21 November, 2013

Hugh is 60

Hugh Hodgart: LEGEND...
A few weeks ago Anna Hodgart sent out a mass email to all the folks who have been touched by the life of her father Hugh-- in order to celebrate his first 60 years of life.

Hugh Hodgart is what you might call a bit of a Scottish theatrical legend. Head of the School of Drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama), who in my day, was head of Acting, Hugh directed me in not one but three of the most influential productions of my education, and subsequent career as an artist.

He was also a very important mentor to me, and what I am certain is countless others.

It was a joy to pitch in and write a little something for good ol' Hugh-- a man I both respect and adore.



The Bite of the Night. Creepy.
For all the "roles" Hugh Hodgart has given and directed over the course of his life, it is, I suppose, fitting to examine the role he has played in mine. Mine, and, of course, the lives of so many others. It is hard to put into words... but I am certain as Hugh knows at this point: that has never stopped me from trying.

I personally crossed paths with Hugh as one of the "first fleet of Americans" to come to the (then) Academy in the autumn of 2002. I was personally a disaster-- newly 19, grieving a far too recent loss of my father, and alone in a foreign city for the first time in my life. What was I thinking?

But I was welcomed with open, quietly reserved but (not-even-all-that-secretly tender-hearted) bear-hugging arms. In fact, it was not at all a leap to say he was a steady father figure for many of his students, but for me, he was present in that manner at the moment I probably needed it most. Not to mention the countless benefits of his ferocious intellect and artistic vision, his wicked wit, and masterful diplomacy as he navigated the waters of the School of Drama.

The man himself before The Cherry Orchard, 2003
I feel lucky to have learned all about the art of "making mustard" from him-- from Brutopian to Varya to the armless, legless, Helen of Troy. (I mean: you know you've really got some serious trust going on when Hugh asks you to have armless, pregnant, onstage intercourse with your childhood friend from summer camp and no one even blinks...) He is an artist and it was a joy to create important, transformative theatre together with him at the helm of the ship.

But I must say, the moments that truly glitter, of course are the human ones:
  • Phoning me in America over the summer holidays because his daughter NEEDED Converse trainers and she needed them now, and "they must be purple."
  • A sojourn to Chicago for the Unified auditions
  • Many a Guy Fawkes Night in his backyard lighting fireworks and indulging in Rhona's incredible Chile Con Carne.
  • Welcoming him in to the flat I shared with Justin Flagg up in Westbourne Gardens for a true American Thanksgiving (and specifically requesting a batch of previously mentioned Chile Con Carne...)
  • Seeing his face after a performance in the West End...
  •     ...and in New York City...
  •     ...followed sharing burgers in a local downtown haunt after the show and hearing the entire tale of his romance with Rhona (complete with the part about CHERNOBYL...)
  • And best of all, hosting his daughter Anna in my home her in New York, and 1. Witnessing him as a nervous but very proud Papa and 2. Meeting and really getting to know his remarkable daughter and see Hugh through her eyes. I asked her if she had ever felt envy-- toward the throngs of young people whose lives he influenced and touched in such an artistically, and perhaps on occasion, literally, paternal manner. She sat very quietly for a moment then spoke with great certainty: she was not. She was only proud. And grateful. Profoundly aware that thought many a student viewed and revered him as I did, she was the daughter of that good man.


Happy birthday. (I'd fly over to hug you personally on this milestone, but the flight costs and arm and a leg... and you had me cut those off long ago.) I am sure I speak for many when I say: I am glad you were born.

With love today and always




Anna's response after the "big reveal!"
Hi everybody,

First off - big apologies for the group email - if I wasn't trying to squeeze this into my lunch break at work I would most definitely be doing individual thank yous.

On Saturday, my sister secretly came back from London and we went round and surprised my dad with a day of birthday activities -made breakfast, took him for dinner, made two birthday cakes and filled the house with loads of balloons and banners. In the evening we presented him with the book of birthday messages.
Don't think I've ever seen him quite so overwhelmed and touched before so thank you so, SO much to everyone who wrote a message, sent pictures, wrote down memories, forwarded on the email and contributed in any little way. It all came together to make a pretty beautiful mosaic of memories and love.

You're all wonderful - thanks so much for making it possible.

Anna x

And Hugh's to me a few days later...

Silber - you beautiful person,

I gather Anna has been writing to thank everyone who contributed to the 'Book of Hugh at 60'. May I add my own love and thanks for your so kind words? You made me cry, of course - good crying - the tears of recognition of love and fellowship, necessary tears......

All my love


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