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June 6, 2007

Contact: Contact: Mike Emery
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Veteran Professor to Continue Teaching, Directing, Producing Festivals for UH

HOUSTON, June 6, 2007 – In 1969, Sidney Berger arrived at the University of Houston to lead a two-person drama department. He soon grew the tiny outfit into a world-class theater program boasting celebrity alumni and renowned faculty. Now, 38 years later, Berger will take one last bow as the school’s director.

Beginning this fall, Berger – affectionately called “Doc” by students – will step down as the director of UH’s School of Theatre & Dance. Steven Wallace, former dean of Florida State University’s theater department, has been named as the school’s new director.

Berger, John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance, will remain with the school teaching, directing main stage productions and producing the school’s annual festivals: the Children’s Theatre Festival (CTF) and the Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSF).

“The school has grown beyond my own wildest dreams, and it’s time for a new dreamer to lead it,” he said. “I sincerely felt it was time to pass the torch to someone who will take the school to even greater heights.”

During Berger’s nearly 40-year tenure with the school, he co-founded with Bren Dubay the popular Children’s Theatre Festival (CTF), which entertains thousands of young fans each summer in the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre. He is also responsible for putting the Bard under the stars in the annual Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSF), which showcases free productions at Miller Outdoor Theater.

Berger has attracted world-class talent to contribute to both festivals. For the Children’s Theatre Festival, Tony Award-winning songwriter Jerry Bock (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and other Broadway stars have contributed their talents at Berger’s request. Likewise, he’s attracted national acting talents to participate in the Houston Shakespeare Festival, including stage veteran Ken Ruta and film star Dan O’Herlihy, who starred opposite Orson Welles in the film version of “Macbeth.”

In addition to recruiting top talent for festivals, Berger also attracted distinguished directors and award-winning playwrights to teach at UH. Edward Albee, Sir Peter Hall, Lanford Wilson and Jose Quintero have shared their wisdom and insight with UH students.

“There was no strategy in getting these geniuses to work with our students,” Berger said. “I simply asked them. No other institution had approached these noted professionals, so I just picked up the phone and called them. The worst thing that could happen was that someone would say, ‘no.’ It wasn’t brilliance on my part but, rather, bravery…or foolhardiness.”

Star power hasn’t been limited to guest artists and distinguished faculty. Contemporary film and theater stars have learned from Berger. Randy and Dennis Quaid, Brent Spiner (of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) and Robert Wuhl (of HBO’s “Arli$$”) all emerged from the school.

Recently, Berger was awarded the Ruth Denney Award by Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars. The award recognizes the lifetime achievement of those individuals who have played an instrumental role in shaping the lives of young artists.

“The one thing that I will always appreciate about Doc is his passion,” said senior theater major Caleb George, whom Berger directed in “Death of a Salesman.” “He’s been teaching the same thing for decades and still has the same passion for it as when he taught it for the first time. He loves to inspire. He constantly pushed me to learn and grow as an actor. The amazing part is that he did this by example, by living every day in adoration of the stage. I hope that in my life I can have that kind of passion, the kind that never gets dull, but better with age.”

Under Berger’s supervision, UH productions have toured the globe as part of the USO Defense Department tours, and he has twice served as American Theatre Specialist for the U. S. State Department.

Berger is co-founder and a former president of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America. He also serves on the board of Sam Wanamaker's International Shakespeare Globe Centre project in London.

He has the distinction of being the first executive director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at UH and helped oversee the renovation of the building housing the Wortham Theatre.

Berger arrived at the UH after serving as a faculty member at Michigan State University. He received a Bachelor of Arts in speech and theater from Brooklyn College, a Master of Arts in theater and a doctorate in theater from the University of Kansas.

Many film fans recognize Berger from his role in the cult horror film classic “Carnival of Souls.”

The School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre, teacher certifications in dance and a Master of Fine Arts. Each fall and spring, the school produces four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre, two dance concerts, the Edward Albee Playwrights' Workshop, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, various student productions, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival.

For more information on the school, visit

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