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MSUM's theater dept. founder dies at age 81

The founder of Minnesota State University Moorhead's Straw Hat Players was remembered Tuesday as a teacher who pushed students to be better than they thought they could be.

Delmar Hansen

The founder of Minnesota State University Moorhead's Straw Hat Players was remembered Tuesday as a teacher who pushed students to be better than they thought they could be.

Delmar Hansen, 81, died Saturday in Fargo's Villa Maria Nursing Home. A memorial service is tentatively planned for March.

Hansen, known as Doc, created MSUM's theater department, as well as the summer theater company that will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year.

Kristin Rudrud, the actress who played William H. Macy's kidnapped wife in "Fargo," called her time at MSUM with Hansen "the greatest training ground in the world."

"It was like boot camp," Rudrud said of Straw Hat Players. "You pretty much lived, breathed theater."


Hansen, who came to MSUM in 1958, directed more than 300 campus productions in his 32-year career, and taught hundreds of students who became professionals in television, stage, business and education.

He is survived by his wife, Rhoda, a former Fargo North English teacher who worked with MSUM students during evening and summer rehearsals.

"It's hard to mention Doc's name without saying Doc and Rhoda," Rudrud said. "They delivered a one-two punch."

In a 1982 Forum story, Hansen said he was consumed by theater. He listened to stage music while shaving in the morning and often curled up with a play or two after late-night rehearsals.

The couple spent their vacations in theaters in Minneapolis, New York and London.

"I plain am turned on by the theater," Hansen said at the time. "It's my life."

Rhoda Hansen said her husband will be remembered for some glorious shows.

"I think he'll be remembered by the students for his love of them and his devotion to doing it right," she said.


Watching performances directed by Hansen inspired Roray Hedges as a junior high student to pursue theater.

Hedges became Hansen's student in the 1970s and began working for MSUM's theater department after graduating. They worked closely for 26 years.

"He kept trying to pull more out of you, sometimes more than you wanted to give," said Hedges, design and production manager. "The direct effect was you got better and better."

Rudrud recalled some rehearsals when Hansen, a former Army platoon sergeant, "ripped her to shreds" for not performing up to par.

But Hansen knew just how hard to push, she said.

"What looked like authoritarianism was actually encouragement," Rudrud said.

Hansen was named Minnesota's Professor of the Year in 1987 and received a Burlington Northern Award for excellence in teaching. He retired in 1990.

A 900-seat theater in MSUM's Center for the Arts is named Delmar J. Hansen Theater. In 2006, MSUM named the theater green room after Rhoda Hansen.


Hansen had a strong impact on all of his students' lives, Hedges said.

"In a way he's still teaching," Hedges said. "That legacy continues in so many people. It's like a ripple in the water."

Hansen's students

These are some noteworthy professionals who were students of Delmar Hansen's.

- Jerry verDorn, Emmy winner/actor

- Bill Hultstrom, multiple Emmy winner/set design

- Jan Maxwell, Tony nominee/Broadway actress

- Kristin Rudrud, Broadway actress/Oscar-nominated film "Fargo"


- Cy Winship. HGTV Design Host

- Juleen Murray Shaw, Peabody recipient/TV, film and stage actress

- Kathleen McCall, Denver Center Company/Broadway actress

- Dave Demke, actor/Shakespeare & Company

- Brenda Cummings, regional and Broadway actress

- Dannul Daily, regional and Broadway dancer/actor

- Kim Moerer, regional and Broadway actor

- Delrae Knutson, regional theater actress/Chanhassen Dinner Theatre


- Jaclyn Ross, actress/voiceover talent

- Jean Rohn, casting director

- Jim DeBrito, producer/choreographer, Westend Entertainment, Denver

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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