Sarah Hoyt wants to help theatre students with endowed scholarship
Thursday, September 30, 2021
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Theatre has given Sarah Hoyt so much in her life. Now the 1966 alumna is looking forward to giving future thespians the same opportunities she was afforded by creating the Sarah K. Hoyt Endowed Scholarship in Theatre.
Hoyt’s interest in theatre and performing started before she was even in school. She grew up as the only girl in her neighborhood in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan. She wasn’t allowed to play with the boys there, so she built her own world using her imagination.
“I made stories that I acted out with my puppets, and then I had paper dolls and I drew and painted on them to design their clothes,” Hoyt said. “I had a dollhouse that I redecorated over and over again with the sofas, chairs, lamps and other things I’d cut out of the Sears catalog.”
Turns out Hoyt was cultivating her lifelong love for theatre and getting her first taste of performance and costume and set design.
When other little girls moved into the neighborhood, Hoyt gladly welcomed them into her homegrown theater. Together, they expanded on what she had done with puppets and dolls to put on skits that mimicked the soap operas their moms listened to on the radio.
She earned her first principal role in kindergarten.
“I got to play the fairy godmother in Cinderella, and that was a lot of fun, getting to go around and sing her songs,” she said.
Throughout her early childhood, the lure of the stage grew. She was drawn by the endless possibilities as well as the lessons that scripts and performances presented. She jumped at the chance to be in drama class at Harding High School.
“There’s always something to learn from the script that you’re reading,” she said. “There are so many new things you’re exposed to. You are constantly learning and doing something with good company and good guidance.”
Much of what she learned had application away from the stage.
“Learning a role can show you that your emotions are OK. It’s OK to be sad or to be angry … as long as you realize what you do with those emotions,” Hoyt said. “Theatre teaches you that for every wrongdoing, you get payback, and that can be an important lesson.”
Hoyt was set to attend the University of Oklahoma once she graduated. That was until her performance as Lady Thiang in The King and I pulled back the curtain on a life-changing opportunity.
In the audience was Vivia Locke, a member of Oklahoma State University’s theatre faculty. Locke offered Hoyt a full scholarship to OSU one day after the performance.
“We left the next week to enroll, and I got to chat with Ms. Locke about my responsibilities and what was expected of me,” Hoyt said.
Locke became her mentor and was central to Hoyt’s experience at OSU. As a senior, Hoyt directed a production of Everyman at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. It was at one of the rehearsals that Locke gave Hoyt advice that she still remembers decades later.
“Vivia said that the big secret of theatre is to just keep it simple,” Hoyt explained.
She carried that advice through her graduation in 1966 and her master’s degree at Colorado State University.
She returned to Oklahoma in 1977 and taught English and theatre at high schools in Perry and Oklahoma City.
Theatre taught her the importance of understanding the history behind whatever book, play, poem or any other piece students are reading. This concept made her a better English teacher, she said, recalling a specific student performance of Riders to the Sea. The one-act play is set in Northern Ireland, and she had her students studying Celtic culture and early 1900s history.
“I taught the kids the correct accent, the mourning process in Celtic culture and all the important aspects from that time period that needed to be portrayed correctly,” Hoyt said. “Theatre is a great way for students to understand the importance of learning about the world around them.”
Throughout her teaching career, Hoyt used theatre to positively shape her students’ experiences and lives by allowing them to express their creativity through having fun with their own ideas.
“I came in one night for rehearsal and they were fooling around as characters from Star Trek,” she said. “They were playing Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Sulu and a few other characters from the show. It was very creative, and they were having fun and enjoying what they were doing, which is what it’s all about.”
Apart from inspiring creativity and learning, Hoyt made sure to prepare her students for the work that life would require of them.
Hoyt retired in 2006 after 34 years of teaching. She enjoyed working with so many incredible students but knew that many of them were not able to pursue theatre into college because of financial circumstances.
“There are a lot of kids out there who were just like me,” she said, adding that Locke changed her life’s trajectory by offering her a scholarship. “They don’t have the opportunity to continue on with theatre financially, so when I had the chance to create this scholarship, there was really no choice, I just knew I was going to do it.”
Hoyt’s scholarship will be funded through her estate, but she is already donating additional money to the fund and will get to meet the first recipient of her scholarship in the fall of 2022.
Hoyt hopes this scholarship will be transformative for the OSU Department of Theatre and allow the recipients to do what they are passionate about.
“My goal isn’t for them to become the next Helen Mirren or Lin-Manuel Miranda,” she said. “I just want them to be able to choose their own path. Everybody needs that opportunity.”
Photos By: Sarah Hoyt
Story By: Kyle Stringer | CONNECT Magazine