Sharidan Giles, a trailblazing theater technical director who mentored many professional stagehands, died April 26 after a brief illness at age 55.
She died in a hospital in Kissimmee, Fla., where she moved 18 years ago and was entertainment manager for stage and fireworks shows at Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, said her wife, Celina Uribe.
A Sacramento native, Ms. Giles did lighting design for student productions and earned a theater degree from California State University, Sacramento, in 1981. She started working for Sacramento Theatrical Lighting, mostly on high school plays, dances and trade shows.
She pursued bigger jobs but faced resistance breaking into the male world of carpenters, electricians, painters and other stage trades. In the 1980s, she became one of the first women to be admitted to Local 50 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States.
As IATSE Local 50's training chairman, she encouraged other women seeking stagecraft jobs. She also developed the local's standardized test for apprentices to pass to graduate to journeymen and full union membership.
"Sharidan is the reason that I'm a member of the union," said Susie Owens, an automation carpenter touring with "The Lion King" and "Phantom of the Opera." "There was a whole generation of women who came in within five years of her because of her work and some men who were supportive of it."
Ms. Giles was a production manager and technical director for major arts groups from 1986 to 1992, including the Sacramento Symphony, Sacramento Ballet Co., Sacramento Theatre Co., and Music Circus. She spent three years with Chico City Light Opera overseeing sets, lights, props, sound and other technical aspects for more than 50 shows and helping build a group's 230-seat theater.
She left California in 1995 to work at Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. Besides pyrotechnics displays and outdoor light spectacles, she worked on many stage shows based on popular Disney films and TV programs, including "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid."
The daughter of an Aerojet machinist and a homemaker, Sharidan Eve Giles was born in 1957 and raised in Rancho Cordova. She graduated in 1975 from Cordova High School, where drama teacher Jean Hauser encouraged her technical talents in student productions.
She met Uribe, her partner of 25 years, while both were working for the Music Circus. They married in California in 2008, before passage of Proposition 8.
Ms. Giles, who helped start an internship program for Chico City Light Opera, served as a technical manager for the Junior Theater Festival, an annual learning program in Atlanta for young people in musical theater. She helped develop the technical track program and paired students with professionals in lighting, sound, props and other trades.
"She raised the bar really high for people," Owens said. "She would not only expect them to reach it, but she'd give them a hand, too. She was a real leader."
Born: June 27, 1957
Died: April 26, 2013
Survived by: Wife, Celina Uribe of Kissimmee, Fla.; father, Keith of Kissimmee, Fla.; sister, Leslee Martin of Jacksonville, Fla.; stepchildren, Gregg Grimaldo of Orlando, Fla., and Arryn Ayala of New York; two grandchildren
Remembrances: Donations may be made to iTheatrics, an educational consultancy firm that is establishing the Sharidan Giles Technical Theater Award Scholarship. Checks may be made payable to iTheatrics, with the scholarship name noted in the memo line, and mailed to iTheatrics, 628 W. 52nd St., Suite 1F, New York, NY 10019.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.