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Thespian Adrian Hall receives honorary degree

Actor, director and playwright Adrian Hall (left) and Sanford Robbins, chairperson of UD's theatre department

9:35 a.m., Jan. 23, 2007--Adrian Hall, award-winning actor, director and playwright, received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the University of Delaware Sunday afternoon, Jan. 21, in the Gore Recital Hall of the Center for the Arts.

At the ceremony, UD President David P. Roselle noted Hall's accomplishments and his work with UD's Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP).

“Adrian Hall, institutions tell the world what they stand for and strive for by honoring those whose lives reflect the finest values that inspire them,” Roselle said. “We send that message by honoring you today.”

Considered one of the fathers of the American regional repertory theatre movement, Hall is regarded as one of the most influential American theatre directors of the post-World War II era. He founded and served as artistic director of the Trinity Repertory Company in Rhode Island, one of the most respected regional theatres in the country, and also simultaneously served as director of the Dallas Theatre Center.

Since 1999, Hall has mentored PTTP students, who are currently preparing for the February production of Savages, Christians and other Homo Sapiens, an original play Hall created with and for PTTP students.

Sanford Robbins, chairperson of UD's theatre department, said Hall and others founded American regional theatre more than 40 years ago as a reaction against the restrictions of commercial Broadway theatre, as its then lavish and selective productions were only available to tourists and New Yorkers. Hall and others risked their professional careers, Robbins said, to bring a variety of theatre productions to audiences nationwide.

“They took the stand--they bet their personal futures on the stand--that the theatre is not fundamentally a product,” Robbins said, “It's not commercial; it is in fact an art. It rose from and satisfies a profound and essential human need.”

Hall helped found theatres with resident acting companies in cities across the United States including Minneapolis, San Diego and Providence.

Robbins said it was the creation of theatres like Hall's that led to the need for and creation of training programs like PTTP at the University.

“For the last nine years, our students, faculty and staff have been blessed by being in the presence of Adrian Hall's truly brilliant writing and directing talent,” Robbins said. “We've been blessed by his truly unique view of the world. We've been blessed for a fact that he is after all these years still pushing the boundaries of conventional theatre through his groundbreaking adaptations of literary and documentary sources and innovative rehearsal techniques that cause audiences to make a profound emotional connection to material from which they might otherwise distance themselves.”

During his remarks, Hall had the audience laughing with stories of his youth. Hall said everyone thought he would grow up to be either an actor or a preacher. Although he was passionate about acting and plays since he was a child, Hall said he worked several jobs before committing himself to theatre. Hall told the PTTP students in the audience that they would have to face future career challenges by themselves, but said he knows they will succeed.

“You will make the right decision. I did,” Hall said. “And how do I know? Because everyone agrees that I would have made a lousy preacher.”

The honorary degree is the highest honor the University of Delaware bestows and is given to individuals whose contributions to the public good warrant exceptional recognition. Recent recipients include artist Jamie Wyeth, documentary film director Ken Burns, the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, and U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Article by Julia Parmley, AS '07
Photos by Kevin Quinlan

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