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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Founding Father

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Ted Paul died in 2008

Dr. Theodore "Ted" Paul Jr., a long-time resident of Mankato and an icon in Minnesota theatre, died peacefully on Monday, July 14, 2008, at Mankato House Health Care Center.

A Celebration of Life will be held in August (Date and Time to be announced) at the Ted Paul Theatre, Minnesota State University, Mankato. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Ted and Katy Paul Scholarship Fund at Minnesota State University, Mankato would be preferred.

Known by his friends, colleagues, and students as “Doc,” he guided the theatre department at Minnesota State University, Mankato into national prominence during his 35-year tenure.

He was born November 6, 1915, in Tarkio, Missouri, graduating from Tarkio High School in 1933, where he played trumpet and sang in the school glee club, as well as acting in a number of high school plays. Following high school, he went on to get his BA degree from Tarkio College; he then worked in the Civilian Conservation Camp from 1934 to 1937. Doc moved to Benedict, Nebraska, where he taught high school English from 1937 to 1938. After his brief teaching assignment, he moved to Greeley, Colorado, where he did summer stock with “Little Theatre of The Rockies.” He received an M.A. degree in English Literature in 1939 from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. He then traveled to New York City, as so many do to this day, to become an actor. There he auditioned for Lynn Fontanne and read for Herman Shumlin, Elia Kazan and Maxwell Anderson, only to have the roles go to Montgomery Cliff. Doc also worked as an NBC Page where he met a young Gregory Peck who was leading guided tours through the RCA buildings in 1940. Following a brief stint working for McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, Missouri, making tail sections for DC-6s, Doc signed up for the U.S. Merchant Marine and went to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY, where he said he “learned the fine art of cleaning toilets before learning to steer ships.”

In March of 1943 he made what he felt was the single smartest decision he had ever made by marrying Katy Carpenter, who until her death in 1985 was his best friend and soul mate. While Doc was at sea in 1945, Katy gave birth to their first child, Helen. With the war over, Doc accepted a full-time position at the University of Iowa where he received his PhD. While at Iowa his second child, Eric, was born in 1949. In September of 1950, he accepted a position of Assistant Professor of Speech and Director of Theatre at Mankato State Teachers College, now Minnesota State University, Mankato. Doc believes he got the job because the President of the college at that time said of him, “you are the least objectionable theatre person I have ever met.” Becky, the final of his three children, was born in 1952. After retiring from teaching in 1985, he continued to direct another 15 shows over the course of the next nine years. Katy was physically unable to attend the ceremony naming the theatre, Ted Paul Theatre, but lived long enough to see a video prior to her death June 14, 1985. During his thirty plus years at MSU, Doc Paul directed more than 125 plays of all disciplines: drama, comedy, musicals and opera. In addition he directed productions for Loyola High School, Good Counsel Academy, Mankato Community Theatre and for Arkansas University, the summer he was a guest lecturer. He took Mankato students on two USO tours, the first in 1963 on an eight-week trip to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines. The second trip in 1969 was to Nova Scotia, Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. Many of his students went on to continue in education and theatre, including Lou Bellamy, founder of the Penumbra Theatre in Minneapolis. With the help of his friend and colleague, Burt Meisel, he planned the specs for what would become the Ted Paul Theatre.

He is survived by his three children, Eric (Annie) Paul of Shorewood, Helen (Jack) Fashbaugh of Ironwood, MI, and Becky Lockwood of Milwaukee, WI; nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren; a brother, John (Margaret) Paul Phoenix, AZ. He was preceded in death by parents, Theodore and Myrtle Paul; brother, Curt Paul; sisters, Rebekah Azar and Ann Dean.

Ted Paul (center, seated) with the casts of Bus Stop in November 2007.

Theatre 'founding father' Ted Paul dead at 92

From the Mankato Free Press, July 15, 2008:

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Features Editor

MANKATO—Ted Paul, who died Monday in Mankato at the age of 92, was a man of many firsts at Minnesota State University.

