A Well-Earned Curtain Call
Ed. Note: The following story is reprinted here from the College Letter, the newsletter of the College of Liberal Arts. Look for more College Letter stories in upcoming Campus Journal issues.
By Ted Kirkpatrick, Associate Dean
January 31, 2007
© Perry Smith, Carol Lucha Burns is a trailblazer, edgy, passionate, a Technicolor charactor—in short, she is the real deal. This year in December, after 37 years on the faculty, she will retire.
So there I was, seated next to the then-chair of the Department of Theatre
and Dance, halfway to New York on a crowded Friday afternoon shuttle out of
Logan. The cabin lights were dim. Most of the other passengers sat in silence,
lost in a magazine or nursing a five-dollar cocktail. My companion was a good
20 minutes into an animated monologue on the merits of musical theater, insisting
that neglect to take in four Broadway shows in a weekend in the Big Apple constitutes
a failure of both will and purpose. Finally, a welcome 10-second pause, only
to end in a pronouncement, delivered so that all on board could hear: “Why,
musical theater is better than sex!”
I slumped in my seat.
She greeted the applause.
Carol Lucha Burns will retire from the College in December of this year, after
37 years on the faculty. A trailblazer, she was the sixth female colleague
in the College to be promoted to full professor. Today, the College has 33
women who hold the highest of academic ranks.
Anyone who knows Carol would be hard pressed to find one more passionate than
she about the theater. Her life is theater. Just in the past year, she’s
traveled to Southeast Asia to teach young orphans how to find themselves in
performance; she’s played sick patients for young medical school students;
and put her Screen Actor’s Guild card to proper use, playing an extra
in a major motion picture. Her former students include Tony winners, TV sitcom
stars, and film actors and actresses. The number of UNH alumni who caught the
show business bug from Carol on the
Johnson and Hennessey stages are too many to count. Carol, they will tell you,
is their beacon of drama, on stage and in life.
These photos comprise her current publicity portfolio that she uses to hustle
roles. Note the range of expression and persuasion in her eyes. More impressive,
however, is what she evokes in you.
For many years in the Dean’s Office, I helped to manage the College
budget, including the six years Carol served as department chair. Three days
out of five, hers was my first call of the morning, always about one pressing
need or another for more money. Trust that I saw each one of those faces when
I hesitated. Trust also
that her training in method acting was as profitable in the Dean’s Office
as it was
on the stage.
The College, the University, and the students will miss Carol Lucha Burns
more than she knows. She was and is the real deal. A technicolor character
of many shadings, she is both subtle and not so, passionate, edgy, fiercely
driven, infectious, and kind of heart.
Once, she insisted on attending a talk that I gave in Murkland’s Richards
Auditorium. I thought it went rather well. After all had left, a lone person
remained seated in the dark at the back. Carol.
“How did I do?” I asked.
“It was ok,” she announced, “but you need to find the light.”
Be well, Carol. Please know how much you’ve meant to this place in your
time. You’ve left your mark here, an indelible and lasting one. One hardly
needs to tell you, do not go gently as you seek new adventure. And for goodness
sake, wherever you are, find your light.