Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities
European Market Manager, ETC
No. 103 in a continuing series
Erik Larsen never sleeps. Either that or he has cobbled together some ingenious Heath Robinson contraption that ejects the CD tray in his computer, which pushes a ball-bearing down a chute to land into the paddle of a water wheel, which engages a crank that winds up a coiled spring in an old workboot, which kicks him awake whenever any email message chirps up onto his computer screen.
His ETC colleagues across the ocean, in Middleton, Wisconsin, swear that's the case - since Erik never seems to miss an email dialogue from his home office in Aarhus, Denmark - no matter what time of day. And when your company is as global as ETC, you have some serious time-zone pain to deal with. But Erik has that quintessentially resourceful disposition of a theatre veteran, always wired and alert (thanks to the amount of coffee he drinks), making certain the show does go on...
He got the theatre bug during the third year of a four year industrial electrician course in his home town of Nykøbing F, when he was persuaded by a friend to look after the lighting for a local amateur theatre group. Although he went into gainful employment as an electrician when he graduated, it was the stage that got Erik wired and he became involved part-time at his community theatre as followspot operator and lighting technician. At the end of his first working year - 1975 - he moved to Aarhus (the second largest city in Denmark) and found himself employed full-time as lighting technician at the Regional Aarhus Theatre, servicing three venues. He never went back to industrial work again.
Late 1976 brought another move when, as lighting technician, Erik joined Svalegangen, a group of actors who had taken over the smallest theatre in town. The venue was miniscule, seating just 65 people, but growing success meant they needed a larger space and in 1980 the city council offered the group an ex-TV studio that was in dire need of restoration. Ever one for a challenge, Erik pulled out of his normal duties to take on the role of project manager for the rebuild, until the theatre's opening in 1981. The building gave the group a brand new venue with some 200 seats and a completely new lighting system with computerised control, helping Svalengangen on their way to become the city theatre of Aarhus.
One of Erik's employees at Svalengangen was Poul Tønder, a co-founder of Gøgler Lys sales and rental, who in 1987 was looking for a salesman. By this time Erik was ready for a change of direction, and although he continued to do the occasional lighting design for Svalengangen, he accepted the job. He also began teaching theatre students at the University of Aarhus, something which he thoroughly enjoyed and continued to do for three years.
But the call of the theatre was too strong and in 1989, when Aarhus Concert Hall needed a chief electrician, Erik found himself back in the theatre, working on a hectic rep programme which included classical music, musicals, ballet and drama, as well as hosting the Jutland Opera company. He got to know Jutland Opera very well, as he was already working with them on a production of The Ring, which ran the full cycle the year he joined the Concert Hall.
After four years, Erik moved back to his old sales job in what became Gobo Lighting, (the rental part of the business was sold to Seelight), then a dealer for Bico Professional. It was here that Erik got his first taste of things to come: Gobo Lighting was selling Arri control systems into Danish theatres, doing very well with what eventually became "the real thing" when ETC took back the distribution of its products from Arri, to sell the systems under the ETC brand name.
The opportunity to work for the "the real thing" came in 1999 when Tim Stokholm, who had joined ETC two years earlier from Bico, moved to London as sales and marketing director. He convinced Erik to take on his old role of Northern Europe sales manager for ETC, a role Erik kept until the following summer, when he joined ETC's Marketing Department as European product manager. Now, following the acquisition of Transtechnik Lichtsysteme in 2002 and then Netherlands based IES in 2004, Erik has taken on the role of European market manager for ETC, with responsibility for the ETC, Avab, Transtechnik and IES product ranges in Europe.
Erik lives in Aarhus with his long suffering wife, who presumably has to get up at all hours to make him the coffee that keeps him going.
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