Like many theater people, I was lucky enough to have great teachers early in life, in my case three great teachers. Though I grew up in Oklahoma, not known to be a center for theatre development, my high school teacher, Dora Hobbs, had a lasting effect on me and many others. Her professionalism, imagination, and drive held me to a high standard that I accepted with pleasure.
Then at the University of Oklahoma, where I was a drama major and was given fantastic opportunities to act and direct, I also studied voice in the music department with Dame Eva Turner. Dame Eva was England's greatest dramatic soprano of the 20th Century who happened to be guest teaching at OU through a colleague she had worked with at La Scala in Milan. She took me into a world of standards of technique and concentration that previously were beyond my awareness and capabilities and perhaps altered my life to the greatest extent. "Pull up your socks, dear!" I believe I could have scoured the world and not found better mentors than Dora and Dame Eva...and they were at my doorstep! What are the chances of that!
Michael Hood interviews Arthur Bartow
Later, when I was at NYU and rejected applicants to the Tisch Drama Department would sit in my office and weep, thinking their lives were over, I could tell them that it takes only one great teacher to change your life, and such teachers are everywhere.
The third mentor in my life was Jack Lee. Jack was a vaunted teacher and major music director on Broadway. I met him at the beginning of his career when he was chorus director for Starlight Theater in Kansas City, where I acted summers during college years. When I came to New York he became my teacher and continued in that capacity for 56 years up until his death this year. Jack's focus was always truth in performance no matter what the style.
Change in the Theatre
Best Received Advice
Perhaps the best advice I ever received was from Dame Eva..."Be ready." Of course as a singer you have to work every day to keep your voice agile. And it's true for those in non-musical theatre too, but much harder to manage if you haven't established a daily routine workout for yourself.
There is the story of the great pianist Arthur Rubenstein who said, "If I don't practice for one day my wife knows it. If I don't practice for two days my agent knows it. And if I don't practice for three days the whole world knows it."
So many jobs came on short notice. "Get over to the theatre this morning at 10 a.m.!" To be competitive, one has to be in top physical shape and mentally ready. The confidence of that is immediately apparent. I tended to be a bit lazy and didn't always keep myself in shape and vaulted into action only when the audition was coming or even when starting rehearsals! You can't do that. You have to walk into the room prepared. They can smell it if you're not. When I was ready I got the job and when I wasn't...
Michael's university productions have 5 times been invited to KCACTF regional festivals and in 1991 he was awarded national Honorable mention for his UAA production of Arms and the Man. He acted in Anchorage with Synergy Theater and with the Alaska Repertory Theatre. Michael’s most recent professional work has been for Unseam’d Shakespeare in Pittsburgh where he directed Othello:Noir in 2006, Macbeth 3 in 2009, and Dryden and Davenant’s The Tempest, or the Enchanted Isle, in 2013.