|LAURA PENDLETON -- The Flat Hat
Louis Catron (above) directed his first play, "Rhinoceros," at the
College during the 1967-68 school year. He also wrote "Centaur, Centaur!"
which was staged in 1966, his first year at the College. "Kiss Me Kate,"
which closed Oct. 21, was the last Mainstage musical of his directing career
at the College. He was given a standing ovation. After over 30 years of
teaching and directing plays at the college, he will retire this spring.
By Michelle Banker
The Flat Hat
This fall's production of "Kiss Me
Kate" was not just "another openin' of another show" for director Louis
Catron. This latest production marked the end of his 35 years of service
to the College's theatre department. He will retire at the end of the school
Catron attended Millikin University
in Decatur, Ill., for his undergraduate education and received both a Masters
and Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University. His entire family practiced
law, and this was the career that was expected of him. He had participated
in theater ever since grade school, but it was not until his junior year
of college that he finally discovered that he wanted to make a career of
"I realized how great a challenge theater
is and was awakened and stimulated by all these challenges," Catron said.
Although Catron participated in some
professional acting, there was never any question in his mind that he wanted
"A professional setting was not as
alluring as a college setting," Catron said. "Most young actors think of
going to New York; I was far more interested in educational theater."
After graduating, Catron worked at
a large morning newspaper and also worked with radio and television. Simultaneously,
he continued acting professionally.
Before coming to the College, Catron
taught at Lincoln College in Illinois for four years. There, he was a one-man
department, responsible for scenery, lighting, costuming and makeup. Teaching
at Lincoln provided good training for his next position teaching and directing
at the College.
Catron came to the College in 1966.
During his tenure, he directed many aspiring actors and actresses, including
Glenn Close. However, Catron notes that he has witnessed "remarkable student
achievements" by many students, not just those who have gone on to fame.
"There is something special about William
and Mary students," Catron said. "It seems they relish challenges. I think
one of the things I've learned is that I have to keep raising the standards
and the bar and expecting more because they have more and will give more."
Sophomore Evan Hoffmann, who played
the role of Fred Graham in "Kiss Me Kate," agreed.
Hoffmann points to Catron's farewell
address on the back of the program of "Kiss Me Kate," which, aside from
saying goodbye and thank you to everyone, talks about striving for perfection.
"Dr. Catron pushes harder than any
director that I have ever worked with," Hoffmann said. "He has a very clear
idea of what he wants and what people will enjoy, and he works until he
"Dr. Catron is very detail-oriented
and has a good idea of how to make your own concept fit and mesh with his,"
senior Briana Yacavone, who played the role of Lilli Vanessi in "Kiss Me
At the final performance of "Kate,"
Yacavone made sure Catron was in the theater and called him to the stage
to take the final bow. Although he gave Yacavone a hard time, saying that
she had tricked him, both were teary-eyed.
"I know he appreciated it," she said.
35 years of teaching has taught him
that every play, every individual actor and every collective cast presents
new problems and challenges. Although past experience is helpful, he explains
that each new situation presents a new problem, and something that worked
in the past might not be effective. Accordingly, he said that, in theater,
"there is an intense need to be flexible."
Hesitant to select a favorite production,
he wants to assert that his favorite show is whichever one he is currently
working on or will be doing next. He compares his productions to offspring,
among which a favorite cannot be chosen.
"The critics will probably disagree,
but I feel that I have never put a bomb on stage at William and Mary,"
he said. "I have never had a failure here."
Catron said that he loves his profession;
he loves the classes, working with students and directing. He added that
he is retiring simply because it seems like a good idea.
"It seems time is the diplomatic answer,"
Yacavone expressed her wishes for Catron's
happiness in his retirement.
"I hope he gets a sailboat because
he really loves to sail," Yacavone said. "He is a fabulous man, very dedicated
to students, and I know he will miss interaction with people. So I hope
he has something else that he loves."
As Louis Catron kissed the College
goodbye with his final production of "Kiss Me Kate," a final round of applause
was offered for his 35 years of service.