Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Winter 2017 (January 30, 2017 at 8:00 am)

Theatre Professor Carl Balson


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January 10, 2017 at 3:22 pm

[W17] Carl Balson
Photo from: Beloit College Archives

When word came that Theatre Professor Emeritus Carl Balson had died last fall, the memories emerged quickly. Carl was remembered as someone who inspired others, lived in the moment, and relished his role of teaching students absolutely everything about theatre—from performance to promotion to the work backstage. Carl died Sept. 8, 2016, at age 84 in Beloit.

At the college, Carl taught theatre and public speaking and was integral to the success of WBCR radio over many years. He directed the college’s audio-visual services and the language lab during a tenure that spanned from 1957 to 1997. He also founded and directed the city of Beloit’s public access television station and enlisted the studio to teach students.

Carl was a lifelong advocate for the arts, especially of community theatre, including the Beloit Civic Theatre and Janesville Little Theatre. He performed in professional theatre, at the popular New Court Theatre in Beloit and at New American Theatre in Rockford, Ill., founded by artistic director J.R. “Jim” Sullivan’72.

Carl’s multiple talents included performing in other ways: as a semi-professional magician, a musician for the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra, and as an ace joke teller.

“Students and faculty loved Carl,” recalls Donna Thorson, longtime director of the college theatre’s Costume Shop. “I would be working in the Costume Shop and hear uproarious laughter coming from Carl’s direction down the hall. He was telling jokes. And no one could tell a joke better. A crowd of students and faculty would be gathered around him waiting for the punch line. And then it would come, along with spontaneous laughter.”

Carl was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and studied at Bowling Green University in Ohio. He earned his master’s degree from Syracuse University.

For many alumni, Carl was simply their favorite teacher. His former students include Amy Wright’71 and Jameson Parker’71, who both went on to build notable careers as stage and film actors. When Provost Ann Davies emailed faculty emeriti to alert them of Carl’s death, she wrote, “Carl was cheerful, kind, irreverent, and fun. While we’re sad to lose him, I know Beloit is a better place for his gifts.”

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