After 17 years, Professor of Theatre Tom Hines figuratively exits the "Whitman stage" this summer. The spectrum of his roles on the Harper Joy Theatre stage, on campus and within the global theater community has been wide — teacher, scholar, lighting and set design artist and webmaster, to name a few — but perhaps the one he will miss most is that of mentor.
"The students," he said, "are an extension of my own children."
Theatre department chair for 12 years, Hines taught theater and technology classes, including scenic and lighting design, scene painting, drafting, computer applications and "Introduction to the Theatre." He has more than 200 professional and academic design credits, 85 of which were for Whitman productions.
The biggest change he has seen during his tenure is the increased sophistication and dependence on technology in theater productions. Gone are the days of painted canvas backdrops and cassette tapes; they have been replaced with computer-generated images, complex lighting effects, digital sound and hydraulics.
According to Hines, the demands on the program are greater than ever before to adequately prepare students for the real world of theater they encounter after graduation. But he is proud to see many former students succeeding in the working world.
"I can honestly trace all the elements of my current professional career to the skills he encouraged me to develop," said Anna Bullard '02, a professional actress and former advisee of Hines who assisted him on various projects, including developing the HJT website.
"Tom also always emphasized life balance for those of us in theatrical careers," said Bullard.
"Theatre by nature is consuming and intense. The fact that Tom's interests were many and varied — travel, Greek history, family — helped me see that it was possible to cultivate a personal life to help mitigate the ups and downs of this profession."
Those varied interests have taken him on a journey far outside of Walla Walla on a quest to research and document ancient theaters, work that culminated in "The Ancient Theatre Archive," an Internet resource for theater history and architecture studies. The site features thousands of high-resolution photographs, and documents Greek and Roman theaters in Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Egypt and Italy. Hines is the photographer as well as the developer and editor for the site, a work in continual progress, which boasts photographic and architectural data on nearly 100 ancient theaters.
He first developed the site out of "a need to share his eyewitness experiences with someone." Although he encourages those who can to visit the sites firsthand, for those who cannot, the archive allows students, teachers and all who are interested to visually experience a tour of some of the oldest theaters of the world.
His work, both at Whitman and abroad, has garnered two Sally Ann Abshire Research Scholar Awards and a Perry Summer Research Grant, as well as invitations to lecture in Beijing, The American University in Cairo and the University of Lisbon. In his capacity as the vice-commissioner for computer applications for the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology Inc. (USITT), Hines lectured frequently on digital imaging and archival practices. His research has benefited from a USITT grant, a visiting scholar grant from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a CwTI Rockefeller Grant and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.
As chair of the Harper Joy Renovation Committee, Hines will stay near campus until the renovation is complete in the fall and after that he is packing his bags and heading across the Atlantic to continue his work on the theater archive. His first stop will be Portugal at the University of Lisbon, where he recently accepted a Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology Grant as a scholar-in-residence.
To him, the constants of Whitman, and the hardest things to leave behind, always have been "smart people, good friends and students who never age."
— Ashley Coetzee