The Austin Chronicle

In Memoriam: Francis Hodge

By Robert Faires, April 18, 2008, Arts

The man who wrote the book on directing plays has passed on. Francis Hodge, who died Sunday, April 6, at age 92, was the author of Play Directing: Analysis, Communication, and Style, a tome that laid out in such a clear, direct way all the practical information needed to stage a theatrical production that it became the standard text in the field after its publication in 1971. The book is now in its sixth edition. In writing it initially, Hodge drew on more than 20 years of his experience teaching in the Department of Drama at the University of Texas at Austin, his experiences directing more than 50 productions, and his supervision of some 150 productions directed by students. He came to Austin after studying at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y. (his hometown), and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he obtained his doctorate in theatre, and launching his career as a teacher at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., and the University of Iowa. He arrived at UT in 1949, when the Department of Drama, as it was called then, was still only 11 years old. He went on to spend three full decades on the faculty, during which he supervised more than 100 master's thesis productions; established the Demonstration Laboratory, a weekly meeting for department students to present new works to one another; founded the American Society for Theatre Research, a professional organization for scholars in theatre and performance; contributed to the Educational Theatre Journal and the Quarterly Journal of Speech; served as editor for the American Theatre Journal; wrote Yankee Theatre: The Image of America on the Stage, 1825-1850 (1964), which received the Golden Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association, and Play Directing; was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Theatre; and served on numerous UT faculty committees, including – a favorite! – five years on the Athletics Council while Darryl Royal was coaching the Longhorn football team. Upon his retirement in 1979, Hodge was made professor emeritus, and in 2006, he was honored with the UT College of Fine Arts' E. William Doty Award, given annually to an individual who has made distinguished contributions to his profession and to the education of UT students. In Hodge's case, the students were the beneficiaries of his keen intelligence, his passion, and, most of all, his rigorous approach to his craft; his lessons served them well not only in the theatre but also in life. Hodge is survived by his wife of 65 years, Beulah Wiley Hodge; daughter Betsy Hodge Flack and her husband, Jim, of San Francisco; grandsons Andrew Flack of San Francisco and Bardin Flack of Kona, Hawaii; sisters Muriel Hodge and Helen Hodge Hofer of Pittsford, N.Y.; many neighbors on Bluebonnet Lane in South Austin, where Beulah and Fran lived for more than 50 years; and legions of appreciative students. Contributions may be made to the Dr. Francis Hodge Endowed Scholarship Fund, University of Texas at Austin, College of Fine Arts, 1 University Station D-1400, Austin, TX 78712-0340.

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