Mary Hausch Profile

Producing director of the Hippodrome Theatre, Mary Hausch received Lifetime Achievement Awards this year from the Florida Theatre Conference and the Gainesville/ Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board and had days designated in her honor by Gainesville and Alachua County, shown Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, Fla.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 12, 2009 at 4:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 at 4:55 p.m.

Mary Hausch

Title: Producing director, Hippodrome State Theatre

Personal: Married to Hippodrome general manager Rocky Draud

Dream partner for lunch: Carl Hiaasen

Best advice received: "From my mother and father: To make sure that I focused on my education."

Favorite play: "M. Butterfly" (not to be confused with "Madame Butterfly")

Favorite book: "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" by Tom Robbins

Favorite movie: "Pan's Labyrinth"

Playing in her car: National Public Radio

Hobbies: Photography, painting her photography, gardening, biking.

Education: Bachelor of arts in theater, University of Florida, 1972.

When six University of Florida theater graduates started what would become the Hippodrome State Theatre in 1972, no one could have foreseen the impact they would have on developing the arts in Gainesville, revitalizing downtown and touching the lives of so many people through its performances and educational programs.

Mary Hausch has been there from the beginning and today leads the organization that provides theater performances on its Mainstage, an art movie theater, an intervention program for at-risk youths, a senior playwright program, a community literacy program and other educational programs.

For her efforts, Hausch was recently honored with lifetime achievement awards from both the Florida Theatre Conference and the Gainesville Alachua County Cultural Affairs Board, and both Alachua County and the city of Gainesville proclaimed "Mary Hausch Day" on different dates.

A proclamation from the city listed her accomplishments as directing more than 120 productions and acting in 50; writing and directing "An Enchanted Land," which won Best of the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 1999; her adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol;" founding the Hippodrome Improvisational Teen Theatre program; and winning the state conference's Excellence in Professional Theatre award in 2004.

She said the lifetime achievement awards coincidentally came two weeks apart.

"I was a little worried about that. Is it time to retire?" she said with a laugh.

It is at least time to reflect. She said many people have come up to her recently to tell her how the Hippodrome's programs have affected their lives over the years, from a girl who started getting over her shyness in theater class and grew up to become a lawyer to people who were inspired to become professional artists to people who just grew up to make art a part of their lives.

She said she sees the effects of the arts on the lives of at-risk teenagers through the HITT program that is so close to her heart.

"We're talking about drugs and violence and we're using art to change lives. You could see people change. It's amazing every time I see it still."

She has seen the arts grow from just a couple major organizations, including Dance Alive, to a community of thousands of artists.

"We really were the catalyst for development the arts here in Gainesville," Hausch said. "I think the Hippodrome starting and people seeing that success has really encouraged other artists."

She has seen the downtown come back from just a couple stores amid boarded up buildings in the 1980s to what it is today.

"It took 10 to 15 years for it to get even anywhere close to where it is now," she said. "We bring in sometimes 1,000 people a day if we have two shows and three movies and something else going on here. That influx of people really helped to create the synergy for lots of other businesses to come downtown and really have a base of clientele that they could depend on."

The Hipp, as it's affectionately called, is trying to carry on its mission with about $500,000 less than the $3 million budget of a year ago thanks largely to state cuts to art grants.

"In my 35 years, this is the toughest here as far as how much has been cut and trying to make ends meet with the types of programming we do," she said. "It has been really difficult to find ways to recoup that."

While she has a passion for the creative aspect of theater, Hausch said the business administration aspect satisfies her background in math.

She was studying advanced calculus and science at UF with plans of following her family into the medical field. During her junior year, dorm mate Marilyn Wall invited her to a show she was doing. She said she thought it would be fun to volunteer backstage, then Wall talked her into auditioning for a part and she got it.

That was it.

"The bite of the stage bug is something very few people can resist," she said. "I found people who were really interesting and that were fun to be around and I found an art form that was really collaborative and fun."

Her classmates, including Wall, founded the Hippodrome. Wall is still costume designer for the Hippodrome.

They started in an old convenience store on Hawthorne Road before expanding into a warehouse a couple years later. Hausch said everyone did a little bit of everything designing posters, costumes, sets and lighting, directing and acting, and how to run a business.

In 1978, they received a $150,000 national grant to renovate the downtown Federal Building, and raised another $1.5 million. They moved in two years later and shortly thereafter became an official state theater.

"A million people have been through our building and been a part of our life here and our history," Hausch said.

Contact Anthony Clark at or 352-374-5094.

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