Students, alumni remember former Actor Training Program head Kenneth Washington


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]— Courtesy of the College of Fine Arts
— Courtesy of the College of Fine Arts
On Monday, Dec. 8, theatre department faculty, staff, alumni and students gathered to remember former head of the Actor Training Program, Kenneth Washington, who passed away on Nov. 26 at 68 years old. The atmosphere of the memorial was filled with nostalgic reunions of past classmates and scene partners, but also with the grief for the loss of a “distinguished scholar, outstanding professor, caring mentor and friend to many.”
“Memorials are being held in Minneapolis and New York,” said friend to Washington and local actress Anne Decker.
Gage Williams, head of the theatre department, led the memorial and then gave time to those attending to share their thoughts on his life works. Kenneth came to the U in 1974 as a graduate student and left for the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 1996, but he didn’t officially resign until 1998. His 24 years at the U certainly showed his dedication to teaching and to the U.
“He taught me to act, to not act, to be curious, to investigate humanity, to be vulnerable, to ask questions, to be compassionate, to think about others, to be humble, to relentlessly pursue the truth,” said theatre department alumnus Randy Reyes.
“He was a mountain of a man with a soft voice and gentle demeanor,” said Ben Rolly, another theatre department alumnus.
“I would have never discovered the passion inside me for theatre, I would have never traveled the country and the world expressing that passion,” said theatre department alumnus Myk Watford.
“I think that I am partly responsible for the fact that Kenneth Washington stayed at the U for as long as he did,” explained Boyer Jarvis, former faculty member and administrator at the U. Jarvis talked about a time when Washington was offered a position in the early 1980s for double his salary at another university, though he didn’t want to leave the U. Jarvis advised Washington to talk to the dean.
“He took my advice, and the dean didn’t double his salary, but he added about 80 percent, which was enough to persuade him not to leave for a long time after that.” This story is a testament to the trust people had in Washington for his talent and his dedication to students.
For over an hour, many shared stories about Kenneth’s passions to improve the theatre scene in Salt Lake City and develop students’ talents. People of all ages, backgrounds and areas of theatre had anecdotes to share and feelings to express. Some had known him for many years while others only had a few encounters with him, yet they still took the time to attend the memorial. Students in the Acting Training Program were even excused from their finals to attend.
The theatre departments is now accepting donations to create a student scholarship in Washington’s memory. Those interested in donating should contact Gage Williams.
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