Stage & Dance

"He was one of the great minds of theater'

Adam Luckey had given up on theater.

He'd been a high school thespian, and enjoyed it. But he thought his real life, his adult life, would take another path.

Then he took a theater history class at Transylvania University from David Haller.

”Just seeing this tall, thin man, and he sounded so regal and artistic, and he had all of these stories and anecdotes, and you knew this was a guy who knew his theater,“ Luckey says, ”and I thought, "Hmmmm, maybe I could give this a try.'“

The Lexington stage career of Luckey, regarded as one of Lexington's best actors, is just one of the many legacies Haller leaves, following his death from complications from pneumonia April 2. He was 76.

You could often count on seeing Doc Haller in the audience at Transy shows, where he directed the theater department for 23 years before retiring in 1994.

”He left a tradition of excellence in productions and courses, and certainly the promise of a new theater,“ Haller's successor, Tim Soulis, says. ”I always felt guilty that the same year he was leaving, Lucille Little committed to giving the school $1 million to build a new theater.

”I'm sure she wouldn't have given that money if Doc hadn't created such a great theater program. So, when that theater was built, I felt like I reaped the benefits of his work.“

Almost like clockwork, Soulis recalled, Haller would show up in his office about a week before a show, ready to talk about it and ask for a ticket.

”He was witty and intelligent, a charming curmudgeon,“ Soulis recalls. ”And he always let you know what he thought, which was one of the great things about the man. You always knew where you stood with him.“

Luckey worked with Haller on his last play, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at Actors Guild of Lexington.

At the first read-through, they discussed how it was going to be updated to the 1960s with a sort of Monty Python-esque sensibility.

”I remember, at the end, they said, "Does anybody have any questions,'“ Luckey said, ”and Doc said, "Yes. Can we do it the way we're supposed to?'“

Haller went on to play Lane, the frustrated manservant as a sort of throwback to the play's original era, adding to the wacky comedy of the piece. The other time Luckey worked with Haller was in the Actors' Guild 1999 production of Of Mice and Men. Haller played Candy, whose old dog had to be put down in the show.

”Everyone thinks of the end, with Lenny, as the heartbreaking part of the show,“ Luckey says. ”But seeing Doc mourn this old dog, this friend, just tore you up.“

At a memorial service Tuesday at Southland Christian Church, Soulis recalled some Transy professors talking about how Haller would hold court at the Rathskeller, a restaurant on campus. Opening night of Transy productions, he told professors that he expected them to be at the show, and they came.

But Haller was not only a theater and arts aficionado; he also had a passion for his family, who Luckey says honored him in word and song at the memorial service.

”There was more laughter in the room than tears,“ he recalls. ”It was wonderful.“

He ultimately thinks of Haller in terms of some of the greats of theater, seeing him swapping stories with Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.

”He was one of the great minds of theater,“ Luckey says. ”There was something in the way he carried himself. It was like he was Sir Doc.“

  Comments