During the mid-1960s on the Buena Vista College Storm Lake campus, the theater department presented Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Ben Mordecai, a sophomore from New York City, won the role of Hortensio - the would-be suitor who fearfully enters the stage to report that Katherina has just assaulted him with a lute, thereby providing an image of the title's "shrew" at her worst.
Ben and his roommate had auditioned for roles on a whim. Even though it was only his first experience as an actor, Ben played the minor character to the hilt and got the audience's laughs. Then with the encouragement of two of his professors, John Gooch and Stanley Longman, Ben soon progressed to the lead in the campus production of Hamlet. By the time he graduated in 1967, he knew he wanted to be in theater.
Today, Ben Mordecai is one of Broadway's busiest and most successful producers. All
of his 18 New York City productions have been nominated for Tony Awards. Three have won that high honor, plus four of his productions have won Pulitzer Prizes.
Ben's interest in theater began during his pre-teen years when he attended Broadway plays with his mother, but it was at Buena Vista College that he found his future.
Ben actually spent his freshman year at Lafayette College, but decided he wanted to get away from the East Coast. "Fate drew me to Buena Vista, which was recruiting aggressively in that area then," he says.
"I was not the most serious student at BV," Ben recalls. "I had a lot of fun." He started a chapter of Kappa Tau Delta men's social fraternity during his second year, and he was also the first "Beaver" mascot.
After graduating with a degree in speech and theater, Ben headed off for post-graduate studies and what he expected to be an eventual career as a college theater professor.
However, while working on his doctorate at Indiana University, the producing and directing bug bit him, so Ben and two other graduate students started the Indiana Repertory Theater.
Ben served as its producing director for 11 years.
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