A final bow: Though he will end his University career after 40 years, Rudall to continue work in theatreBy Jennifer Carnig
D. Nicholas Rudall is taking his final curtain call at the University.
The Founding Director of Court Theatre and Professor in Classics is retiring after 40 years of service to the University where he spent his entire career.
“People are not replaceable but Nick Rudall truly cannot be replaced,” said James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classics and Social Thought, who taught alongside Rudall for the last 30 years. “He is an extraordinary talent and a great teacher, and he is a unique presence on a faculty that we hope consists of unique presences.”
Born and raised in Wales, Rudall joined the Classics faculty in 1966 where his teaching has focused on tragedy and the ancient theater, Aristophanes and Propertius. In 1972, he was appointed Artistic Director of Court Theatre and was named Executive Director in 1980, a position he held until 1994.
During his tenure at Court, Rudall helped transform what was once an accomplished but amateur student and community group into a professional theater company. It was under his guidance that funds were raised and allocated to build a permanent home for Court, and it is he who is widely credited with the energy and artistic vision that first propelled Court onto the national theater scene.
“Without Nick Rudall, Court Theatre would not exist as it does today,” said Charles Newell, who succeeded Rudall as Court’s Artistic Director. “His leadership is responsible for Court evolving from a community-based theater to its current position as one of the leading theater companies in Chicago and the country.”
Among Rudall’s most notable directing credits at Court are the premiers of The Mystery Cycle: Creation and The Mystery Cycle: The Passion, co-directed with Bernard Sahlins; Measure for Measure; Candida; Brief Lives; Doctor Faustus; The Glass Menagerie; Woyzeck and Oresteia. He also appeared in numerous roles, winning a Joseph Jefferson Award for best actor for the title role of Butley, best supporting actor as Joxer in Juno and the Paycock and nomination for best actor for his performance as Pinglet in The Paradise Hotel.
Rudall is widely known for his translations and adaptations, many of which are used by the world’s leading theater companies, including the Washington D.C.-based Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2004 performance of Sophocles’ Theban Plays at the Athens Olympics. He is celebrated for his translations of Aristophanes, Sophocles, Feydeau and Henrik Ibsen, and has published translations of Euripides’ Bacchae, The Trojan Women and The Iphigenia Plays as well as Sophocles’ Theban plays and Electra. His most recent translation is of Buchner’s Woyzeck.
“I owe a lot to him in terms of whatever I know about Western drama,” said David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Humanities, who co-taught a two-quarter class on the history and theory of drama for 10 years with Rudall. In the class, the pair taught students in the College everything from the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare through Chekhov and Tony Kushner.
“He’s just a great actor and a great director, and he has wonderful insights about how these plays work in rehearsal and performance and how they fit into a theatrical space,” Bevington continued. “He encouraged the students and myself to take a much closer look at the texts until they began to live and breathe.”
At a retirement party and performance held for him Monday, June 5 at Court Theatre, Bevington and Redfield were among those who paid tribute to their friend and colleague. Redfield, along with University and Court Theatre actors took to the stage to perform some of Rudall’s favorite dramatic readings from his translations. Organized by graduate students, the evening included stories and music dedicated to Rudall.
“We just adore Nick,” said Frances Spaltro, a doctoral student in Classics and one of three students who planned the evening. “He is a profoundly good person who has touched and influenced many lives.”
Rudall attended Clare College, Cambridge, where he earned his B.A. in 1962. He did his graduate work at Cornell University, and earned his Ph.D. in Classical Languages and Literature in 1969.
Though Rudall is retiring, his work is not yet finished. His current project is a translation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. for performances this fall.