Chuck Hayes, grammar guru and actor, too!

It is just a bit of ink and three written words, but they capture a concept: Art is Control.

The young actor stands with his sleeve rolled up and wrist exposed to show those words often spoken by a Radford University theatre professor, Charles "Chuck" Hayes. Though the high school student with the tattoo has never met the man who spoke them, those three words have been gospel for him since he heard them from a Hayes disciple.

Chuck Hayes

Chuck Hayes

The sequence started with RU alumnus Pat Miller '83, a former stand-up comic who occasionally adjudicates Virginia High School League Theatre Festival competitions. A few years ago, Miller spoke to a group of competitors who had just finished a scene.

"You always have to be in control of your movements and motions. You always have to be in control because art is control," he advised them during the critique, hearing in his head the voice of Professor Hayes. " 'Art is Control' is something Chuck beat into our heads regularly and religiously—and still does," Miller said.

The mythology

There are many Chuck-Hayes-isms that have gained similar popularity since 1968, when Hayes came to what was then Radford College. In his four decades of service, Hayes has influenced, inspired and affected generations of students. He was granted professor emeritus status in 2008, and his influence is still touching hundreds of people.

Hayes played leading roles in numerous areas beyond theatre: administration of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, hosting the Governor's School at RU for the first time, bringing the Virginia Thespian Conference to campus, a student exchange program with Middlesex University in London and, most recently, helping to coordinate a redesign of the RU website.

An area in which his contributions may be less well known is sports. For eight years, he was the faculty athletics representative.

Known early on as one of the campus grammar police, Hayes seemed particularly attentive to adverbs, so much so that another tattoo might read, "-ly, that's an adverb!"

"Chuck was always a stickler for proper grammar and correct word usage," said Mark Curran '82. "If a student would say something like, 'Tonight's rehearsal went by quick,' Chuck would immediately respond with, 'Quickly! That's an adverb!' He never let lazy or sloppy language slide."

This worked as an advantage for Hayes, Curran said. "As students, we never wanted to let him down because we knew he had very high standards. We worked hard to make sure we lived up to those standards."

Hayes is also passionate about promptness, stating it this way: "To be on time is to be late; to be early is to be on time; to be late is to be dead."

The professional

Beyond the philosophy, grammar and promptness, a quality mentioned time and again when people speak of Hayes is his professionalism.

Professor Joseph Scartelli, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said his first thought of Hayes is, "Very professional. He even dressed it. He was always very white-shirt-and-tie, everything pressed, everything extremely presentable."

Hayes set an example for his students throughout his 40 years of teaching at RU. To prepare for his daily role of professor, he rose at 5 a.m. and was in work mode by 8 a.m.

"I went to military school," Hayes said. "Probably some of that is from there. When I first came to Radford, coat and tie were required of all professors."

A certain aloofness is associated with the professorial stereotype, but it does not apply to Hayes's relationship with his students.

"He's hard to describe because he was always very professional but at the same time, he wasn't stiff," said Leah Morehead '04. "He knew how to have a good time, especially when working on shows. He knew that there had to be an element of fun in it or else it was just miserable."

At the same time, she said, "He didn't tolerate a lot of nonsense. If you were trying your best, he would go out of his way to help you. If you were fooling around, he was very firm. He had patience. He knew that we were young and a little crazy sometimes."

Chuck Hayes

Chuck Hayes on the stage in Porterfield Hall.

A lifelong influence

Many of Hayes' students pursued careers in theatre and have been successful. Though comedian Miller is now retired from theatre, he still speaks of what he learned from Hayes. "Chuck gave me acting skills that are invaluable, I mean, it transfers really well." He credits his RU training with paving the way for him to do feature film work.

Dozens of other alumni have gone on to careers in film, television and commercials. They have directed off-Broadway shows, opened theatre companies, performed as professional puppeteers, even gained fame in exhibitionist theatre. Many who pursued other paths say Hayes and his theatre teaching affected their professional development, too.

Alumnus Mark Curran, now president and chief executive officer for Lion's Share Federal Credit Union, believes his training with Hayes helped him in the business world. "It gave me self-confidence. It gave me the ability to speak in front of groups. It gave me the ability to lead. Being able to direct
productions helps me to lead other people."

Alumna Morehead is involved with community theatre and has just started a career as coordinator of alumni records and events at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, W.Va.

She credits Hayes with being a guiding light in the confusion of youth. She also still turns to him as a mentor. "I talk to him a lot. Any time I am stressed with big decisions, stressed with community theatre, I send a Facebook message to Chuck. He's always there—'Do this and it will happen.' He always has a very calm but helpful response."

Chuck Hayes, the actor

Chuck Hayes, the actor

Rooted at RU

"When I came, I was only going to stay about two years and leave," Hayes said. "And I've been lucky, I've had several job opportunities or interest expressed in me going somewhere else. But every time I would think about it, the university would change in a direction I wanted to go."

He was hired to teach in the new Department of Dramatic Arts and Speech. Theatre performances were held in Founder's Hall, and the production budget was $100.

"We did become our own department. We did get our own building. We did go coeducational. Every time I would feel like, 'I'm getting boxed in here, I need to go somewhere else,' Radford would open up and go in another direction. So I stayed."

In the late 1990s, Hayes realized his potential as a playwright, and RU produced his first play, "Jackie-Jean and Her Sisters." The production was among the 60 plays with which he was involved at Radford and cemented his position as a fixture in RU theatre history.

"First and foremost, he is an artist. You can't fake that stuff," Scartelli said. "I think in some areas it is possible to teach students things by learning them yourself the week before, but you can't do that in the arts. Chuck was an extraordinarily accomplished artist. After that you add in the character traits, the work ethic—he held students' feet to the fire as well as his own feet to the fire."

Alumnus Miller adds a final thought about Hayes. "I say he was tough, but I think the thing that made him so great is that, not only was he tough on you, but you felt that if push came to shove he'd have your back. At the end of the day, after all the rigors and rigidity and the way this had to be done, he just basically had your back.

"We certainly had our moments," Miller said. "What great relationship doesn't?"