Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free. Click “View original photo on Flickr.”
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts said farewell to retiring Head of Acting Larry Hecht on Monday night with a celebration that drew past and current acting students from their 20s into their 70s. Hecht taught hundreds of students over 18 years at the DCPA, ranging from beginners to master’s degree candidates.
“I consider your passion and utterly endless commitment to what you do, day in and day out, to be a rare and incredible gift,” said Hecht’s successor, Timothy McCracken. “Not only to students, but to all of us around you.”
Hecht’s retirement coincides with the end of the DCPA’s summer education session. He is also wrapping up his farewell performances as a Colorado-based actor with several roles for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. He is playing Doctor Faustus in Wittenberg; Captain Fluellen in Henry V; and Earl of Warwick in Henry VI, Part 1. The season wraps in Boulder on Aug. 9 (303-492-8008).
(Photo: Larry Hecht accepts the congratulations of his successor as DCPA Head of Acting, Timothy McCracken. Photo by John Moore.)
Hecht had a major role on the faculty of the DCPA’s now-closed National Theatre Conservatory (NTC) masters degree program. His many on-stage credits for the DCPA Theatre Company have included A Skull in Connemara, The Pillowman, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and more. He also played Mark Rothko in Curious Theatre’s multiple award-winning Red.
Hecht and wife Ashlee Temple (a DCPA Teaching Artist and local director) are moving to California.
Monday’s celebration did not start until 9:30 p.m. because that’s when Hecht’s final evening class was scheduled to end. His final group of students serenaded him with a take-off on Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls (You Make the Rockin’ World Go Round.)”
DCPA Director of Education Allison Watrous and longtime Teaching Artist Steven Cole Hughes (who is himself leaving the DCPA for a year-long teaching assignment at Western State College in Gunnison) compiled enough tributes from Hecht’s students throughout the world to fill a book. The hosts read several randomly chosen excerpts, many of which thanked Hecht for making them better artists.
“Thanks for teaching me to speak from the heart, helping me to find the courage to do it in front of people, and giving a little less of a (bleep) what anybody thinks about it,” wrote Ailish Riggs Dermody, a member of the NTC Class of 2008.
January LaVoy, from the NTC Class of 2002, talked about something she calls “That Larry Hecht Thing”:
“Truth. Authenticity. Spontaneity. Simplification. Humanity,” LaVoy wrote. “Most of all: Stop pretending, and just be.”
(Photo: Larry Hecht is playing Doctor Faustus in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Wittenberg” through Aug. 9. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)
McCracken said he considers himself not as Hecht’s successor but, like most everyone else in the room, among his students.
“I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to learn and grow simply by being around you,” McCracken said, “having you rub off on me and picking up any and every little piece of information, thought, opinion you have offered on theatre, teaching and the arts. I consider you to be one of the finest acting teachers in the country.”
That’s a sentiment Watrous echoed in an anecdote she shared involving the late and loved DCPA actor and instructor Archie Smith.
“Archie once said to home, ‘You know, Larry Hecht is the No. 1 acting teacher in the country,’ ” Watrous said. “And I know Archie to be one of the wisest men I have ever met in my life.”
Encouraged to make a speech, the reluctant Hecht reminded his students that “acting is important, is not frivolous, is serious and does matter to the world.”
He also left them with some rather profound advice: “If you ever direct, don’t write director’s notes,” he said. “It’s stupid, and nobody cares.”
Still, Hecht wrote plenty of director’s notes in his career, and they often quoted Hecht’s favorite band, the Rolling Stones. He did it again at Monday’s party: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need,” Hecht said.
“Well, you all gave me what I need … so thank you.”