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Memorial

Hugh Z. Norton
LSA Minutes

Hugh Zeno Norton
1912-1963

Hugh Zeno Norton, Associate Professor of Speech at The University of Michigan, died of a stroke in St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on May 13, 1963, at the age of fifty.

Professor Norton was born on September 24, 1912, in Gloversville, New York, the son of Frederick E. and Clara Mittler Norton. On May 31, 1942, he married Dorothy M. Haydel of New Orleans, Louisiana, who survives.

Professor Norton was graduated from Rensselaer High School, New York in 1930. He received his bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in 1936, from New York State College, Albany. He came to The University of Michigan as a graduate student in 1940 where he received the M.A. degree in 1941, and the Ph. D. degree in 1947. After serving as an assistant and teaching fellow in the Department of Speech at the University, he was appointed a lecturer in English from 1942 to 1944. He later served as a lecturer in speech in 1946, instructor in 1947, and assistant professor in 1949. He was promoted to associate professor in 1956.

Early in his career Professor Norton became active in professional theatre work. His professional experience included acting in the Leslie Howard company of Hamlet, the Fred Stone company and the Mohawk Drama Festival of Schenectady, New York, in which he performed under the direction of Charles Coburn for six years before coming to Ann Arbor. He also acted in radio and many summer stock productions. He was a recording artist for the American Foundation for the Blind and a cathedral musician at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York.

At the University he is remembered for distinguished acting in Margin for Error, The Critic, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Cycle of Mystery Plays. He also took part in several Choral Union productions of The Messiah, and he appeared as Brother Dominic in the 1961 May Festival production of Arthur Honegger's dramatic oratorio, Jeanne d' Arc au bucher. For several years he read the citations for honorary degree recipients at the University commencement exercises.

For more than ten years Professor Norton taught the lecture course, History of the Theatre, for undergraduate students. He was a highly skilled lecturer who prepared faithfully for his students. His broad training, professional experience, and studies of theatre in Europe contributed to his effectiveness in the classroom. In other courses, Professor Norton showed a special interest in theatre criticism and regularly taught a seminar in theatre criticism. He was the director of numerous doctoral studies, serving as a committee chairman for dissertations on the critical theories of William Winter, Brander Matthews, H. T. Parker, and Percy Fitzgerald, as well as dissertations in other areas of theatre.

Professor Norton's most notable contribution to the University community was in his direction of plays. In the summer of 1941 he directed the production of A Cycle of Medieval Mystery Plays in Hill Auditorium and played the leading role. Other classics which he directed include three by Moliere, Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, and The School for Husbands; Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus; Jonson's Volpone; Goldoni's The Fan; and Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and Arms and the Man. He also directed a series of operas in conjunction with the School of Music; La Boheme, The Masked Ball, Gianni Schicchi, Hansel and Gretel, Cavaleria Rusticana, The Bartered Bride, and Mussorgsky's The Fair. His particular forte was in his handling of the play of family life, or of complex character relationships, choosing plays a wide variety of style; The Happy Time, You Can't Take It With You, The Winslow Boy, The Glass Menagerie, There Shall Be No Night, Harvey, Second Threshold, Mrs. McThing, Juno and the Paycock, Purple Dust, Desire Under The Elms, The Philadelphia Story, Look Back in Anger, Epitaph for George Dillon, Antigone and the Tyrant, The Waltz of the Toreadors, Amphitryon 38, Arthur Miller's adaptation of The Enemy of the People, Picnic, The Living Room, Five Finger Exercise, The Traitor, Inherit the Wind, and Bell, Book and Candle. He also directed two student written plays, The Clugstone Inheritance and Man on a Tiger. His last production was The House of Bernarda Alba, which opened March 27, 1963.

The unexpected death of Professor Norton has taken from the Department of Speech a most able teacher and theatre director. He was a most perceptive and insightful person, one who disdained the superficial, whether in teaching or in theatrical productions. In recent years Professor Norton had a series of illnesses unrelated to the stroke he suffered on May 12, 1963, which came as a great shock to his colleagues and students. He will be greatly missed by a host of colleagues and former students.

Professor Norton is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and by his mother, Mrs. Clara Mittler Norton, of Rensselear, New York. To them the faculty of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts extends sincere sympathy.

William P. Halstead
William M. Sattler