The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Luther Hanson: The show must go on


As a director for almost 50 years, Luther Hanson’s second home is the theater. Phoenix Kanada | Photo Editor | [email protected]

Luther Hanson: The show must go on

Alexander Cortez

Guest Writer


When it comes to acting, there’s no part too big or too small. Every piece moves and turns, and without one of them, the play cracks. Yet, what fixes or replaces missing cogs in a play is the director. Theater director and City College professor Luther Hanson knows what it takes to keep the show rolling.

Hanson is directing “A Miracle on 34th Street,” the City College theater mainstage play Dec. 1-16. The play tells the story of a little girl’s belief that Kris Kringle, a department-store Santa, is the real Santa Claus.

With almost 50 years under his belt, Hanson is not only a director. He has been an actor since high school. He has a passion for what he does.

Inside the Performing Arts Center Hanson has a hardworking cast of 27 student actors and seven stagecraft crew. Wearing a black outfit and writing notes as he sits in the second row of the theater during rehearsals, Hanson congratulates everyone on a good day. It is 10 p.m.

“When you’ve done theater for a long time, the theater itself becomes like a second home,” Hanson says. “There’s so much energy, especially if you think about what’s happened in theater over the years.”  

Hanson says his favorite places on campus are the Art Court Theatre and the main auditorium, since he says he spends just as much time in theater as he does at home.

Hanson was born and raised in Iowa to a father who was a Lutheran minister. After moving from church to church, he and his family settled in Palm Springs when he was 8 years old in 1963. There, Hanson would eventually find his passion in theater in 1971 while at Palm Springs High School.

“I was backstage in a production,” says Hanson. “I looked up at the lights, and I’d only done two plays at the time, and said, ‘This is all I want to do for the rest of my life.’”

Acting is what he’s been doing for the past 47 years.

Acting formed Hanson’s philosophical view of life. Playing characters who have different values, he says, has opened him to different ideas. Through his years as an actor, Hanson says he’s learned to develop a wider understanding of human nature from the estimated 150 roles he’s played.

Hanson says taking on the mindsets of many different characters was exciting because actors who take diverse roles don’t get trapped in their own way of thinking. He became aware of why people do certain things—especially in roles in which he played morally right or morally wrong characters.

The drama professor says he learned to better understand what people think and feel through acting.

“You have to get your head into all sorts of people,” Hanson says. “Some of them are good people and bad people.”
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Hanson met two of his mentors, William Needles and Robert Cohen, during his time studying at UC Irvine.

“He just explained the language,” says Hanson of Needles’ mastery of Shakespeare. “The meter and the verse and how all that works; that became clear to all of us.”

Cohen was a great professor, Hanson says, because he wrote the book that many theater teachers use today.

Hanson plied the acting craft at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in National City, south of San Diego. Though he’d made a lot of great memories over the years, his favorite role was in “The Nerd” where he played Axel in July 1992.

“Luther Hanson drives the tempo with his steady stream of wisecracks as Willum’s friend, Axel,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in a review of Hanson’s performance.

Hanson finds he enjoys both acting and directing in different ways.

“Acting is the most exciting, but it’s scary and when you get older,” he says. “It’s harder to remember the lines, so directing is more fun.”

Hanson says one of the advantages of working in theater is being able to collaborate on projects with his wife, like the Shakespeare Festival that he directed last summer.

Hanson draws praise from his drama students.

Stephen Gonzales, a first-time theater student at City College, says Hanson is a great director to work with.

“He gives off a good energy,” says Gonzales. “He just makes class more enjoyable.”

David Alcalay, the assistant stage manager of “A Miracle on 34th Street” speaks highly of Hanson. He feels he’s learning from Hanson because he’s someone who’s “hungry” to learn.

“It’s interesting to watch him,” says Alcalay. “From what I’ve noticed, he likes to subtly develop the actors.”

Alcalay says he sees Hanson help the actors challenge themselves and invest in their roles. Alcalay finds that some professors like what they teach, and there are others who are intensely passionate about what they do. To him, Hanson is the latter.


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