Skip to Main Content

Community Spotlight: Karim Badwan '94

Badwan '94

Marvelwood Community Spotlight

We are always proud of the experiences of our pterodactyls. Our Community Spotlight features the stories of alumni and community members after their time at Marvelwood. To submit your story or nominate a Marvelwood graduate, email

Karim Badwan ’94 originally came to Marvelwood to pursue his interest in lacrosse, and discovered he had more interest in academics than he originally thought. Through the support of his teachers, Karim discovered a love for the arts and a determination that he didn’t know he had. These passions and abilities led him into the field of production lighting, blending the worlds of technology and the arts. Today, Karim continues to lead a successful career in both live and studio television lighting, and credits his Marvelwood experience.

Why did you agree to be part of our alumni spotlight series?

I have come a long way since I attended MarveIwood and I owe so much of my success to the experiences and lessons gleaned during my time here. I have had a career in the performing arts, TV, and film for 26 years, and much like my time at Marvelwood it has been an exceptional path of learning in a myriad of different ways.
Can you tell me a bit about why you chose Marvelwood, and about your time at the school?

I found Marvelwood after having looked at several other boarding schools in and around New England with my mother. Marvelwood resonated with me almost instantly. My visit gave me such a positive feel for the school and the students. As a lacrosse and soccer player I was very sports-focused at that time in my life, so naturally that was the first thing I connected with. That said, it didn't take me long to find my passion for academics and the arts. The faculty's passion in and out of the classroom was infectious and hard to not get caught up in.

Glenn Sanchez, my first advisor, history teacher, and one of my lacrosse coaches, had a big impact on me. I had never met anyone as driven in so many areas of life. He, along with so many other teachers and mentors, showed me my greater potential. Classes like Laurie Doss’ Marine Biology, Glenn’s Native American history, and Mike Augusta’s English class, just to name a few, gave me a real sense of self in my life outside of sports. The faculty and my close friends and classmates changed my experience with education in such a positive way. I reconnected with my love of arts through Richard Chamberlain’s photography class and Art Almquist’s theater class. Richard’s class and thoughtful words were deeply impactful. One of my biggest influences was my coach and mentor, Hugh Cheney. Hugh embodied what it meant to be a good man in every aspect of life. His wise words and lessons will forever be a part of me.

School was always a challenge for me, but it wasn’t until I attended Marvelwood that I saw school as a challenge I could be excited and passionate about. I was always good at sports, which played a huge part in my life, but Marvelwood would help me grow as an athlete who could now see his potential and strengths as a student. I found a voice I never knew I had. I was never a perfect student, but I was driven, curious and genuinely excited by a new life set out in front of me.

What was your college experience like?

I went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan, where I majored in history and philosophy due in large part to my experiences in Glenn’s history classes. Toward the end of my second year of college, I found my way to the theater department, where I met the friends and professors who would guide me to the career I continue to work in. I worked my way through college doing electrical contracting over summers and holidays; little did I know I was building skills I still use in my career today. One of my professors mentioned to me that I might enjoy theater lighting, since it fused two things: art and electricity. That was where my lighting career in the performing arts began, and I have never looked back.

During my junior year, I got an amazing opportunity to apprentice in the lighting department at the Santa Fe Opera. My crew worked 110-hour weeks, regularly. It was often said if you could complete a summer at the Opera, you had the aptitude to do anything in the field. It felt like a technical theater boot camp, and I loved it. Once I finished school, I returned to the Santa Fe Opera for a second year as a shop electrician, and I was given the opportunity to learn from some of the best lighting designers and technicians in the industry. My time at Santa Fe was an immense learning experience that has had a lasting effect on me in my career.

How has your career developed since college graduation?

After the Opera, I worked at the Arkansas Rep theater. It was a small repertory theater, but it was a great first job after Santa Fe. The Arkansas Rep showed me the community impact regional theater has and the benefit of more accessible art. In Arkansas I had the opportunity to work and connect with an incredibly talented and wonderful group of people who continued to help me grow in my craft and as a person. At the end of my two years’ stay, I felt it was time to move on again and continue with theater back east.

After moving back east, I hustled to rebuild my career in a much harder and faster-paced environment. Just as I was getting up on my feet, the tragedy of 9/11 hit, and the entire entertainment industry shattered. I was lucky to find an entertainment lighting shop in Boston that was still open due to its diverse offerings. I went from designing lighting to repairing lighting equipment to get through the downturn. Little did I know this would open so many new doors in the field of lighting technology and would bring me back to design on a bigger scale. Through connections I made at that shop, I was offered a job as the lighting director of the Boston Ballet, where I worked for five years before moving to New York. During my tenure at the ballet the company was contracted to produce the ballet portion of the Disney film The Game Plan. It was this experience that gave me my first film credit and would lead me to shift my focus from theatrical production to film and TV.

I spent the next seven years in New York working and learning everything I could about lighting for film and TV. I worked on a wide range of shows including MTV Tres, ESPN Summer and Winter X Games, The Next Food Network Star, Bride Wars, and Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, just to name a few. It was a wonderful but all-consuming career move.

The pace of life and the demands of my career in New York were not sustainable for my family. So, I decided to take a teaching position at my alma mater to slow down. I taught technical theater and design for two years, but realized quickly it wasn’t a good fit for me or my career interests. So, I moved back to New England and began to work in live event production while I figured out what would be next. I toured all over the world with an EDM artist for about a year. After I finished the tour, an old friend reached out and offered me a position on an upcoming Netflix show. That job would lead me to join the film union in Boston, and I have been working on feature film and episodic TV ever since. I think I’ve been very fortunate to move through an evolving industry in a career that spans 26 years; I’ve been able to see all the sides of it.

When I’m not working on TV and film, I occupy my time building furniture and making art. Public art has been a passion of mine for a long time. Collaborating with other artists to make art for art’s sake is pure joy. That love for collaboration started at Marvelwood, from playing on sports teams to doing group art and science projects. Human connection is everything to me. I think that art should be accessible to everyone, which is not the case with the other mediums I work in. One of the things I loved most about live performance was seeing the reactions of the audience, which is what I love most about public art.

What are some of the skills you learned here at Marvelwood that allowed you to progress in your career?

All the classes I took, even those I was not particularly fond of, taught me that my struggles with learning did not define me, and that I was more than capable when I applied myself. One of the greatest qualities about the faculty at Marvelwood was their ability to empower us to be more than what we struggled with, to see our differences as an asset instead of a disability. I began to realize that I held all the power necessary to change my life for the better. Dryden Clark, who was a teacher, coach, and mentor of mine had experienced a significant life-altering experience just prior to my arrival, and he taught me by example that hard is just hard – no more, no less. You can’t avoid hard moments in your life, but you can decide how you move through them and how you show up. That lesson was taught to me time and time again by those I admired most at Marvelwood. It was this lesson that has propelled me through my life and career for the better.

I can say with certainty every class at Marvelwood taught me something and made me truly love learning for the sake of learning, but what changed me the most in those four years were the people. The people at Marvelwood are what made that experience so powerful. The faculty, staff, my friends, classmates, and teammates who supported me during my worst and best moments would be a foundation on which I built my life and career.

In 2021 I was part of the broadcast lighting team for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. The team I was a part of won a technical Emmy for that broadcast. I was honored to be a part of that group of incredibly talented people. My time at Marvelwood was defined by the people in my life, and so has my career. The greatest gift in life is to be surrounded by people who inspire you, challenge you, teach you and in general make you a better person.

Thank you for sharing how Marvelwood helped lead you to success in a career you love! Keep us posted on your next projects!