It was his junior year at Edison High School, and Kishor Patel needed one more class.
His counselor suggested drama. The low-key Kishor wasn’t keen on acting, but when his teacher asked for students to stay after school one day to help with stage setup and lights, he found his life’s calling.
For 15 years now, Kishor has been the man behind the curtain at Atherton Auditorium and Tillie Lewis Theatre, making sure thousands of concerts, plays and graduation ceremonies go off without a hitch. You won’t see Kishor in the spotlight, but make no mistake: He is one of the stars of the show.
The Stockton Symphony recently recognized Kishor for his years of service. Roughly 90 symphony concerts have been held at Delta since he started as the theater coordinator.
“I’m not looking for attention,” Kishor said. “It was nice and really thoughtful of them to consider giving me an award. But it’s part of the job. I do it because I love to do it.”
Stockton Symphony Executive Director Don Nelson called Kishor a “key contributor” to the symphony’s mission of inspiring joy and building community through music.
“Kishor makes productions and events happen smoothly and calmly, even — especially — when unexpected challenges arise,” Nelson said. “This instills confidence in us that all will go well both onstage and off. And for that we are grateful for Kishor’s work with us and Delta College.”
Kishor was 15 years old when he and his family immigrated to the United States from a small village in India. After he discovered drama at Edison, he went on to Delta where he studied technical theater, and then to Sacramento State University. He later worked worked various jobs in stage production at local theaters before returning to Delta in 2003 as an employee.
Kishor may not be seen on stage, but he gets the same thrill as the actors and the musicians when a show goes well. “It’s happiness,” he said.
He experiences the same kind of stress, too. One recent concert required setting up 40 microphones, a task that required eight hours of work before the musicians could even rehearse. Then there’s the matter of carefully orchestrating which mics go on at which times, or which lights should illuminate which portions of the stage.
When speakers show up with presentation slides or videos, it’s Kishor’s job to make sure — well ahead of time — that they work. Sometimes this requires a bit of wizardry. But almost always, if there’s a problem, Kishor can fix it.
He’s not alone. He has a crew of on-call helpers he can call upon, and has an assistant who deals with sound. During busy times of year when there are multiple events on a single day, things get a bit intense. But he tries not to get too frazzled.
“If you get tensed up, it’s going to be worse on you because you’re not going to get it done,” he said.
After all these years supporting performers, Kishor is sure he doesn’t want to become one. “Never,” he said with a laugh. “I like being behind the scenes. That’s what I picked, and that’s what I’m doing.”