Remembering Larry Clark by former student Jill Womack
There are teachers who help you succeed in a class. There are teachers who help you succeed in a degree program. And then, there are teachers who help you succeed in life.
That was the kind of teacher we had in Larry Clark. He believed. He believed in our potential. He helped us believe in ourselves and find our own unique voice.
Over and over again, I have heard my friends and colleagues and fellow alums say:
"Larry Clark touched my life and my work immeasurably."
"I would never have graduated without Larry Clark's encouragement."
"He helped me become a professional in this field."
I met Dr. Larry Clark as an applicant to the Theatre Department in 1979. I can remember sitting in his office and hearing him tell me, "Don't be frustrated if you aren't cast as a Freshman. Keep trying."
"Keep trying!" Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a teacher who cares as much as Dr. Clark.
I was one of hundreds of students he encouraged and mentored - Tom Berenger, Christopher Cooper, Robert Logia, hundreds of actors and teachers and artists who have made careers in acting, teaching, and directing. It didn't matter to Dr. Clark if an actor had an Oscar or was a Freshman in one of his casts. We were all important to him. Years and years after a show had closed, he could regale you with every nuance of every performance.
As a director, there were times he would come backstage DURING a show to give notes to me and other actors. Why? Because he believed we could do better, be truer, and raise our game. A few gentle notes from Larry Clark were the guideposts to a wonderful performance.
As a director, the first time I found myself backstage giving notes to my actors during a show, I thought, "Sweet mercy. I have become Larry Clark!"
And then, I thought, "Oh, now I understand." I understand how much Larry Clark thought of his students and his actors. He loved us. He loved theatre. He loved learning and teaching. He loved being a part of our growth and achievements.
His door was always open for a word of advice or encouragement or for a story.
His stories were always filled with joy. I loved Dr. Clark's stories about starting Summer Rep. He would say, with a huge grin and twinkle in his eye, "We started that on the roof of the Education Building at MU because we couldn't find another space. Theatre under the stars." He had a vision and nothing would stop him. The outstanding Summer Rep program exists to this day thanks to Larry Clark.
And what a great sense of humor. He toasted one graduating acting class with this lovingly wry toast, "Congratulations. Now you can all be flight attendants and bank tellers."
At MU, he was a theatre professor, then Department Chair, and then the Dean of Arts & Science. Over his career, he published books on acting. He was honored with national awards for his work. But his greatest gift was very personal, and that was his genuine and unwavering belief in us - his friends and family, his colleagues, his students.
Weren't we lucky to have such a wonderful man in our lives?
Columbia Rotary members ring the
Salvation Army Bell
with man's best friend!
Ted Curtis, Don Ladd and Glory