Louis E. Catron
Story from The Flat Hat
November 9, 2001
Updated Fridays
Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001
The Flat Hat
Curtain Call
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. 

Curtain Call 

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 year. 

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 it. 

"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 to teach. 

"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 gets it."

"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 Kate," said. 

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," he said.

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.

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