Roy A. Hine, Artistic Director of Indiana's Wagon Wheel, Dead at 51

Obituaries   Roy A. Hine, Artistic Director of Indiana's Wagon Wheel, Dead at 51 Roy A. Hine, the Chicago-area director and designer, and artistic director of Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw, Indiana, died of a heart attack Nov. 21, according to friends in the theatre community.

Mr. Hine was 51 and had served as artistic director at the commercial Wagon Wheel, an in-the-round Equity theatre, since 1995. He was first hired there as a designer in the early 1980s. His sudden death shocked friends in the theatre community. He was working on a new Wagon Wheel production of Cinderella at the time of his death.

Chicago cabaret performer Beckie Menzie, who acted and musical directed at Wagon Wheel under Mr. Hine, told Playbill.com, "I never knew Roy to give less than 100 percent, either as a director, a designer, or as a friend. He knew how hard a life working in the theatre can be, and he always thought if you were lucky enough to get a job, you should show up willing to give nothing less than everything you had. He tried to instill that in all the actors that he worked with."

"He helped so many actors in Chicago and New York get their professional start at Wagon Wheel," said Chicago casting director Bob Mason, citing Broadway's Kate Shindle (Legally Blonde) and Justin Bohon (Oklahoma!), as well as Heidi Kettenring (Marriott Theatre's Little Women, the Chicago company of Wicked) and Rod Thomas (on tour with The Lion King).

Mr. Hine grew up in Jamestown, NY, and earned a B.S. in speech and an M.F.A. in design from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

His most recent scenic design job was for the Jeff Award-winning Porchlight Music Theatre production of Ragtime in Chicago. Mr. Hine is survived by his parents, Roy and Angie, and siblings: T. J. (Claudia) Hine of Chicago; Jan (Steve) Johnson of Ashburn, VA; Daniel Hine of Leesburg, VA; and Beth (Ken) Mattheis of Pittsburgh, PA; and nieces and nephews, and many friends.

Memorials may be made to Wagon Wheel Foundation, 2517 E. Center St., Warsaw, IN 46580.

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With few exceptions, every performer who achieves some measure of success, whether regionally or on Broadway, started someplace that doesn't necessarily have a national profile but is important to the life of a specific community.

These breeding grounds for talent might be named Red Barn Theatre, Beef 'n' Boards, Enchanted Hills, Star Theatre, Haylofters, Melody Top or — in the case of one Midwestern theatre that celebrated 50 seasons in 2005 — the Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Alumni of the commercial summer theatre in northeast Indiana near Ft. Wayne gathered July 22, 2005, for gala reunion.

Faith Prince, who played Adelaide in the Wagon Wheel's Guys and Dolls in 1978, more than a decade before she won a Tony for the role on Broadway, sang at the gala. Michael McCormick, who played John Adams in the recent Broadway revival of 1776, played the fiery founding father at Wagon Wheel years before his Broadway turn.

Wagon Wheel, an important stepping stone for many young actors, has an alumni roster that includes Gregg Edelman, Brian d'Arcy James, Donna English, Sara Gettelfinger, Sally Murphy, McLean Stevenson, Karen Olivo, Martin Vidnovic, Barb Walsh, producer Kevin McCollum, directors Mark Lamos (who started out in the orchestra there) and Mark Hoebee, and TV actors Peter Reckell and Julia Barr.

The theatre began as the dream of the late Major Herbert Petrie, who attended an in-the-round theatre in Washington state while touring as a band leader for a renowned brass ensemble. He returned to Warsaw with the hope of starting a similar venue in his hometown.

Wagon Wheel Theatre held its first summer stock season in 1956 when the venue was a tent with a gravel floor and canvas chairs. An old chicken coop served as the shop for sets and costumes. The orchestra consisted of Vernon Rector playing the Hammond organ. Since its inception, there has been buffet dining available in an adjacent restaurant. It was a tent theatre until 1961.

Today, the theatre is part of a Ramada hotel, meeting, restaurant and entertainment complex.

For more information, visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.com.

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