Tim Vasen, Director and Lecturer in Theater at the University, died in an accident at homeon Mondayin Brooklyn, N.Y. He was 51.
Vasen, who was appointed director of the University’s theatre program in 2012, began working at the University in 1993, directing plays and teaching classes in the Program in Theater.
At the University, Vasen directed the world premieres of unproduced Soviet-era pieces by Alexander Pushkin.
Alongside Lewis Center Chair Michael Cadden and the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, he facilitated interactions between University students and Greek theater artists by developing the recurring course "Re: Staging The Greeks," which launched in 2008.He was scheduled to teach two sections of the class in spring 2016.
A California native, Vasen graduated from Yale in1987with a summa cum laudeBachelor of Arts in American Studies. He then attended the Yale School of Drama to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Directing in 1993before starting at the University.
Cadden said that Vasen had been his first hire, and explained that he and Vasen had co-taught on a number of occasions and taken classes to Greece three times. He noted that Vasen left to pursue other directing work at various companies, such as the director of Center Stage of Baltimore, but decided to return to the University as a teacher in 2003.
“That’s about twenty-three years of experience,” Cadden said. “In the last decade, certainly, he’s been an almost daily presence in my life and in the lives of those at the Lewis Center.”
Cadden said that numerous moving notes and Facebook comments by former students provided a way for Vasen’s memory to live on. He noted that the students spoke about the extraordinary vitality that Vasen showed, particularly the way he could push people farther than they thought they could go. Vasen also challenged long-standing interpretations of what theater could be or should be, Cadden said.
“A number of people talk about how even one course with him has been life-changing,” Cadden said.
Administrative director Marion Young also praised Vasen’s commitment to students, and how he built relationships throughout campus with individuals and departments. She said that he cared about introducing his students to theater and to the arts, and asked them to work on shows that truly influenced them rather than shows he wanted to direct.
Vasen’s focus on the intersection of fields across campus proved high-impact, Young added. She noted that Vasen co-taught with the Slavic languages department, was involved in the Hellenic Studies Department and the Music Department and served as an advisor in Whitman College.
“In some ways he brought the Lewis Center out to the rest of the campus, and brought the rest of campus to the Lewis Center,” she said.
Michelle Goldman ’18 explained that Vasen was an exceptional professor who took time to get to know his students outside of the classroom. Goldman is pursuing a certificate in theater with a focus on directing. She had initially wanted to enroll in Vasen’s directing class, but he advised her to take his THR 201: "Beginning Studies in Acting: Scene Study"class in order to gain the basic understanding of acting necessary to become a director.
“I came into the class super terrified of acting, and he definitely helped me think way more critically about things and step out of my shell a little bit more,” Goldman explained.
She noted that he made students feel comfortable, and that everyone in his class had been very close.
Goldman explained that Vasen had a vast amount of knowledge, often speaking at length about one part of a scene that a student had just performed. She said that sometimes she would come early to class because she had time to kill and would chat with Vasen, and so she felt like she got to know him quite well even after only one semester.
She noted that once his class had access to the tea supply in McCarter Theater, and they began a conversation about tea and coffee. Goldman and a friend have a tea blog, so Vasen offered to come do a small segment on coffee for the blog.
“He was just a lot of fun to be around in and outside of the classroom,” Goldman said.
Cadden explained that Vasen had no hidden agenda in his approach to teaching. For Vasen, the most important thing about theater was the people in the room together, Cadden said.
“'First we’re in a room together as artists, and later we’re going to be in a room together with audiences. What do we want to do? What do we want to say? What do we want to show?'” Cadden said, quoting Vasen.
Young said that as the Lewis Center begins to process its loss both emotionally and logistically, it is becoming clear how absolutely irreplaceable Vasen was.
“For me, the thing I keep thinking about is that he had such an amazing energy, and it’s very, very difficult to think of that energy as no longer with us, so I’d like to believe it still is in some way,” Young said.
Vasen is survived by his wife Leslie Brauman and two children, Sam and Rosie. A memorial service will be heldSundayat2 p.m.in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater on 185 Nassau Street.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated the time of the memorial service. It will begin at2 p.m.The 'Prince' regrets the error.