Hendrix Magazine

A. Muse & Grace

Passion for theatre draws alumni back to Hendrix stage

By Rachel Thomas '14

Ann Muse '83 and Danny Grace '77 took different paths to and from Hendrix, but both of them found that their passion for theatre eventually led them back to the Theatre Arts and Dance Department.

For Grace, Hendrix was his only choice. He can't remember ever planning to go anywhere else. The campus was smaller when he arrived in 1973, both in size and student body, but Grace says it wasn't so different from Hendrix today.

"Many of the things that go on at Hendrix now have always gone on at Hendrix," Grace says. "I think all my friends who read this will smile at that."

Grace says one of the most valuable parts of his Hendrix experience were the friends he made. They quickly got him involved in campus life.

His roommate Mark "Max" McCalman '75 got him on the air at the new KHDX radio station and his friend Tommy Sanders '76 introduced him to the theatre.

At that time, Grace wanted to be an actor, inspired partly by Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver. His first role was as "the rain" in Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. After weeks of rehearsals, Grace crouched in the rigging spinning a cylinder full of peas to make the sound of rain, his part was cut.

"Dr. Henenberg knew exactly what to do, and why she had to do it, and she did it," says Grace. "It was one of those real teaching moments she did so well."

When Frank Roland '68 joined the faculty in 1975 as a designer, Grace felt increasingly drawn toward design work. Grace applied for graduate programs in the field. He chose Case Western Reserve and worked with Henry J. Kurth, an historic figure in design.

After that he worked at other schools, but he was always ready to come back to Arkansas.

One day he opened the New York Times and read an ad under jobs in education: "Hendrix College seeks designer, technician, humanist, theatre arts department."

"I almost fell out of my chair," Grace says. To him, this was "the job."

In 1985, Grace joined the Hendrix faculty.

Ann Muse graduated a couple of years before Grace joined the faculty.

Hendrix had not been her first and only choice. She started at a state university, but found it dissatisfying. Her friend Ramona Pipkin Crippen '82 was attending Hendrix, and was also interested in transferring at the time. They settled on the University of Texas in Austin. Then Ramona told Muse that her Hendrix advisor, Dr. Jon Arms, wanted to meet her.

"She had told him that we wanted to move to Austin," Muse says. "Clearly he did not want to lose her because she was an excellent student ... When we met, he made me see that it was really the atmosphere of the university that I was unhappy with. It seemed that everyone was trying to get away with making grades instead of really learning something. ... So he said, ‘Why don't you come here?'"

"I have to say that it is one of the top 10 best decisions I have ever made," Muse says. "Hendrix quickly became my home — the keeper of my heart and mind."

After graduating, Muse joined a local theatre company and worked full-time in various retail jobs.

"Each time I speak to a student about theatre as a career, in fact, each time I can remember having conversations with folks about theatre when I was a student, one statement is made, ‘If you can do anything else and be happy, do it,'" Muse says. "As a young person, I thought it meant that you could not make enough money doing theatre and, of course, I didn't care. Now, I realize it is intended to warn you because, unless theatre is your passion, you cannot survive."

Eventually Muse realized that she couldn't be happy doing anything else, so she went back to graduate school and studied acting and directing.

When Dr. Rosemary Henenberg retired, Muse applied for her position. She joined the faculty in 2001.

Muse says working with Grace is "a trip," and that they complement each other well.

"It is important to both of us that the department and the program maintain certain elements that are traditional," Muse says. "For example, we have potluck dinners before the cue tech rehearsal. Well, that is just not how most folks do things, but for me, and I think for Danny too, it is important. ... We have a rigorous program, but we like to leave room for students who just want to come play in Cabe with us."

Grace agrees that theatre at Hendrix takes a special approach.

"We have a real manner of doing our work here, of doing shows and working with students," he says. "And I really appreciate how all of the faculty that have come through, when I was a student and since I became faculty, just have this incredible respect for how they approach working with students, with young people and young minds."

"Until you've worked somewhere else, under different circumstances, you can't imagine the difference of what you can do, not only with your classroom but also the work you get to do with students on the stage," he adds.

Muse and Grace also feel similarly about returning to their alma mater as professors.

"To think that you might be good enough to come back from whence you came is kind of gratifying," Grace says.

Muse says, "Teaching at Hendrix, I think, is a secret desire of most students. I know it was one of mine."

"Last fall, we invited some children from Ida Burns Elementary to a production. When a group of the children walked in the door to Cabe Theatre one little girl said, ‘It's a palace!' Well that is how I felt when I walked in Cabe as a student," Muse adds. "I feel that at least once a week now. I love Cabe and what it means to me as an artist."

"It is inspiring for me," she says. "If I can be a part of a person's life by opening Cabe to her or to him in a classroom or a play then I am happy."

Rachel Thomas '14 is an English Studies major from Fayetteville, Ark.