Charles Hull, Who Brought Theater to Young Audiences, Dies at 92

Co-Founder Charles Hull Theater Works USAThe touring theater company that brought professional performances to tens of millions of young people across the country died April 14 at his Manhattan home. he was 92 years old.

The death was confirmed by daughter Hilary Hal Gupta.

An Off-Broadway, Summer Stock, and commercial actor, Hull founded the company that became TheaterWorks in 1961 with director Jay Harnick. For decades, Mr. Hull served as the company’s managing director and Mr. Harnick as its artistic director.

The idea was to bring great musicals and dramas at affordable prices to children who might not be able to see Broadway and off-Broadway shows. By the late 1990s, Hull and Harnick were performing as many as 20 of his moves in nearly 500 cities a year without the effort and expense of Broadway.

Plays and musicals were short, with agile players, often playing multiple roles in one show and doubled as crew members.The sets were minimalist and versatile, adaptable to many venues. Theaterworks’ current executive and his director, Michael Harrington, said in a telephone interview:

According to Hull, only simplified works were viable.

“If you need a crew of 10 people to set up a show, there’s no way you can do it,” he told The New York Times in 1996. They have a set ready and you’ll be there in an hour. If the show is good, you don’t need a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber stuff. “

Many shows were biopics about notables such as Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, and Pocahontas. Others were literary adaptations of childhood favorites such as the Magic His School His Bus book, and more adult works such as “Don Quixote”. They tackled tough topics like slavery, addiction, and racism without disrespecting their audience.

“Theaterworks productions are professional, highly entertaining, and never look down.” Christian Science Monitor says: 1986.

In 2005, The Times wrote, “The company has earned a reputation as a reliable source of intelligent, well-acted production for a young audience.”

TheaterWorks not only introduced young people to theatre, but also introduced up-and-coming actors, composers, directors and writers to show business. The company’s alumni include actors his F. Murray his Abraham and Henry Winkler, his four-time Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks, and Tony Award-winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens. .

The company was successful and prolific. Executive Director Harrington said he has created 148 shows and performed to more than 100 million young people in every state except Hawaii. The company has won prestigious awards, including a special Drama Desk Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for its work in children’s theater.

Mr. Hull was born Karl Rudolf Holbert on March 3, 1931 in Vienna, the only child of Bernard and Hermine (Meyer) Holbert. His father ran a jewelry store, which was confiscated by the Nazis after the annexation of Austria in 1938.

The Horvat family fled to the West, where Karl, who had blond hair and blue eyes, smuggled jewelry into his clothes, according to family members. Mr. Hull’s father died a few years after their arrival and his mother became a real estate agent.

Hull attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on a football scholarship, graduating in 1953 with a degree in business administration. He served as a lieutenant in the British Air Force until his 1955, after which he took a sales position with a steel company in Ohio.

Through his years in the military and as a salesman, Mr. Hull honed his acting skills, participating in amateur and community theater. In his late twenties, he traded a stable job for his acting life and moved to New York City, where he studied with Lee Strasberg and appeared in Off-Broadway and Summer Stock productions.

Theaterworks was born out of a Broadway failure.

the catalyst is “Young Abe Lincoln” A musical directed by Mr. Harnick and in which Mr. Hull participated as an actor. After his successful Broadway performance, the show moved to Broadway. Although it garnered enthusiastic reviews, it lasted only 27 performances.

After consulting with friends, Mr. Harnick and Mr. Hull began booking shows at schools across New York State. In the late 1960s, they registered the company as Performing Arts Repertory Theater, later changing to Theaterworks USA.

In addition to Mr. Hal Gupta, Mr. Hull lost his wife, Ann (O’Shaughnessy) Hull. Another daughter, Alizon Hal Reggioli. and three grandchildren.

For Hull, TheaterWorks was more than a vocation. For many years, his apartment on the West Side of Upper Manhattan served as his office. When the company faced financial headwinds, he appeared in television commercials for companies such as Chevrolet and Amoco, helping his family survive.

he and Mr. Harnick officially retired in 2000Mr. Hull continued to come to the office for nearly 20 more years.

Harrington said he was “very ambitious and passionate about the organization’s mission.”

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