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Arts Celebration Kicks Off Inauguration

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Paul Lazarus

Paul Lazarus ’76 (Photo by Joseph Mehling ‘69)

Paul Lazarus ’76 produced the Inauguration arts gala, “Dartmouth and the Performing Arts,” held in the Hopkins Center for the Arts on September 21. He has been directing and producing theater, television, and film for 30 years. He served as artistic director of the historic Pasadena Playhouse, and has produced and directed plays and musicals at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and the Goodspeed Opera House. Among the television series Lazarus has directed are Ugly Betty and Friends, and he directed the feature film, Seven Girlfriends.

“I got involved with this production because I didn’t say no [laughing]. Jeff James, director of the Hopkins Center, asked me to produce the show. And I thought, ‘It’s two months away and you want to do one of these big evenings?’ These typically take six months. But I had a pre-existing commitment in Manchester, New Hampshire, for the weekend before Inauguration. So I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to be in the area, why not?’ And then I kissed the next two months of my life goodbye.”

“The primary motivation for me was President Kim. I was so pleased and impressed with this extraordinary choice. I felt it was such a positive step for Dartmouth and that was very seductive in terms of why I signed up.”

“I spent time on the phone asking President Kim about his feelings on the arts and eliciting specifics about his experiences. He talked about going to villages all over the world and being greeted by children singing in some of the poorest countries. He talked about how seeing A Chorus Line as a young man was a transformational experience, and we ended up using that in the show. A lot of details from our conversations found their way into the fabric of the evening.”

Arts Celebration kickline

“Jim Kim is an excellent high kicker and some day I hope to join him in a rousing Charleston or a bouncy Turkey Trot,” joked Buck Henry ’52 of the impromptu kickline at the conclusion of the Inauguration “Dartmouth and the Performing Arts” show. Front row, from left: Dartmouth Gospel Choir Director Walter Cunningham, singer/actor Jennifer Leigh Warren ’77, writer/actor Buck Henry ’52, President Jim Yong Kim, actor Rachel Dratch ’88, actor David Beach ’86, singer/actor Courtney Davis ’09, and pianist Edward Kim ’09. (Photo by Joseph Mehling ‘69)

“It was important to me that the evening reflect President Kim’s core values. That opened the door to specific choices of how the arts shine a light on injustice, how the arts can move us to contribute, to participate, and to help others. How the arts inspire change. That’s why Buck Henry ’52 read The Lorax. He could have read any Dr. Seuss book, but we picked The Lorax because it’s about a character who’s trying to defend against the chopping down of trees.”

“We transformed a traditional song, ‘Dartmouth Undying,’ for the evening as well. Jennifer Leigh Warren ’77, one of the first women at Dartmouth, sang it as a solo. I sang ‘Dartmouth Undying’ hundreds of times as an Aire, but I’d never heard it sung as a solo.”

“I had a transformational experience myself at Dartmouth when I won a Reynolds Scholarship for Foreign Study to study with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I got to work with Trevor Nunn and Terry Hands, joint artistic directors of the company, in England. And I came back a passionate young director. That was all I wanted to do. And gratefully, or sadly, I’ve done that ever since!”

Former Saturday Night Live cast member Rachel Dratch ’88 was among more than a dozen alumni who participated in “Dartmouth and the Performing Arts,” an Inauguration celebration of the College’s rich artistic history staged in Moore Theater on September 21.

“I spent most of my time as a student in the Hopkins Center,” says Dratch, the evening’s host. “So it was meaningful that Dartmouth devoted an ‘arts Inauguration’ to the president.”

Jennifer Leigh Warren '77 and Paul Lazarus '76

Jennifer Leigh Warren '77 is pictured at right with the show’s producer, Paul Lazarus ’76, in a 1974 undergraduate production of Where’s Charlie? (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Leigh Warren ’77)

The wide-ranging program featured film, dance, theater, and music. Highlights included dance troupe Pilobolus, which was founded at Dartmouth, performing Gnomen; actor and Emmy-winning writer Buck Henry ’52 reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax; and Broadway star Jennifer Leigh Warren ’77 singing a show-stopping solo of “Dartmouth Undying.” 

“I’ve performed for every Dartmouth president since John Kemeny,” says Warren. “So I was honored to be a part of this.”

INTERVIEW BY BONNIE BARBER

Last Updated: 1/12/10