Peter Hackett is a Professor of Theater and chair of Dartmouth’s theater department.
To the Class of 2016:
Every day as I walk to my office in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, I pass the portraits of the extraordinarily dynamic teachers who served in the theater department years ago. The gentleman with the impish smile and the irresistible twinkle in his eye is Professor Rod Alexander, the man who guided me to a life in the theater when I was, like you, an eager and energetic Dartmouth undergraduate.
A consummate comedian and master teacher, Rod not only knew exactly what to say to achieve the maximum impact on his students, he knew the perfect time to say it.
During one of the last rehearsals for my senior directing project, The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, Rod and I watched with dismay as the chorus of urchins tripped and shuffled their way through their dance numbers. Several evenings of extra dance rehearsals had resulted in no noticeable improvements. After the final blackout, Rod leaned over to me and whispered, “Put glitter on their shoes.” I had learned by this time that it would be very wise to follow Rod’s advice even if I didn’t necessarily understand it. Sure enough, on opening night, with the stage lights sparkling on their rainbow colored feet, the chorus danced with a nimbleness and precision I had never seen before! As I watched the urchins fly through their numbers, I realized that Rod was a motivational genius.
In 2004, after thirty years in the professional theater, I came back to Dartmouth to join the faculty and follow in my mentor’s footsteps. Rod had always made us keenly aware of theatrical tradition and of our shared obligation to train the next generation of aspiring theater artists.
Rod Alexander and his remarkable colleagues in those portraits inspired me with their passion for the theater, challenged me with their standards of artistic excellence, and gave me the skills to create a life in the vocation that I love. For that, I will be forever grateful.