November Alumnus Spotlight: Doug and Cessna Kaye, Class of ‘70

TheKayesDoug and Cessna Kaye met and fell in love in the UC Berkeley Drama Department (as it was called then). They graduated in 1970, Cessna with her masters degree and Doug with his bachelor’s degree, and have been together ever since. Below, the couple shares about their experiences at Berkeley, their love of theater arts and the ways in which a theater degree can positively influence every aspect of a career arc.   

What is the strongest memory of your time at UC Berkeley?

Cessna: Oh my goodness there are so many! I hardly know how to answer that. From a classroom perspective it was a bit daunting, because I had taken a few years off before getting  my masters at Berkeley. The classes were challenging and exciting.

Doug: Mine was meeting Cessna.

Cessna: We met in directing class. Doug asked me out to a party that he and his roommate were throwing and that was it. We’ve been together ever since.

Doug: Let’s see, I won the [Roslyn Schneider] Eisner Prize for Continuing Creative Achievement in 1969 or 1970. That was exciting.

Cessna: I want to add that the time we were going to Berkeley was when People’s Park was erupting and there was tear gassing from helicopters and such. It was quite a turbulent time.

Can you tell us a little bit about where life took you after graduation?

Doug: After graduation, Cessna worked in the ACT costume shop at the Geary theater in San Francisco and I worked next door at the Curran, as a stagehand for the local union. A year later, in the summer of ‘71, we moved to NYC where I went to grad school for film and television. Cessna pursued acting and we got stuck there for 13 years. [They now live in Marin County.]

Over a period of years Cessna left acting and went into nursing. I produced a few films and together we produced a documentary. I worked in television and news as a sound man, covering the Senate Watergate hearings and then went into the computer software business. I was a CEO for many years and then decided to work my way down the corporate ladder. [Laughs] I got very involved in the early days of podcasting, ran a number of podcasts and developed a non-profit podcast network. Life’s never been boring!

How did the skills you acquired from studying theater apply to your careers?

Cessna: A theater background is excellent preparation for an adult life. It informs the way I look at the world, from learning very practical stuff—how to build a set, use a hammer and nail, and change a plug on a light—to learning about the world. I learned about the world through drama and I learned about world history and different ways of thinking through dramatic art history. It’s part of who I am.

I found that nursing, like theater, is very much about working as part of a team and being responsible for your part. It’s not just one person on their own; you are working together toward a common goal. When I put on my nursing uniform, it was similar to putting on a costume. There’s a transformation that takes place when you’re getting into character, and I would get that same feeling when I got ready for the day. Similar to theater, I knew that the role I was about to play as part of a team was important.

Doug: Because I worked in the technical side of theater, to me it’s all a continuation. I was a technical theater person, doing sound and lighting design, then moved into directing film. Filmmaking was always a relatively technical process for me (and maybe that’s why I didn’t stay in filmmaking). Then I worked with computer software, which is technical, and now do photography, which has technical elements. It’s been a continuum really.

What are you spending your time on these days?

Cessna: For me, my nursing career morphed into what is known as complementary care, or care that goes along with western treatments. I perform a form of Japanese acupressure, called jin shin jyutsu, working one on one with patients that are dealing with cancer. Jin shin jyutsu helps them deal with the western treatments they are receiving, whether it’s surgery, chemo, or radiation. The jin shin jyutsu helps them tolerate treatment and recover more quickly.

Doug: About 2009, I went back to photography which was an old passion of mine. Since then I’ve been a nonstop photographer. I now teach quite a bit of photography and photoshop, and I lead photo tours to Cuba. [Doug is currently in Cuba on his fourth photography trip to the country.] I have a trip in November and then another in January with a group of students. I refer to myself as a full-time amateur photographer. That’s become a new passion for me.

Cessna: When talking about retirement and Doug, the two words are never said in the same universe.

What role do the arts play in your lives currently?

Doug: It’s in our blood. It is literally the foundation of our relationship as a couple. And even though we are not professionally involved in theater currently, we have always felt close to it. We go to New York frequently and see shows there; we see shows around the Bay Area.

Once you have worked with a group of people in drama, it’s an experience you never forget. Just that experience of collaboration and camaraderie and what it takes to put on a production and the appreciation of everything—from playwriting to directing to working as an usher—every little bit of it is something you relate to if you have ever worked in theater.

Cessna: I just can’t imagine theater not being a part of my life. It influences how I see the world.

As donors to TDPS and other theater organizations, what motivates you to support the arts financially?

Cessna: We really believe in supporting education and the arts, specifically the performing arts. That’s our big passion.

Doug: The apparent decline of support for the arts is something that makes us sad. With shifts in emphasis in education, it seems like academics are doing fine and sports are high on the donation sphere, but all of the arts seem to be suffering. And it’s sad, because in drama, you are exposed to performing arts, to written materials, to theater, to dance, to the visual arts. Performing arts really gives you the broadest background in the arts you can possibly get.

So that’s the reason that we donate to the arts. It’s obviously our personal connection to it, but it’s the importance of the arts in general.


November 2015.