I did the math a couple years ago and realized he was in his 80s, so I knew it might happen sooner rather than later, but I am very sad to learn Carl Balson, theater professor and all-around audio-visual wizard, passed away on September 8th at the age of 84. An obituary appeared in the Beloit Daily News, but we learned of it a couple days earlier on social media. Here are some of the words I shared on social media a week or so ago:
Carl was a consummate craftsman, a trait I suspect he gained from being a magician. Long before my classmate Tom Kramer and I dubbed ourselves “tractors” or “technician-actors,” Carl was already showing anyone who cared to notice how you could be completely at home in a control room and on stage.
He took great love in the gear both at our radio station (WBCR) and TV station (BAT), and could get into engineering details as needed, but it was all in practical service to storytelling, something he was more than comfortable doing on stage as an actor. And I’m not kidding about the magic part either. A fact that he conveniently did not advertise was that he was a trained magician (or we college students were too obtuse), so on more than one occasion, when something was not working in the television studio, he would come in and tap the equipment while using sleight of hand to press the button that would solve the problem — a seemingly effortless action that implied we students needed to redouble our efforts in understanding how to use the gear.
Both the impishness and love of play he had were inspirational — and he would encourage us to take charge and make our own creations, whether it was producing a wacky skit-com/music video show or concocting morning radio routines. He even joined in on the fun in one episode of the aforementioned TV show, where he played the sinister “They” (who, like in the Far Side, was the “They” in “That’s what They say.”).
I got to study under Carl, work for Carl, and above all: learn from Carl. And I’m not the only Beloiter who’s thankful for that. He’ll always have a place in our hearts and memories. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.