A man who had a huge impact on the Cache Valley theater community left us all in late December. So this is a humble tribute to W. Vosco Call.
Vosco Call, 91, wasn’t just the grandfather of my good friend USU Theatre Arts professor Richie Call, the artistic co-director of the Old Lyric Repertory Company. Vosco was also the grandfather of the entire performing arts community here.
A native of Cache Valley, Vosco was already an accomplished stage actor when he joined the faculty at Utah State University decades ago. He was one of the founding members of the university’s modern theatre arts program, where he helped to mold multiple generations of future performers. Vosco also played an instrumental role in the acquisition and restoration of the Caine Lyric Theater in downtown Logan. In 1967, he founded the Old Lyric Repertory Company and the rest, as they say, is history.
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to Vosco as “The Godfather” of Cache Valley performing arts. That’s a role that Vosco would have been equal to. I know that because, by a twist of fate, I was lucky enough to share the stage with the legendary Vosco Call the night that he performed for the last time in a theatrical production.
Back in 2016, I was invited to do a walk-on guest appearance in the first act of the Lyric Rep’s final performance of the classic “Arsenic and Old Lace.” It was a minor role as one of the Brewster sisters’ potential poisoning victims, just three or four minutes on stage with a handful of lines.
At that time, I hadn’t been on stage for more than 20 years and I worried about how I’d handle even a minor part in a show while surrounded by younger, veteran performers. Then, on the show’s opening night, I watched 88-year-old Vosco Call perform an equally minor role in the play’s second act. After that, I knew just what to do when it was my turn in the barrel later in the show’s run.
The father of modern acting, Konstantin Stanislavski, said: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” There was nothing small about Vosco Call or his performance that night. But there was nothing flashy about it either. “Arsenic and Old Lace” wasn’t Vosco’s show and he knew it. That production belonged to two veteran Equity actresses Leslie Brott and Colleen Baum, who were playing the hilariously poisonous Brewster sisters, and to newcomers Mitch Shira and Cameron Blankenship, who have since gone on to bigger things both for the Lyric Rep and other performing companies.
It might have been tempting for Vosco to deliver a scene-stealing performance in the role of Mr. Witherspoon, the manager of an insane asylum. He could certainly have pulled that rabbit out of his hat. But Vosco’s job in that show was to help make his fellow performers shine and that’s exactly what he did, night after night.
Vosco was just as professional backstage as he was in front of the footlights. There was no fuss, no sweat, no bother. Vosco arrived just before he was due on stage, donned his costume, did his role, took a quick bow during the ensemble curtain call and was gone again.
Vosco brought that same sense of professionalism to his roles as teacher, director and mentor over the
years and we still see his influence in the talents and abilities of his former students in various performing arts groups.
According to Richie Call, his grandfather was proud of and content with his accomplishments in the final weeks of his life. We should all be so lucky.