David Hays inducted
Introduction of David Hays
Theater Hall of Fame, January 27, 2014
My name is Julia Hays, David’s daughter, and I’ve known him all my life. His greatest professional pleasure has been to stick with directors and producers.
He did nineteen productions with Jose Quintero, and began the O’Neill revival with him, starting with THE ICEMAN COMETH and LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. He designed sets and lighting for fifty Broadway plays, including Arthur Penn’s last two, Elia Kazan’s last two, and Tyrone Guthrie’s last four. He designed at the downtown and uptown Vivian Beaumont and for three seasons at Stratford. He designed seven musicals and plays with Joe Layton. NO STRINGS was a landmark: before it, musicals changed sets behind curtains. Joe and my Dad brought in today’s system and now all changes are made in plain sight.
For those of you who like long runs, as an apprentice in London he did the original working drawings for THE MOUSETRAP.
He designed thirty ballets – sets and or lighting – for George Balanchine. Through our front door came wonderful people, some before my brother and I went off to school. Lincoln Kirstein, Madam Karinska, Peter Feller, and do you remember Lena Abarbanell, the great Merry Widow? She was brought here to create the role of Hansel at the Met. Dad designed for the Met as well. My mother Leonora was — always — ready with breakfast or whisky. We children reacted differently: I’ve been involved with theatre and television, my brother lives in the woods.
My father designed or consulted on theaters here and in Australia, and was Balanchine’s consultant for The New York State Theater. All this before he was thirty-five. He was a key player in the conception and launch of The O’Neill Theater Center, and a frequent panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He conceived and taught a course in the English Department at Harvard. He has six honorary degrees and many awards. Joseph Campbell chose him to speak at his 80th birthday celebration, and at a benefit he danced with Doctor Ruth.
He founded The National Theatre of the Deaf, and directed the company for thirty years. We have been told that our use of spoken and visual language at the same time was the only new theatre form of the last 75 years.
The deaf performers whose names you may know were discovered by him and trained at our school, which brought deaf students from all over the world. Actors from eleven countries, including Russia, China, Japan and India performed in the company.
We were the first company to perform in all fifty states. In thirty years we made thirty-one foreign tours. The first theatre company into South Africa when the ban was lifted and then the first to perform in modern China. We represented the United States in the 1984 Olympics. We appeared on all seven continents, yes, including Antarctica.
He voyaged with Dan, my brother, and they became the first Americans to round Cape Horn in a boat as small as twenty-five feet. Their book, MY OLD MAN AND THE SEA, became a best seller. His 1988 book on stage lighting is still used as a theater text. He continues to write and design.
I asked what gives him the most pride and he said it was being a father and grandfather.
— Julia Hays, January 2014