• Ott-Laughlin Funeral Home
    Winter Haven, FL
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RICHARD ERTENBERG

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online until 11/28/2018

RICHARD ERTENBERG

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November 18, 2018
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November 18, 2018
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January 07, 2018
I'm David sparling and I had the tremendous blessing of being a colleague and a friend of Ricks. We worked together for many years at Lake Region High School creating productions that affected the lives of the students that participated and more so, the lives of the people that put the productions on.

You see, we were lucky enough to be part of a team who pushed each other to be better than we ever thought possible. I look back on how magical those years were that we spent together. We put on school musicals that according to audience members could have stood toe to toe with off-Broadway productions.

My title was that of director, and Andy Honer would be put down as stage manager, she did so much more, from fundraising, art decoration, costuming and whatever was necessary to get the job done and she did it all as a volunteer, every day of the school year she was there helping to push everyone to be their best, without her constant guidance I think I would've cracked.

She and Ertenberg spoke the language of the stage from theater winter haven and even though I had been in many shows on stage, She and Ertenberg were the only ones that knew that I had never directed a show before and it wasn't until after the first show that I told the kids that. They were supportive the whole way through.

Don West was in charge of the orchestra, you see our shows were cast in December, but by the end of August we knew what show we would do, and Don would get the music and start working with the orchestra in addition to his regular duties of marching band, jazz ensemble, and a multitude of other aspects that I'm only vaguely familiar with. Don worked with his musicians and we would slowly bring in the cast to sing with them, and after four months of rehearsal, it was breathtaking. I also brought in a couple of friends of mine from Universal studios to help. My friend Tony was a professional choreographer, and my friend Seth a professional lighting technician. but the one who really made us look good was Richard Ertenberg. He and I called each other by our last names as well as everyone else.

I don't know if any of you know this, but Ertenberg could come off as a little bit of a pain in the butt when you first meet him, I'm sure he had the same opinion of me as well, but we soon saw through each other's façade and the genuine care and consideration for each other was right underneath. Through our time together we had conversations that ranged from philosophical, we talked about the love of our wife's and children, and current events, but, often, it was about students and how we could help them. It was a wonderful friendship the results of which speak for themselves. That chapter of my life was so unique because of the people that were in it.

It was an atmosphere that is almost impossible to describe unless you had lived through it with us. We put a total of five full-blown musicals together. Each show Ertenberg and I would talk about what he thought the sets should look like, his starting point was always the original blueprints of the Broadway production, of which he would improve upon. His elaborate designs and attention to detail in knowing what the final product would look like on stage would just take you back when you saw it, I have a slew of memories of audible gasps from the audience as the curtains opened.

Every one of the multiple sets were placed on casters, or wheels that help roll the set on and off the stage, I can tell you each set was 17 feet 6 inches high, the reason I know that is the door from the shop to the stage had a clearance of 17'7, so we had a half inch to spare. on a show night, every one of these stage pieces were preloaded in a way that makes high-speed Tetris look easy. it was not uncommon for him to put in 12 to 15 hour days, covered in sawdust, with flakes of it in his beard and his glasses smeared just a little. his work ethic was infectious to the students around him. I received this note from one of the many students that were affected by Ertenberg, Andrew Hunt, who is now a professional lighting designer out of Nashville he travels the world, and with him, a little bit of Etenberg goes too. he wanted to say this:

Many people spend most of their lives looking for ways to get the spotlight, to find more ways to get people's attention. Mr. Ertenberg was not one of those people. his passion and love for the arts radiated in the details and the care he put into the sets he built. He inspired kids, like me, for so many years by teaching them the importance of being part of the crew. As important as the cast is, the show will not exist without the crew. He taught his students with hands-on experiences and did it with his unique and quirky sense of humor. You taught me more than you probably thought you did.
Thank you, Mr. Ertenberg.

That is a sentiment that all of us who knew him and were fortunate enough to call him friend have in common, he taught us more than he probably thinks he did.
He taught us that it wasn't about the performer or the musician, the director, the stage manager or even the set designer, no, he taught us it was about the journey and how we treated each other along the way. It was those values of his that we caught and will carry with us wherever we are.

Ertenberg, thanks for being our friend, and for making us look really, really good. God has called you home, I am sure there are some of the original blueprints that he would like you to improve upon.

Until we see each other again my friend.
Sparling,
December 01, 2017
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of crossing paths with Richard from time to time. His presence was always a welcome sight, as he would bring a superior level of craftsmanship and safety to any show where he was needed. A fond memory that included both of these traits, was the time he built the melting trap door for his wife in the Wizard of Oz. He refused to let anyone else build it, because he knew it would be done right by him, and it was. You will be missed Mr. Ertenberg.
November 29, 2017
It was a honor to have known Rick. Rick was one of many special talents and assisted many young people as a teacher. Stephen White
November 28, 2017
Rick was one of the most interesting people I've ever known. I'm thankful that I had a chance to know him.

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