Stephen Kechulius '83 made a Bass Hall debut in September in the
Fort Worth Opera's production of "Rigoletto," where he performed
the title role of a deformed court jester. It was Kechulius' ninth reprisal
of the role that has taken him all over North America and Europe. Even
the arts-savvy The New York Times has noted his "elegant dark voice
and strong dramatic instincts." He has also delighted audiences and
impressed critics in the roles of Iago in "Otello," Baron Scarpia
in "Tosca" and the title role of "Falstaff." Kechulius'
rise to stardom came after years of small parts and bit roles. In 2001,
he made his debut with the New York City Opera as Scarpia in "Tosca."
Since then, he's performed with opera companies in Florida, Tennessee,
Utah, Arizona, Ohio and recently in Germany and Great Britian. While in
Fort Worth, Kechulius treated TCU opera students to a masters class, telling
the budding performers, "There are many roads to success in opera.
But there is no one right way to get there. It takes a passion. You have
to discover that passion here at TCU."
Fast past 50
"Superman" by his track teammates, Bill Collins '75 really
is faster than a speeding bullet. Speeding bullets over the age of 50,
that is. Collins holds world records for age 50 and up in the 100 meters,
200 meters and indoor 60 meters. He has also taken titles at seven world
masters track meets for runners 40 and up. In July, at the 2003 World
Masters Track and Field Championships in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Collins
defended his titles in the age 50-to-54 100 and 200 meters by healthy
margins. "The 2003 season was one of my best in a few years,"
he said, proud to have broken five world records at the age of 52. He
is on the list of athletes being considered for induction into the Masters
Hall of Fame for USA track and field. Collins can be found on the the
Rice University track three days a week with teammates from the Houston
Elite Track Club (which he coaches on a voluntary basis). When he's not
training, Collins lives in Missouri City. He works as a speed consultant
for the Texas Southern University football program and an adviser for
athletes in a variety of sports.
A punch in the face
didn't take long for Travis Willingham '03 to hit the "big
time." Last spring he was on the stage at University Theater. This
fall he appeared in the A-list productions of Secondhand Lions, starring
Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment. Willingham played
a gang member who takes a beating from 72-year-old Duvall. "Being
punched repeatedly in the face by Robert Duvall has been my favorite career
experience so far," Willingham said. Throughout his four years at
TCU, the Dallas native balanced academic demands with movie roles, local
and national commercial work and TCU Theatre productions. Since his graduation
in May, Willingham concentrated full-time on his acting career. He recently
completed work on Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story, scheduled for
release next year.
Horned Frog presiding
years of service to the Louisiana legal community recently garnered Maury
Hicks '74 an appointment to the federal bench. Originally nominated
by President Bush in September 2002, Hicks received Senate confirmation
and, at a ceremony in Shreveport, was officially installed as a federal
district judge in the Western District of Louisiana in July. Hicks' wife
Glynda and children Christy '02, Tyler and Whitney along with associates
and friends looked on as he swore his oath, accepting his new lifetime-term
post. Experience as a law clerk and staff attorney for the Louisiana Legislative
Council combined with a long stretch in private practice prepared Hicks
for his appointment as a judge. He was appointed to the Louisiana State
Bar Association Committee on Bar Admissions in early 2002, prior to receiving
the judiciary nod. "I'm especially fascinated with the federal system,
its procedures and authority," Hicks said. "Moving from 25 years
of advocacy to being an adjudicator is a significant change, but one that
I'm looking forward to."
Raising the bar
Roberts Roper '70 (pictured at right) proved herself the best woman
pole vaulter over age 50 at the National Senior Olympics in June. Her
gold medal performance was the culmination of several years of training,
brought about by a victory over breast cancer in 1994. She first tried
the pole vault in the spring of 2002; the event allowed her to combine
her love of athletic competition, running and gymnastics. "I had
never pole vaulted before. Girls didn't have the opportunity to play competitive
sports when I was school," Roper explained. So she sought advice
from a colleague at the Manchester, Mo., high school where she teaches
health. Once she had reached the age of 50, Roper began competing in local
and state Senior Olympics. By age 55, she qualified for the biennial national
competition, where she took gold. "I had never been so excited or
nervous," she said of the national contest, while noting it allowed
her to focus her energy in a positive direction. "It has given me
so much confidence."
TCU peforming artist making his Bass Hall debut was ballet and modern
dance alum Andrew Parkhurst '93, who served as dance captain of
the traveling production of "Mamma Mia!," which made stops in
Dallas and Fort Worth in October and November. "This is one of the
highlights of my career because the music and dance is so much fun,"
Parkhurst says. "Those ABBA hits really get people dancing in the
aisles, and that's when it is really enjoyable." As dance captain,
Parkhurst covers all the male ensemble roles and teaches the show to new
cast members. "I have to know all the movements and be ready to perform
any role when cast members go on vacation or become ill," he says.
Parkhurst has worked Broadway in productions of "Guys and Dolls"
and "Cabaret," both to rave reviews. He also toured Europe extensively
in Dracula in 1998. While he was in Fort Worth with "Mamma Mia!,"
Parkhurst returned to TCU one morning to lead a masters classin Studio
B of the Ballet Building. "Teaching is my life. It's my job with
the show, but it something I enjoy every day."