For many students, Professor Emeritus of Theatre Harold Tedford’s friendly invitation, “Why don’t you take a theatre course?” or “Why don’t you come see this play?,” opened their hearts and minds to the magic of theatre.
Marc Palmieri (’94) was one of those students. “Somehow I trusted the man, not because I suspected I’d take to theatre, but simply because he seemed a genuinely warm and welcoming teacher,” he said.
Palmieri came to Wake Forest on a baseball scholarship, but he fell in love with theatre and is now a playwright and director in New York. “There has been nobody more important in my life than Harold Tedford. He is entirely responsible for giving my life the gift of theatre.”
Tedford (P ’83, ’85, ’90) may have retired 17 years ago, but a legion of grateful alumni still values his advice, friendship and sense of humor. More than 200 of them joined together to thank him in the most appropriate way: by naming the stage in the MainStage Theatre in the Scales Fine Arts Center in his honor.
Alumni donated more than $250,000 to name the stage through an online fundraising campaign on Tilt.com (a company cofounded by James Beshara, a 2008 graduate). It’s the first time a crowdfunding site has been used to fund an initiative at Wake Forest. The money will endow theatre programs.
The Harold C. Tedford Stage will be dedicated April 2 during opening weekend of the Wake Forest Theatre’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Tedford directed the comedy twice during his long career. One of his former students, Michael Baron (’92), is returning to direct the play.
Baron is the producing artistic director of Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. Tedford directed Baron in his first play at Wake Forest. “His love of theatre is infectious,” Baron said. “His knowledge is immense. He instilled the joy of theatre in all of us.”
Tedford was synonymous with Wake Forest Theatre during his 33 years on the faculty from 1965 to 1998. He directed 52 plays, including the last play, “The Comedy of Errors,” in the old theatre in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library in 1976, and the first play, “Look Homeward, Angel,” in Scales. He inspired many students to become professional actors, directors and writers.
“He built this place and put this department and this program on the map,” said Michael Huie (’84, MA ’93), an actor and teacher in Winston-Salem.
Tedford said he was “surprised and humbled” that the stage is being named in his honor. At 82, he still keeps up with many former students through Facebook. “The students were exceptionally bright and talented, and I enjoyed working with them. They kept me here. I was enormously lucky because I enjoyed it immensely.”
It’s been 30 years since Tess Malis Kincaid (’86), an actress and arts administrator in Atlanta, first met Tedford, but she still holds a special place in her heart for him, she said. “He inspired me to be curious about theatre — the big picture — the impact of it, the broader scope.” She still remembers one of his favorite bits of advice to young actors: “Take it out to the woodshed and make it funny.”
Providing resources to academic departments is a major priority of Wake Will: The Campaign for Wake Forest. You can designate a gift to a particular department in honor of or in memory of a favorite professor