Home Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre founder Hal Herman passes away

Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre founder Hal Herman passes away


hal hermanShenandoah Conservatory Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theatre and Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT) Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Harold “Hal” Herman, B.A., passed away on Wednesday.

“Hal’s passing is not just a loss for our university community, but also one for theatre-lovers throughout the region,” said Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “He will be missed by every person who had the pleasure to work with or learn from him. His legacy, through SSMT, is secure. At this time, our condolences go out to Hal’s family and all those who loved him. This is a sad day for Shenandoah.”

Herman leaves behind a lasting legacy of bringing drama and laughter to the stage, coming to Shenandoah in 1973 and serving 33 years as a professor of theatre. He founded SSMT in 1984 and retired as its producing artistic director last year.

“Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre owes its existence to the vision and perseverance of one man: Harold Herman,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Charles B. Levitin Chair in Music Theatre and Professor of Composition and Musical Theatre Direction and SSMT Artistic Director Thomas Albert, D.M.A. “He left an undying legacy that has touched tens of thousands of lives, and made theatre-going a way of life for all of us: students, colleagues, actors, musicians, music directors, choreographers, designers, technical and costume staff, and, of course, the audience. To paraphrase Jerome Kern on Irving Berlin, Harold Herman has no place in Shenandoah theatre. He is Shenandoah theatre.”

Herman, himself an accomplished actor, had dreamt, since the early 1960s, of establishing a professional summer stock theatre company. His dream became a reality in 1984, when SSMT presented its first season of four fully staged musicals: “Shenandoah,” “George M!,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Sugar,” and started providing Shenandoah students with a university-centered opportunity to work in a professional setting before venturing out to pursue their careers.

Under Herman’s 31 years of leadership, SSMT mounted 124 productions, drawing enthusiastic audiences from an increasingly wide geographical area. During its 25th anniversary season in 2008, SSMT presented its 100th show, “The Producers,” at a time when it was among the very first companies to be given rights to perform the Tony Award-winning hit.

Herman himself is no stranger to the SSMT stage. One of his notable roles was his portrayal of “Tevye” in “Fiddler on the Roof” in the 1985 production; he reprised this role in 1995, 2001 and 2008.

He touched many lives during his time at Shenandoah, and as a testament to that, in May 2012, alumnus Jack Rowles ’82 organized an alumni tribute performance to Herman, which brought out Broadway performers and Shenandoah Conservatory alumni J. Robert Spencer ’91, Kathy Voytko ’94, Kris Koop Ouellette ’87, Laura Woyasz ’98, Peter J. Herber ’84, Aaron Galligan-Stierle ’02 and Richard F. Costa ’86.

“Hal Herman had an extraordinary impact on our conservatory and community,” said Dean of Shenandoah Conservatory Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “He loved the magic of musical theatre, and was brilliant in connecting audiences with great shows. Through his vision and determination, he developed a national-level summer music theatre season and founded the conservatory’s Theatre Division. His knowledge of musical theatre was encyclopedic, and his passion for the stage was infectious. He lived and breathed theatre. He will be greatly missed.”

The university is in the process of gathering fond memories of Hal and condolences for his family. Community members are encouraged to share their memories of Hal at su.edu/halherman.



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