Wednesday, April 27, 2011
A Word About Word
The third member of this happy creative trio was a skinny, pimply little kid a lot like Jones. Charlie (Word) Baker was another directing student at UT Austin. Baker, five years older than Jones, seemed worldly wise; married with 2 daughters, and a stint in the Army during World War II impressed Jones immensely.
He was a director from the start. When he was five he received a Mother
Goose book and promptly cast the neighborhood kids in his own backyard theatrical production. He married his high school sweetheart. Both went on to college where the lure of the stage was too much for Word and he soon flunked out of college. After the Army he got a job helping to organize his hometown's theatre company. At a friend's prompting he enrolled at UT Austin and crossed paths with Jones, Schmidt, B. Iden Payne and found a theatrical home in the Curtain Club.
At this time Oklahoma was only four years old, South Pacific and West Side Story were not even waiting in the wings and the musical theatre was persona non grata at the university level but not at the Curtain Club. Every Friday they would host a hugely extravagant talent show of skits and songs.
From there he got a teaching job in El Paso and made a move to Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University) when a job opened in the theatre department. His first directing assignment: The Crucible and a long career as a director.
He is often described as "magical", "incandescent." Of Baker, a colleague said, "He had characteristics about him that I have never seen in another person...it was a charisma beyond anything I'd ever heard of."