Hired in 1950, he was the first director of theater in the early stages of the Minnesota State Mankato Theatre & Dance department, when theater was a part of the department of English. He was the first theater department chair. He founded Highland Summer Theatre in 1967, and was the driving force behind the building of the Ted Paul Theatre, as it later would be named.

Known as "Doc" to his friends and family, Paul guided theater arts into becoming its own department in 1980, the year of his retirement. The same year he also helped establish a master of fine arts program, which made MSU the first state school to offer a terminal degree.

All of this effort—combined with Paul's principal philosophy of showing an audience shows they wanted to see—culminated in one of the most successful theater programs in the country.

It's no wonder that when the current department chair, Paul J. Hustoles, was hired at the university in 1985, he couldn't believe the size of the theater's audience (40,000 per year), or the amount of revenue it brought in.

"He is the founding father of theater at MSU," Hustoles said. "The roots are very deep, and I think he gave us two huge things: One was the quality of theater, and the other thing was his 'popular stuff.' He watned to do plays that people enjoy seeing."

Might sound simple enough, but many colleges and universities do off-Broadway, arty theater almost exclusively. Doing four musicals a year, which MSU Theatre has done since Paul's time, is unheard of, Hustoles said. Not only are they difficult to put on, but many academic theaters look down on them as being trite and trivial.

Paul's philosophy, which was immediately appreciated and has always been carried on by Hustoles, was to offer a variety of shows and lots of them. Musicals, dramas, comedies and many genres in between could all be seen in the same season, which is why season tickets became popular at MSU even before they were a staple in theater as a whole.

Within the department and in the community, Paul's philosophy was appreciated, Hustoles said. Former students of Paul's from the early 1960s came back to Mankato to see Bus Stop last fall and met with Paul to talk about old times. His health had been declining, but he was in good spirits, said Nancee (Parkinson) Hernandez, who played "Cheri" in the 1960-61 production of Bus Stop under Paul's direction.

"He was the best director," said Hernandez of Bryson, Texas, last fall. "He would say when we were playing a character we were not allowed to play that character. We had to be that character."

Paul's son, Eric Paul of Excelsior, said said to his family, the theater meant everything to him. Eric and his sister even helped out, going door to door in the early 1960s selling season tickets.

"The theater, as a term, but Mankato more specifically was his life," Eric said. "It was what he was all about."

Personally, Eric said Paul was an amazing father. Strict but fair, he said. And few people knew how sentimental he was.

"It was sometimes hard for him to show, but he could cry at a commercial," Eric said. "And that's the beauty of the man."

Paul was born in 1915 in Tarkio, MO, where he attended school. After teaching high school English for a period and earning a master's in English Literature from the Univesity of Colorado in Greeley, he went to New York to be an actor. He worked at NBC briefly and for McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis, MO, before signing up to be a Merchant Marine, serving in Brooklyn.

He married Katy Carpenter in 1943, and they had three children.

Paul earned his doctorate at the University of Iowa, where he taught, before accepting his position of assistant professor of speech and director of theater at Mankato State Teachers College, now Minnesota State University, Mankato.

"Back in those days (1950-51), at Mankato State Teachers College in little Mankato, I don't think there was ever a thought that there would be someone like my father who woudl come in and develop a theater program," Eric said.

Paul retired from Minnesota State Mankato in 1980, but continued teaching elsewhere until 1985 and directed another 15 shows over the course of nine years. Four of the shows were at Mankato, including Angel Street in 2000, which was the first play he directed at the college in 1950.

Hustoles said Paul attended almost every production Minnesota State University Theatre put on for about 20 years after he retired.

"It was wonderful because he would come in and offer advice and talk about the shows," Hustoles said.

Paul's wife died in 1985, the same year the Ted Paul Theatre was named after him. In 1987, the department implemented its first endowment scholarship named after Ted Paul.

During his time at Minnesota State Mankato, he directed more than 125 plays.

The department is planning a celebration of Paul's life to be held in the fall.

Services will be at a later date in the Ted Paul Theatre at Minnesota State University. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Ted and Katy Paul Scholarship Fund at Minnesota State Mankato.