Only in Lawrence: Out of the limelight, Lied Center star shines
For someone who isn’t a faculty member at Kansas University, Ann Hause does a lot of teaching.
Standing backstage at the Lied Center, a small group of students at her side, Hause picks a spot on stage and holds her position. She stands still so one student atop a Genie Lift, dozens of feet in the air, has a chance to aim and focus a red spotlight on her figure.
Hause then slips out of the spotlight and heads towards the lift, showing the students how to slowly reposition the piece of equipment with someone on top.
“And if you’re up there you can go ahead and kneel to make it feel more stable,” she said as the students nodded along.
Hause, a 15-year veteran technical director at the Lied Center, began her theater career center stage, soon to discover that she’d rather be out of the limelight. As one of the center’s three technical directors (her husband, Andy Hause, is another), Hause now leads a life of logistics, turnover, lighting, technical preparations, budgeting and scheduling.
“I started acting in middle school and early high school,” she said. “And I got kind of nosey backstage with my friends who were working on lighting and stuff, and then I got to college and found that I prefer to be off stage.”
Between Broadway shows, concerts, dance recitals, stand-up comedy routines, speeches, addresses and mixers, Hause said there’s something new to prepare for nearly every single day.
“I’m in charge of making sure that every event that happens in the Lied Center has the production they need to be successful,” she said. “Whether they have everything prepackaged and we just need to provide labor or if they’re not sure what it is they want or how to articulate it and we just need to make it special.”
But the center’s technical directors don’t do it alone, her husband said. Each year the center receives a new crop of student technicians who help with the work. Some come with a bit of experience, others are completely new to the business. Either way, Hause will help them jump in, head first, he said.
“She works with all of them, shoulder to shoulder, teaching them all the functions of stage lighting, how to interact with the artists, basically how to be a good stage hand,” Andy Hause said. “She loves to teach.”
Roderick Bloom, a KU senior studying theater, said he’s worked under Hause for a year and a half. After he graduates he plans on moving to Los Angeles or heading to Austin, Tex., to check out the budding film scene down south.
Wherever he goes, Bloom said, he’ll be able to use what he’s learned from Hause.
“I’ve learned about lighting, I’ve learned about repair, focus. I’ve used the lighting board. And she taught me about leadership,” he said. “She’s given me the opportunity to lead younger people or people who haven’t been here as long as I have.”
Learning with Hause is a hands-on experience, Bloom said. And it’s a process that’s made easier by her approachable demeanor.
“She’s always ready to come out on stage if she’s in her office,” Bloom said. “She’s extremely personable. No question is a dumb question. She’ll never get upset at you for asking something.”
Every year there’s a student or two who really takes a liking to the business, Andy Hause said, and Ann Hause is more than ready to take them under her wing.
“It’s really neat to see. We’ve got 50-plus kids on our crew and there are always a couple who want to know more and go beyond,” he said. “And she’ll say ‘alright, you come, I’ll mentor you and you’re in the trenches with me.'”
Over the years, a few students have even switched to theater majors after their time at the Lied Center, Ann Hause said.
Since the couple has worked together for over 15 years, Andy Hause said it’s easy for that work to come home with them.
“There’s not a lot of separation of church and state,” he laughed “We have two kids, 9 and 16, and when we’re really really busy we’ll find ourselves talking about work at the dinner table. It’s hard to turn off sometimes.”
Sometimes the couple will even invite their crew over to their home as a way to get to know everybody and bolster the group’s team mentality, they said.
No two weeks are the same at the Lied Center, Ann Hause said. That and the impact she can have on her crew are among the many things bringing her back year after year.
“Part of it is just helping students, many of whom have never been away from home or had a job. They make that transition from high school to being out on their own and you’re helping them navigate,” she said. “You open the door and give them a place to bounce some concerns off somebody. That’s one of the things I love the most, helping them evolve.”