February 2016 Alumnus Spotlight: Dick Capp, ’58

Name: Dick Capp
Year of Graduation: 1958
Major: Dramatic Art

What are your strongest memories about your time in the Department of Dramatic Arts or on the campus as a whole?
Well, one of the biggest things is that Zellerbach Hall wasn’t built yet, so we did shows in the basement of Dwinelle (the “Little Theater”) and in a converted lecture hall (Hearst Hall). It was still an active lecture hall, so you had to build sets that you could take down and put up again for each of the four performances. Personally, I was more interested in directing and technical theater than acting. I was a member of Mask and Dagger and Thalian Society; members of those two groups were always involved in any dramatic presentation.  We always had lots of fun on those enterprises.

I also directed the Axe Review for 2 years, which took about 3-4 months each time. The Axe Review was part of Berkeley Big Game leadup, taking place the week prior to the game. It was a big variety show put on by the living groups, fraternities and sororities. There were skits, and trophies. We’d always have a theme to the show relating to the Big Game or something about campus, and would usually borrow music from a big broadway show, like “76 Trombones” from The Music Man, and change the words to suit the theme. Everyone would get really excited. Again, with no campus theater, we had to rent the Berkeley Community Theater; each show was always a sellout!

I did a lot of audio recording for campus events and sporting games. A group of us formed the ASUC Radio-TV Theater,  and we would record concerts, football games, basketball games, glee club, octets, you name it. Then we would beg time on local stations to play them. The Berkeley campus had no radio or TV facilities at that time. Every week, we had a 15-minute segment where we talked about sports and featured a player of the week. One time we even took a tape recorder out on a boat and recorded the rowing crew during practice in the Oakland estuary, something easy to do today, but very difficult in 1958! We would do one TV show each year and broadcast one production about computers on KQED and one Glee Club presentation on KPIX in San Francisco  Another time we were recording an organ concert as part of the opening on a new concert hall. It was a major undertaking and they had brought in a guest organist. He got partway into his concert and lost his place in the music, so he said “I’m going to start again.” And he started the whole thing over. I was panicking that I would run out of tape, but it turned out alright after carefully splicing all the tapes together.

Where did life take you after graduation?
I went into the Air Force, since at that time ROTC was required on campus. I flew for the Air Force for seven years and was shot down in Vietnam. After the Air Force, I went to work for the airlines and ended up flying for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, which eventually became Boeing. I became an instructor pilot and test pilot on some very advanced commercial aircraft.

I also used my GI Bill to go to UCLA and study Film and Television ending with a Masters in Fine Arts. I would go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then fly for the airlines on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

What skills did you gain at UC Berkeley that were useful in your life or career?
As students, we really learned to be creative and inventive. Because we often had severe facility and equipment constraints, we had to make what we had work for us. Nothing was just handed to us, so I learned to be flexible. Also, I was a flight instructor for part of my career and that involved reading people. You have to know when to prod, when to use humor, when to be forceful. I think my experience in theater helped me to build connections and make quick assessments and direct people toward our mutual goals.

Does theater play a role in your life now?
You know, it’s hard to make money in theater unless you are really actively, consistently involved. So that wasn’t a life for me. But I do enjoy viewing live theater immensely. I live in Redondo Beach, south of LA, and we have great theater nearby to enjoy. Los Angeles, and even San Pedro, has lots and lots of little theater, as well as world-class music sources.

What is next for you?
Well, I’m retired. I do a lot of photography and it’s really fun now because digital photography is so easy compared to film. I spend time writing, consulting, and lots of traveling. I’ve been around the world four times and on all seven continents. My favorite country? Australia; if you listen closely, they do speak English and are very friendly to Yanks.



February 2016