By LINDSEY BROWN
Julie Hodge has been working for the UMW theatre department for 23 years, longer than most students have even been alive. She has spent the majority of her teaching career working here, and has loved every minute of it. She is now retiring from the university, and she says the best parts of her career have been working on big shows and getting to know her students one on one.
“There’s a lot of best times- learning about the students and their lives, it’s just really interesting to sit to have time to sit and talk with the people that you teach in the classroom all day. That to me is what I remember the most. Times that we were working together, just talking about life, laughing and carrying on.” said Hodge.
Hodge explained that the worst times were when the department would suffer a loss, and the renovation of Klein Theater from 2009 to 2010 was a difficult time because of the logistics of it. They worked out of the Facilities building over by the tennis courts. They had to move tools, and anything else they needed from Klein to the Facilities building. The theatre students also took classes in the building, and they built the set there as well.
“It was a crazy year, until we got back into the space [Klein Theater]. We opened with the first show… Romeo and Juliet. It was a big set. It was a big endeavour. But there has not been any terrible times [sic].”
Hodge is a people person, so despite the craziness of the renovation of Klein, she still found joy in working with the people who work in the Facilities building. She enjoys connecting with people, and getting to know them in the process of working with them.
Hodge explained that the renovation, while difficult, was much needed and beneficial in the long run. Before, the theater had uncomfortable chairs, and was referred to as “the Kermit the Frog Memorial Theatre” because the inside of the theater was entirely dark green. Before the renovation, there was a hard ceiling which was gutted out and turned into the grid.
Hodge had originally planned to stay at UMW for 5 years and the move on, but plans changed after she got to know the school. “I loved the people so much, I loved our students, and it was a great fit. It was a great time here. I enjoyed it a lot.”
Hodge began her career in education in Galesburg, Illinois at Knox College. As Hodge put it, they were in the middle of a corn field. There were few stores to shop from for supplies for shows, so Hodge’s creativity was limited. While she loved working there, she wanted to go to a bigger area. Hodge grew up in the Midwest, and wanted to live on the coast. She interviewed on both the West and East coasts, as well as Texas. UMW was the only college that gave her the home feeling she was looking for.
“The faculty I met was wonderful, Gregg Stull showed me around, Helen Housley was here, Dave Hunt, who has retired, we had a lot of great faculty members. I remember thinking, ‘Wow this is a great group of people.’ There was just this sort of energy that I liked.”
Kenny Horning, shop foreman of UMW Theatre, has been working with Hodge for 11 years now.
“I am saddened, I wish her the best of luck, but I am truly saddened that she is retiring.” When asked of his favorite memory with Hodge, Horning said, “Noises Off, a show we worked on back in the summer of 2015. It was a very memorable time, because it was a very memorable set. The set moved well, it was designed well. It was a good time.”
It is obvious that Hodge has touched so many working here at UMW. Her infectious energy mixed with her love for people makes her a great educator.
Kassie Bender, sophomore and theatre major, got a little emotional when talking about Hodge leaving.
“She’s so patient with everyone, and simplifies everything, and gets people as involved as possible. She pushes them to try new things, and she is so funny, and makes things fun and upbeat,” said Bender.
Hodge chose to retire because there are things on her bucket list that she still wants to check off. She wants to be able to have time to paint. “I just want to do art for art’s sake,” she said.
She has always wanted to learn how to sail, so her and her husband recently bought a sailboat. They’ve taken sailing lessons, and fell in love with sailing. They are taking their two dogs and venturing out in May to sail and travel until they settle down in another place.
“I’m ready for something different. I have a lot of weird skills. I have already talked to a guy down where our boat is, about making sails. I’ve made backdrops for 30 years, so I want to learn how to do it. I love to learn all of the time. Theatre riggers were originally sailors. So they overlap. There are just more things for me to learn out there.”
Hodge said it was not an easy decision to retire, because she loves working here at UMW. She says she will miss the conversations in the shop backstage, getting to know the students and everyone in general.
“Right now I’m totally cool with it, but by April I’ll probably be weepy. I worry if I’m going to regret not working however many years I can work. But I have too much wanderlust in my soul.”