Young graduates must use their time, energy, idealism – and, yes, even luck - to find solutions to problems confronting the world, according to an acclaimed Broadway director, who addressed students April 10, 2008, at Elon University’s Spring Convocation for Honors.
Harold S. “Hal” Prince has received more Tony Awards than anyone else in music theater history. His career spans more than five decades and 50 productions, including Fiddler on the Roof, The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story and Evita.
And on Thursday, Prince shared his lifetime wisdom inside Alumni Gym during an annual program that honors Dean’s List and President’s List students, the faculty, graduate students, the upcoming graduating class and members of the Elon Society, the premier annual giving group at Elon.
“Luck is an interesting thing. There’s the luck of being born right where you were,” said Prince, who was conferred with an honorary doctor of humane letters by Elon President Leo M. Lambert. “It’s the luck of exposure to values, to the educational process you’re enjoying. There’s the luck of a chance meeting, which leads to networking. Your health is luck. Even your bad health can be luck because it can be motivating.
“And the biggest luck of all is the luck of being able to know luck when you see it. So many people recognize it. So many people squander it with irrelevant demands … Life is a series of crossroads. Reaching and choosing the ones you take, that’s the secret. Or maybe that’s luck, too.”
Convocation took a different form this spring, with the 90-minute ceremony interspersed with song and dance from dozens of students in the performing arts program at Elon. The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra accompanied the productions: “Somewhere” from West Side Story, “I Got Rhythm” from Crazy for You and “Masquerade” from The Phantom of the Opera.
The world premiere of “A Little More Homework” was also performed for the audience. Jason Robert Brown composed the song for the forthcoming Broadway musical 13, and he arranged and orchestrated the piece for its first public performance at Elon’s Convocation.
Two alumni from the performing arts department offered their own reflections to current students.
Nancy Snow Carr ‘00, a veteran of more than 75 national and regional music theater productions, earned her degree in music theatre and is an adjunct faculty member at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo.
“I am so grateful for time here at Elon. My best friends and most respected peers are the people I met in this wonderful place, a place that recognizes your artistic journey,” she told the audience. “It’s a place where you can grow, where you can get help, and you can be challenged so you are better prepared to face tomorrow.”
Bree D. Sherry ’06 was a theatrical production and design major who managed several stage productions in McCrary and Black Box theatres while juggling professional jobs. Since earning her degree, Sherry has been a production assistant at North Shore Music Theater near Boston and a stage manager at The Warehouse Theater in Greenville, S.C.
“Theater holds a mirror up to society and the world around us,” Sherry said. “If you think about a memorable time in your life, I would wager it was not one spent alone. We live life reaching out and touching others.”
Prince offered one final piece of advice to students before ending his address. Times have changed, he said, and not for the better.
“You haven’t inherited the experience of writing and receiving letters, and that’s a terrible pity. And you have been born into a society rife with venality that worships instant success, a society weaned on trivia, gossip, and reality TV,” Prince said. “These were not our inheritances after the Great Depression and the necessary war that followed. Money was ancillary until we married and had children. Then it became necessity.”
“So you are facing different times that call for different, imaginative, selfless solutions. You cannot do it as we did it. You have to reinvent the wheel. You have the future in your hands. You will change our world. Your talent, your energy, your idealism and time are on your side.”