AFTER 38 YEARS, BERGER TAKES LAST BOW
AS UH SCHOOL OF THEATRE DIRECTOR
Veteran Professor to Continue Teaching, Directing, Producing Festivals
HOUSTON, June 6, 2007 – In 1969, Sidney Berger arrived at
the University of Houston to lead a two-person drama department.
He soon grew the tiny outfit into a world-class theater program
boasting celebrity alumni and renowned faculty. Now, 38 years later,
Berger will take one last bow as the school’s director.
Beginning this fall, Berger – affectionately called “Doc”
by students – will step down as the director of UH’s
School of Theatre & Dance. Steven Wallace, former dean of Florida
State University’s theater department, has been named as the
school’s new director.
Berger, John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the School of Theatre
& Dance, will remain with the school teaching, directing main
stage productions and producing the school’s annual festivals:
the Children’s Theatre Festival (CTF) and the Houston Shakespeare
“The school has grown beyond my own wildest dreams, and
it’s time for a new dreamer to lead it,” he said. “I
sincerely felt it was time to pass the torch to someone who will
take the school to even greater heights.”
During Berger’s nearly 40-year tenure with the school, he
co-founded with Bren Dubay the popular Children’s Theatre
Festival (CTF), which entertains thousands of young fans each summer
in the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. He is also responsible for
putting the Bard under the stars in the annual Houston Shakespeare
Festival (HSF), which showcases free productions at Miller Outdoor
Berger has attracted world-class talent to contribute to both
festivals. For the Children’s Theatre Festival, Tony Award-winning
songwriter Jerry Bock (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and other
Broadway stars have contributed their talents at Berger’s
request. Likewise, he’s attracted national acting talents
to participate in the Houston Shakespeare Festival, including stage
veteran Ken Ruta and film star Dan O’Herlihy, who starred
opposite Orson Welles in the film version of “Macbeth.”
In addition to recruiting top talent for festivals, Berger also
attracted distinguished directors and award-winning playwrights
to teach at UH. Edward Albee, Sir Peter Hall, Lanford Wilson and
Jose Quintero have shared their wisdom and insight with UH students.
“There was no strategy in getting these geniuses to work
with our students,” Berger said. “I simply asked them.
No other institution had approached these noted professionals, so
I just picked up the phone and called them. The worst thing that
could happen was that someone would say, ‘no.’ It wasn’t
brilliance on my part but, rather, bravery…or foolhardiness.”
Star power hasn’t been limited to guest artists and distinguished
faculty. Contemporary film and theater stars have learned from Berger.
Randy and Dennis Quaid, Brent Spiner (of “Star Trek: The Next
Generation”) and Robert Wuhl (of HBO’s “Arli$$”)
all emerged from the school.
Recently, Berger was awarded the Ruth Denney Award by Houston’s
Theatre Under the Stars. The award recognizes the lifetime achievement
of those individuals who have played an instrumental role in shaping
the lives of young artists.
“The one thing that I will always appreciate about Doc is
his passion,” said senior theater major Caleb George, whom
Berger directed in “Death of a Salesman.” “He’s
been teaching the same thing for decades and still has the same
passion for it as when he taught it for the first time. He loves
to inspire. He constantly pushed me to learn and grow as an actor.
The amazing part is that he did this by example, by living every
day in adoration of the stage. I hope that in my life I can have
that kind of passion, the kind that never gets dull, but better
Under Berger’s supervision, UH productions have toured the
globe as part of the USO Defense Department tours, and he has twice
served as American Theatre Specialist for the U. S. State Department.
Berger is co-founder and a former president of the Shakespeare
Theatre Association of America. He also serves on the board of Sam
Wanamaker's International Shakespeare Globe Centre project in London.
He has the distinction of being the first executive director of
the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at UH and helped
oversee the renovation of the building housing the Wortham Theatre.
Berger arrived at the UH after serving as a faculty member at
Michigan State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts in speech
and theater from Brooklyn College, a Master of Arts in theater and
a doctorate in theater from the University of Kansas.
Many film fans recognize Berger from his role in the cult horror
film classic “Carnival of Souls.”
The School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and
master’s degrees in theatre, teacher certifications in dance
and a Master of Fine Arts. Each fall and spring, the school produces
four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre, two dance concerts,
the Edward Albee Playwrights' Workshop, the Stuart Ostrow Musical
Theatre Workshop, various student productions, the Houston Shakespeare
Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival.
For more information on the school, visit http://www.hfac.uh.edu/theatre/.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research
and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers
and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate,
civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university
in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and
service with more than 35,000 students.
For more information about UH visit
the universitys Newsroom at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.