TV actor shares insights with students

by Melanie Evans

It is possible for actors to live off of soup, cheese and tax returns while working for the “big break,” said actor Richard Hatch — and he speaks from experience.
“We had a big bag of about 500 cans of Campbell’s soup and I remember it saved our lives,” Hatch said.
Hatch, best known to his audience as Captain Apollo in the 1978 hit TV show “Battlestar Galactica,” met with theatre arts and dance department staff and students in Arena Theatre on Friday. He discussed method acting and industry secrets as a part of the U Theatre Hour series.
Hatch used his experiences on the television series merely as an icebreaker. Instead, he spent the hour talking about his 25 years of study and work in the acting industry.
“When I get a chance, and a college is open, I go in and talk to their theater students because I’ve been there. I’ve been an actor for 25, 30 years. I know what it’s about. There’s a lot more to acting then they think,” Hatch said.
Hatch, in town to speak at the Whole Life Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Friday evening, speaks nationwide to churches, organizations and businesses about overcoming fear and realizing potential. A television and film actor, Hatch had roles on “All My Children” and “The Streets of San Francisco.”
Hatch’s animated discussion with the small group of students ranged from imitations of pop singer Barry Manilow to the theories of Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavksy. But students and staff said they took away a better sense of what it takes to be a successful actor working in television and film.
Department administrators said they were excited to add Hatch to their list of distinguished guest speakers during the hour, which includes stage actor Christopher Plummer and playwrights Sam Shepard and Christopher Durang.
The program encourages students to look beyond their classrooms and teachers for an education. The U Theatre Hour gives students a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences of others, said chairman of the theatre arts and dance department Lance Brockman.
For the theater department’s 280 undergraduates, guest speakers in the series offer a glimpse into the post-graduate life that is not as simple or as easy as they might hope, said Brockman. “It’s a reality check,” he said.
The hour existed prior to Brockman’s arrival at the University 23 years ago. A reflection of student interest and involvement in their program, the hour has no regular schedule and meets when a speaker or performer is available.
The hour is not limited to celebrity lecturers, however. Past hours in the series have included presentations given by graduates who have come back to share their experiences. Current students use the hour to showcase their work, tuning their performances and receiving feedback from their peers.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Sherry Wagner, managing director for the University Theatre.
“Sometimes it’s entertaining, sometimes it’s useful,” said theatre major Tokumeo Okanla.
“It’s inspiring,” Okanla said, who has attended past theatre hour presentations.
An admirer of Christopher Plummer, she found his lecture helpful. “To have him tell us what he did to get to where he was, it’s useful,” Okanla said.
Hatch’s message received a similar response.
“He talked about the core of what he does,” said Diana Sparta, a senior in the theatre department. “It was refreshing.”