Friday, January 29, 2016

Traveling back in time

Posters, Programs, Photos & Reviews -- The new poster look
(3 on the left) was one of  many changes made in '61-'62
Yesterday I finished a project I'd been working on for two days, sorting the posters and programs from my college days as a drama major at the University of Washington. In response to the school's request for memorabilia, I am loaning my little collection to the School of Drama for an event in May celebrating its inception as a school. It broke off from the U.W. English Department in 1941, seventy-five years ago!

 According to my contact at the university, there is a shortage of archived material from the years I attended ('58 - '62). That's probably because there was a regime change in 1961. Glenn Hughes, who had founded the drama department in the 1930s retired, and Dr. Gregory Falls swept in from Vermont to head up what was then one of the most prestigious Drama Schools in the USA.
Reviews, photos, and miscellany

In an effort--and probably a necessary one--to make it his program, not Glenn Hughes' program, he quickly orchestrated many changes. The net effect was serious alienation felt by the then current students. (Painting the walls of all the dressing rooms in the university's three theatres--walls that bore the signatures of every student who had been in every play in that venue, instantly infuriated us, just for starters.) Likewise, I'm certain that as subsequent leaders of the school arrived, each begone regime faded as the new one blossomed, but that was the only one lived through.

As I cataloged the posters, photos, and programs from plays I'd acted in, I reread the newspaper reviews. Maybe I kept only the good reviews because I was actually impressed with how frequently my performances were mentioned favorably. (In those days, reviewers from the two daily newspapers, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times, saw nearly all U.W. productions.)

TOP Glenn Hughes' concept (thick booklet)
  BOTTOM: Gregory Falls' concept (thin booklet)
I don't care whether or not the School of Drama ends up being able to use my collection at the reunion, just organizing them made me feel happy. After keeping this stuff for so long, to finally bring it out, put it in chronological order, and recall people I'd not thought of for many decades (many no longer residents of earth) was immensely rewarding. The whole process rather dazzled me: The thrill of being cast; the challenge (and yes, the drudgery) of rehearsing; the excitement of opening; the triumph of eliciting appropriate responses from the audience; the delight of taking curtain calls to enthusiastic applause. All told, it was an incredible way to learn about and discover life.

I was also impressed with my own stamina back then. After one show was over, it would only be a few weeks before another audition, another triumph of getting cast, another six-week rehearsal period, another production run. Each show ran for four or five weeks, Wednesday through Saturday. All that with a full academic load, too--it's hard to imagine the chronic outpouring of energy and the balance of fatigue and exhaustion that prevailed.

Jay was on my mind a lot while I worked on this project, too. We met backstage in the fall of 1961 at a play Dinner with the Family by Jean Anouilh. I was acting; he was on the backstage crew. Ironically, that is the only show I don't have a program for. That makes me sad, as it was the first time our names appeared on the same piece of paper. A year later our names were together on  a marriage certificate.


Lucy Hart said...

I have alwalys thought that you were a wonderful actress. You would have been a major force in theater, but instead you chose to raise four wondeful children. But remember it isn't to late to pick up on your skills. Have you thought about contacting a talent agency? They are always looking for good character actresses.

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