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Published: Saturday, 10/16/2010

CHARLES VICINUS, 1930-2010: UT theater professor influenced thousands

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Charles Vicinus, who shaped scores of theater productions as a director and influenced thousands of students as a professor, died of an apparent heart attack Sept. 30 in his Holderness, N.H., summer home. He was 80.

He was a University of Toledo professor emeritus of theater. The last three years, he taught at Plymouth State University, near the New Hampshire house he helped build.

Mr. Vicinus of Ottawa Hills was hired in 1978 as a UT professor of theater after a three-week-long combination audition and interview, during which he directed a one-act play, his wife, Joan, said.

"He was a one-on-one director," his wife said. "The way he approached directing a play, he had the ability to make even the least experienced actor look good."

He let actors find their own footing, said William Smith, a theater professor emeritus who worked with him as a set and costume designer. "He let them find their own selves and express that within the character," Mr. Smith said.

"His idea of doing art was we come together and envision a new way of doing things," said James Hill, a UT professor of theater who worked with Mr. Vicinus as a scenic designer. He was like a second father to some students, who stayed in touch years after their time at UT.

"He had a wealth, a network of students, and I get e-mails from students all the time saying how much they miss him," Mr. Hill said.

Seeing his face as he viewed a performance could be as fun as watching the stage, Mr. Smith said.

"He expressed every emotion, everything that was happening on stage," Mr. Smith said. "He laughed and he cried and reacted in the context of that show. It was wonderful to watch him because he loved it so much."

Mr. Vicinus was chairman of the UT department of theater and film for six years. He helped start its Summerstage outdoor program.

From the early 1990s into the early 2000s, he was an artistic director of First Night, the former New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Toledo, and president of the Performing Arts Council of Toledo. He continued to direct plays, especially at the Toledo Repertoire Theater.

Born in Rochester, N.Y., he was a graduate of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. While a student, he caught the directing bug when he ran a summer theater program in Trotwood, Ohio. He also was inspired by Arthur Lithgow, director of the Shakespeare festival at Antioch, whose son John became a well-known actor.

Mr. Vicinus also directed a show in the Navy. He served stateside aboard an aircraft carrier.

He was a directing major at Yale University, from which he received a master of fine arts degree in 1961. He taught at Hamline University in St. Paul; Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Surviving are his wife, Joan, whom he married July 20, 1961; daughter, Julie Fowler; son, Adam; brother, Richard; sister, Ann Strothard, and five grandchildren.

A memorial gathering will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 6 at the UT Center for Performing Arts. The family suggests tributes to the theater alumni scholarship in care of the UT Foundation or to the endowment fund for stewardship of the Squam Lakes Conservation Society, Holderness, N.H.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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