Remembering David A. Hale

Remembering David A. Hale

Feb 23 2018

Former faculty member David A. Hale, a professor at Temple university for over thirty years passed away on February 13, 2018. David Hale began his career as the director of theater for the new Tomlinson Theater in the 1960s and became chair of the Department of Theater in 1975. Over the course of his long career at Temple, Hale was also head of the graduate design program and the undergraduate program.

Hale received his undergraduate degree from Pomona College in Philosophy/Literature, which inspired a lifelong passion for philosophy. His favorite book was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which he shared with many students. He earned an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in Theatre Production, followed by employment with the US Army, the Yale School of Drama, and Arizona State University.

Hired by Temple in 1966, as director of theater, Hale was the production manager and technical director of the new Tomlinson Theater which was dedicated in 1968. Hale was a valuable member of the department from the start, overseeing the technical aspects of the new building even before the first performance.

Hale met his wife of over thirty years Carolyn, at Temple University in the 1970s. Before pursuing a career as a librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia, Carolyn was a publicity manager for Temple Theaters.

His career spanned over thirty years at Temple, and included being the chair from 1975 to 1978, the year the department celebrated 10 years. He taught stage management and technical direction to graduate and undergraduate students. After retiring in 1999, he even returned to the department to teach technical direction to a few lucky MFA students.

“It was David who taught me Stage Management, a course that would’ve been more appropriately named, ‘Life and Stage Management,’” recalled Alexander L. Bowditch (BA '98). “By the way, you can always tell a stage manager who has been mentored by David - or by someone David inspired - as they never call a cue without an ‘and’ between the cue number and the ‘go’, a great little trick to calling cues with even more precision.”

He was a beloved teacher and colleague. “All of us under his tutelage referred to him as Yoda. He was my teacher and my advisor but he was also my mentor, “ recalled Robert Hargraves (BA ‘92). “He was sardonic and funny, wise and clever, brilliant and kind and very, very patient. He was always there to listen. I mean really listen.”

Hale also worked with Flying by Foy doing theatrical flight around the country, principally for the live stage. He has worked with industry greats: Peter Foy, Bill Irwin, Martha Clarke, Jerome Robbins, David Letterman and Sean Connery, to name a few.

Services to be held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave., Phila. PA 19118, on Saturday, February 24, at 11 A.M., to be followed by reception in the Parish House.

We’ve shared a few of the remembrances we received below. If you have one you’d like to share please email

David Hale was extraordinary in every sense of the word, and I truly feel privileged to have been taught by him while at Temple University.

However, one of the most important life lessons David instilled in me was not in the classroom or on stage or even backstage. In fact, it wasn’t even verbally conveyed.

One late afternoon, I was in the Tomlinson Theatre scene shop by myself working on my craft project for the technical theater class that David taught. The assignment was to find a piece of scrap wood, carve it into a shape and then proceed to sand it with sand paper of varying grit-sizes for weeks so that it ends up looking like a piece of ivory.

I had just selected a piece of scrap wood and was about 3 minutes in working on the belt sander when I lost my grip. The wood flew off the sander and rebounded off a large paint frame used to paint backdrops on. The wood ended up falling a couple of stories into the deep, narrow abyss of the paint trap that sat below the frame. I thought, “well that’s that,” and I proceeded to search for a new piece of wood from a barrel of scraps to re-start this project.

It was at this point that David happened to walk into the scene shop. In his usual laid-back manner, he asked me how it was going so I told him about the fate of my piece of wood. I expected him to just shrug and go about his business, but instead he asked me to describe what my piece of wood looked like.

To my bewilderment, he proceeded to lift a large metal hatch that was in the floor by the trap. He smiled and advised, “If I’m not back in 10-minutes, get help!” With his trademarked flip flops on (he wore flip flops all year round), David descended the long ladder into the dark, narrow, and damp paint trap.

Looking down into the trap from above, I could see light flickering from David’s flashlight, so I knew he was okay. After about 5-minutes, I suddenly heard David’s voice echoing from below exclaiming, “aha!” He emerged from the hatch asking me to confirm that it was my missing piece of wood that he had in his hand. It was, so he handed it to me and I thanked him. He nodded, then exited the scene shop without saying another word.

I was left standing amazed and speechless, as I couldn’t fathom why anyone would go to that much trouble to salvage a scrap of wood. Like the guru that he was, David’s silence spoke measures. The message was to not give up so easily on something that you have invested in that has potential.

In the weeks that followed, I faithfully cared for this piece of wood and was successful sanding it so smooth that it resembled ivory. It wasn’t perfect, however. There remained a little dimple where the wood hit the paint frame when it flew off the belt sander. I didn’t want to sand it out, though, as it served as a pleasant reminder of that extraordinary moment, man, and lesson learned.

Recalled by Alexander L. Bowditch (BA '98)

I was at Temple Theater from 1996-2000.  I went in to be an actor...  the first thing I learned is that I wasn't very good at it!   I sort of fell into Stage management...turns out I was pretty good at it and really loved the work... most of the time.

My sophomore year I was the SM on a mainstage show in fall and spring semester and a student project mixed in. I also had 15 credits in each semester, and at least one part time job.  It is fair to say that I spent more time in Randall lobby sleeping on the couches than I did in my own bed that year.

Those of us who stage managed while David was there all had keys to his office and it was where we got most of our work done...I was there putting together a contact sheet or figuring out how the hell to politely tell props we broke something valuable, or... something else that seemed like life or death and I was losing my cool.

David walked in at just that moment. He saw the stress was getting to me.  He sat down across from me asked me what was going on. I told him the basics... I can't imagine how whiny I probably sounded. He took a deep breath, looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Scott, you're in college. This is the easy part. It gets harder after this." He had a huge smile on his face. He meant it. And he was right.  

Recalled by Scott McNulty (BA '00)

David Hale was my Theater 41 professor in my Sophomore year. He was also my Stage Management Professor for each consecutive year after. All of us under his tutelage referred to him as Yoda. He was my teacher and my Advisor but he was also my mentor.

David always gave the best advice and challenged you to advocate for yourself:

  • He gave me the push I needed to not be intimidated by limitation or doubt. Because of him, I directed and starred in a production of Equus and at his urging petitioned for and received 2 college credits for it.
  •  He made me feel confident enough to move to New York right after college. He told me it was not up to me to decide if I was “right” for something. It was up to me to prove that I was right.
  • He taught me everything I know about being a theatrical flyman which I did professionally in Philly for almost 10 years.
  •  He told me once that I had the mind of a director, the heart of an actor and the temperament of a stage manager.
  • He introduced me to Tim Curry for crissakes!

He became in those years and for quite few years after, my friend.

  • Susan Adelizzi and I house-sat for him on several occasions.
  • He got me my very first paid performance gig (dressing in a Babar costume at the Free Library).
  • His daughter Julie hired me for a summer at WaWa to make some money to help pay for school.
  • He hooked me up with Maureen Punch Sweeney while I was still in school and she cast Sheila Murphy and I in a paid touring production of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. This resulted in an instant and lifelong friendship with Sheila.

I still have my wood block (all Temple Theater graduates will know what that means). I got an 86 on it.

My toy (again, TU Theater graduates will understand) has long since fallen apart but I kept it for years. Got an 82 on it.

I own not one but two copies of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance because of him.

He was sardonic and funny, wise and clever, brilliant and kind and very, VERY patient. He was always there to listen. I mean really listen.

The news of his passing makes me so very sad but all of these memories of him and of those times make me smile. I will truly miss his spirit.

Sleep well DAH. The Philadelphia Theater community has lost a very bright light.

Recalled by Robert Hargraves (BA '92)

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