Alumni Stories

Charles B. Martin

Awestruck!

by Michelle McRuiz

A play at Rodey Theatre in 1947 changed the life of then-freshman Charles B. Martin. Dr. Martin, ’52 BA, a retired professor of English at the University of North Texas, Denton, was so struck by a student performance that he . . . well, let him tell the story.

To: Editor of MIRAGE

In a fairly recent issue you had an article about the UNM drama department, which reminded me of my first visit to Rodey theatre as a freshman in 1947. I attended a performance of Dark of the Moon, and was completely awestruck by such really good live theatre. I still have the playbill. I had seen most of the plays in my three years at Albuquerque High School, even playing a small part in the junior play. But after the UNM experience I was definitely hooked and saw several more of the succeeding performances during my undergraduate days. After going off to the U of Florida for a Master’s and the U of Missouri for a Doctorate, I saw performances by the Summerhouse Theatre whenever I returned to Albuquerque in the summers. Those plays were done in Santa Fe and at least one night in Albuquerque at the Kimo Theater.

After Dark of the Moon I vividly remember Barbara Eager bounding on the stage in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with the opening line of the second scene: “What country, friends, is this?” and other plays she was in. Also I remember another popular actor, Jim Morley, as Hamlet. Occasionally the Drama Department joined forces with the Department of Music in productions like The Medium with Neil Wilson, a friend from Albuquerque High, who later became a nationally known baritone. George Fenley, another friend, was in the orchestra.

After my first year at the University of Missouri I toured Europe with a friend, also an English major and fellow instructor. In England at Stratford-on-Avon we decided to go see whatever was playing at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. As luck would have it, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were performing in Macbeth! I still have the playbill. My friend liked opera and got us tickets in advance to Parsifal at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany. We saw Aida at the outdoor theatre at the Baths of Caraculla in Rome.

After that wonderful summer my theatre-going suffered except for occasional trips to St. Louis and Kansas City to see Broadway shows on tour. After settling into my career as a college professor, first in Oklahoma and then in Texas, I was able to attend numerous conferences in New York and could see live Broadway shows when not attending sessions at the meetings. Teaching at the University of North Texas in Denton for thirty-five years until my retirement gave me the opportunity to see Broadway shows at the Dallas Music Hall as well as plays in the many small theatres in Dallas and the suburbs, including the Denton Community Theatre and Music Theatre of Denton. And I still save the playbills. At last count I’m up to number 471.

And it all started at Rodey Theatre for a seventeen-year-old freshman.

  

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