their careers to us, and the ESOP is providing a reward to them that we should have given earlier.”