A final bow for Regal

Professor David L. Regal acted in his final UDM Theatre Company production over the weekend. He is retiring after 45 years at the university.

Regal was invited to join the newly formed University of Detroit and Marygrove Performing Arts Company in 1971 as a guest artist.

When Dominic Misiam left the company, Regal filled his role as artistic director, which he then held for over 40 years.

Regal played an important role in the survival of the theatre company during two economic downturns when the department was in jeopardy of being removed from the UDM curriculum.

During his decades with UDM, Regal directed 60 productions and acted in 47 others.

He received 15 nominations and won the award for best actor, as well as the award for best supporting actor four times.

As a director, he was nominated for the top honor 18 times and won five times.

Regal is also a recipient of the Lee Hill Career Achievement Award.

Under his supervision, the theatre company received eight best play awards, seven best director awards and 22 best actor and best supporting actor awards, which is unmatched by any other theatre in the Detroit metropolitan area.

To honor Regal, the UDM Theatre Company put on one final production in his tenure, a one-man show starring Regal himself.

“Barrymore,” a play by William Luce, is the story of John Barrymore as he rehearses one final play before his death in 1942.

“I urge you not to come to ‘Barrymore’ expecting a storyline, characters, theme conflict – all the things we normally ask of a play,” professor/director Arthur Beer told the audience before the production. “Imagine, instead, that you have been invited to the farewell performance of a great man of the theatre.”

After the performance, many recalled moments with Regal.

Beer, his longtime friend and colleague, started working with Regal in 1967.

“I’ve directed him 11 times,” he said. “He’s directed me 17 (and) we’ve been in five shows together. I remember a time when David was arrested by the campus police for trying to break into the theatre, and so many other stories that can’t be told in public.”

Mark Denham, dean of CLAE, applauded Regal’s impact on the college.

“Even if this is the last night (Regal) will spend on stage, it will not be the last effect he will have had on the world,” said Denham. “There are people in this room, as well as around the world, which he has made lasting, lifelong … impressions on.  These productions are real art, in the sense that they change audiences lives. They have something to say, they push their audiences and David has been the real foundation of that.”

One of the company’s most notable alumni, Mary Gutzi, who starred in the original cast of “Lés Miserables” on Broadway in 1987, gave a short speech and sang a song, dedicated to Regal for his impact on her.

“I still think about things I learned here, with him,” said Gutzi. “I’m happy to have a lasting career in professional theatre because of this school and this man.”