Harold Oaks

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Harold Oaks, 2011

Dr. Harold R. Oaks loves the theatre and teaching it to his students. He specialized in Theatre for Young Audiences, presenting papers and workshops in various parts of the world. He has directed over 48 college, university, and community theatrical productions. He was Chair of the Theatre Department at Brigham Young University for over 12 years, and helped found the Film program. He also founded the BYU Young Company (formerly known as the Whittlin’ Whistlin’ Brigade) and was its Artistic Director for 25 years.

Education and Career

Harold Rasmus Oaks was born June 20, 1936 in Provo, Utah. He attended grade schools in Vernal, Roosevelt, and North Ogden and graduated from Weber High School. He attended BYU, where he earned his bachelor's degree in speech and drama in 1960 and his master's degree in theatre and cinematic arts in 1962. In 1964, he received his PhD from the University of Minnesota, where he was an Instructor and an assistant in the Office for Advanced Drama Research. He also taught two years each at Frostburg State University, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and Colorado State University, and taught for 32 years at BYU. During his career at BYU, Oaks served as the chair for the Theatre and Media Arts department (1980-1993) and as Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications (2000-2002).

Oaks was a founding member of the Utah Theatre Association, Co-Chair of the Utah Alliance for Arts Education, and President of the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association. He was Vice President of the American Theatre Association, Vice President of the University and College Theatre Association, President of the American Alliance for Theatre & Education, Treasurer of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, on the Board of the American College Theatre Festival and on the Education Advisory Panel of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He was also elected President of the United States Center for International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People and President of ASSITEJ International, based in Stockholm, Sweden, with centers in over 70 nations.

Awards & Honors

Oaks is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, and received the Medallion of the Children’s Theatre Foundation and the Gold Medallion of Excellence from the American College Theatre Festival. He has received both teaching and research awards from the College of Fine Arts & Communications. In 2011, Oaks received an Alumni Distinguished Service Award from BYU for his contributions in the world of theatre.

Theatre for Young Audiences, an international theatrical organization with centers in over 70 countries, created the Harold Oaks Award in 2013 in his honor. Oaks served as president of the US segment of the organization for eight years and as president of the entire organization for three years. The first Harold Oaks Award was given in May of 2013 and will continue to be awarded each year to an outstanding individual or group working in the theater field.

Personal & Family Life

Harold Oaks as a young missionary
Oaks served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Holland and Belgium from 1956 to 1959. He married Virginia Mae Blunck in the Salt Lake Temple in 1960 and they had five children: Lori, Shela, Emily, David and Melissa.

He and Virginia traveled with the Young Company in the United States and to Yugoslavia and Austria. Virginia accompanied him when he served as Tour Manager for the Young Ambassadors to Japan and China in 1986.

Oaks has held various LDS Church positions, including Branch President, Bishop, and Counselor in a Mission Presidency.

Following a long battle with cancer, his wife Virginia passed away in 1996. The next year Harold married Ima Jean Peck Farley. They have served four LDS missions together— the Puerto Rico San Juan, Philippines Manila, Germany Frankfurt, and Washington D.C. missions—and have traveled extensively in the United States and throughout the world. At the request of the Church, they developed a series of health-education puppet shows that have been used in more than two dozen countries around the world and translated into more than 16 languages. Between them, the Oaks have 11 children.

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