November 2010 saw the passing of more than one influential and beloved theatre educator of long standing in Central Texas. Two weeks after the death of University of Texas historian Oscar Brockett, Texas State University lost Charles Pascoe, professor of Child Drama and the director of children's theatre at the school for almost 30 years. His death on Tuesday, Nov. 23, resulted from complications following a ruptured aneurysm in his abdomen. He was 69.
A career in children's theatre in Central Texas was not what one would have expected of this native of the Great White North. Given his birth in Winnipeg, Canada; training as a speech pathologist at the University of North Dakota; and several years of fieldwork in southeastern Minnesota, you'd have figured he was meant to help kids in the northern Midwest learn to speak. But when a teaching stint at a private college that didn't have a speech pathology department shunted him into the drama department, Pascoe discovered his true calling, writing plays for children. Writing two plays, Emperor Toad and Foxtales, that he toured successfully through the region propelled him to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he pursued a doctorate in theatre. Once it was obtained, he journeyed to San Marcos and the Department of Theatre at Southwest Texas State University – now Texas State – and never left.
In his first year, Pascoe began touring children's theatre to elementary schools across Central Texas and kept it up every spring for 25 years, reaching as many as 13,000 people per tour. The shows were ones he created himself, more than a dozen original musicals over the years, such as Candlestein, Cave Song, Gecko 43, The Next Amendment, Rodeo Mongolia, Kingfishers 3 and Blue, and A Gathering of Spirits. Pascoe typically featured animals as protagonists, and on occasion, as in Oracle of the Balcones, drew on his Texas surroundings for inspiration. In 1984 and 1985, his plays Backyard Story and Foxtales represented the state of Texas at the International Children's Festival, and in 1995, he took Foxtales all the way to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. He stopped touring in 2008 but continued to direct at the school. He was slated to stage a production of his play Slavemaker in February; following his death, the production was canceled.
Pascoe received numerous honors through the years, among them the Faculty Senate Everette Swinney Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Dean's Seminar Creative Achievement Award from the College of Fine Arts and Communication, and the Texas Educational Theatre Association's College/University Educator of the Year award. But his greatest rewards came from the elementary school students who saw and responded to his plays and the student-teachers he trained in creative drama. These last are Pascoe's legacy and will continue to share his ideas, lessons, and plays with young people for generations to come.
Pascoe is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons Jonathan and Benjamin; daughters Hilary and Emily; and grandson Sean Thomas Gossett. A scholarship fund is being established in Pascoe's name, and contributions are welcome. For more information, contact the Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance at www.theatreanddance.txstate.edu.