Carveth Osterhaus, an opera and music theater director who spent most of his career teaching at Oklahoma City University and the University of Central Oklahoma, died Wednesday. He was 75.
After a distinguished career as an actor and dancer, Osterhaus transitioned into directing. His theatrical credits include productions at the New York City Opera, Maine State Music Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center and Music Theatre of Wichita. He was Lyric Theatre's first resident director when it opened in 1963.
“When you stop to consider all of the productions that Carveth was involved with over the years, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say his work has been seen by millions of people,” said Don Jordan, Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre artistic director.
Osterhaus was a member of the OCU music school faculty from 1973-89 and then served on UCO's faculty until retirement in 2003. At OCU, he created the libretto for Ray Luke's opera “Medea.” It won top prize in the New England Conservatory Opera Competition.
“There are really no words that can do justice when it comes to describing Carveth,” said Lara Teeter, a former student who is currently starring in a Kennedy Center production of “Show Boat.” “He was my north, my south, my east, my west, my teacher, my student, my friend, my brother.”
Many artists' mentor
A beloved theater director who was equally at home in opera and music theater, Osterhaus had a gift for challenging students to perform at a level beyond what they thought possible. He had a keen eye for creating memorable stage pictures and his quick wit made him a favorite with students.
“Carveth Osterhaus was an enlightened individual who, through the breadth and mastery of his knowledge, wisdom and generous spirit, guided, inspired and transformed a generation of artists,” said Greg White, a former student who now directs the music theater program at UCO.
In 2010, the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre honored Osterhaus for his contributions as theater director, dance instructor, acting teacher and mentor to hundreds of students. Many of his former students offered tributes and performances in his honor.
“Carveth taught us honesty,” said former student Cyndi Steele-Harrod. “If you are honest with the audience, they will take the ride with you. He would say, ‘Don't underestimate an audience and don't treat them like you are smarter than they are.'
“He said that rehearsal was the work and show time was the fun. It was never Carveth's goal to be a mentor to everybody, and that humble existence is what made him so great.”
Osterhaus is survived by his wife, Kay Creed Osterhaus, brother Cary Osterhaus and sister-in-law Linda, daughter Megan and son-in-law Christopher Bolan, and nephew Neal Osterhaus.