Israel Hicks: in memoriam

Israel Hicks, chair and artistic director of the Theater Department at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, died on Saturday, July 3, 2010, of complications from cancer. He was 66 years old.Israel Hicks

Hicks, who made history in 2009 by becoming the first director to helm all of August Wilson’s works from his 10-play cycle with the same theater company (Denver Center Theatre Company, where he directed more than 20 plays over 19 seasons), had recently been honored with the University’s Board of Trustees Award for Artistic Accomplishment. Hicks received an NAACP Theatre Award for Best Director for his 2008 production of Two Trains Running at Ebony Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles, where he was also artistic director.

The late Lloyd Richards of the Yale School of Drama, the first African-American dean of an arts conservatory and a mentor of Hicks, once said: “I selected him as my assistant for my first production at the National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill Center and considered that I had made not only an appropriate but an inspired choice.”

In 2001, Hicks arrived at the Mason Gross School from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase College in New York. He quickly made his mark, forging the year-long residency program at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, where students work alongside master theater artists in a venue committed to William Shakespeare’s work and the legendary 16th-century playhouse for which he wrote.

He also introduced the production of reels for the school’s graduating acting students. Just a few weeks ago he arranged for the department to enter the Theater Consortium, the group of prestigious American theater programs that collaborate on national auditions.

“At Rutgers Israel Hicks was a tireless advocate for high artistic standards,” said George B. Stauffer, Dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts. “Like a good director, he remained much in the background, assembling a distinguished team of professionals and fine-tuning their instructional work from off-stage.”

A service celebrating the life and work of Israel Hicks took place at the Nicholas Music Center, Douglass Campus, on Monday, Oct. 11, 2010. R. Michael Miller, deputy chair of the Theater Department, has agreed to serve as interim chair until an appointment is made.

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