Just a week shy of his 92nd birthday, W. Vosco Call died on Christmas Eve, leaving behind a legacy of stage directing excellence and generational storytelling.
“There are not too many people like him left,” said Vosco’s grandson, Richie Call. “I have said that frequently throughout my life but that’s the first time I’ve said it since my grandpa passed, and it kind of chokes me up to say because he really was a relic of a time gone by.”
Vosco Call was born in Brigham City and while he focused mostly on sports in high school, he ended up in a drama class taught by a veteran who had been sent to a hospital in Brigham City and after becoming restless had wandered over to the high school to offer his services.
This volunteer teacher happened to be an original member of the Group Theatre in New York City, which was the birthplace of careers for many pioneers of American theater and cinema. This experience changed the course of Vosco’s life as he began to chase a career in theater.
He attended USU straight out of the U.S. Army on the G.I. Bill, and after earning degrees from USU, the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota, he worked professionally across the country from New York to California.
“He did it all,” Richie said. “By the time he was my age, he had played every major Shakespeare role that there is, some of them more than once.”
When faced with a choice between returning to USU as a faculty member or heading to L.A. to pursue a movie career, he chose the more familiar of the two.
Vosco oversaw a renaissance of the theater department and the acquisition of the Lyric Theatre, which to some community members marked the genesis of Cache Valley’s flourishing performing arts hub.
Wendi Hassan, the executive director of Cache Arts, said she values the ripple effect of Vosco’s expertise in the community.
“Vosco started the movement that preserved our historic theaters,” Wendi said. “It was that vision that he had that really started the energy that we still have downtown. I am grateful everyday for his efforts.”
Both Vosco and his wife, Ruth, gave much of their life to building up performing arts in the community. Ruth, who died in 2004, was also an actor and director and founded the Unicorn Theatre which is a children’s theater company in the valley.
For many years, the Lyric Theatre was the primary performance space for the department of theater arts until they broke ground on the fine arts building in the late ‘50s.
Hating to see the Lyric Theatre sit empty all summer long, Vosco founded the Old Lyric Repertory Company in 1967. To this day, it employs professionals from across the nation and students from USU to produce four shows each summer.
According to Richie, Vosco remained heavily involved even after he retired and continued directing until fairly recently.
Richie worked closely with his grandfather over the last 10 years and now carries on Vosco’s work as the artistic director of the Lyric Repertory. He said he is grateful to have learned from his grandfather but also recognizes that he is not the only one who has benefited from Vosco’s extensive training and knowledge.
“One of the things that has occurred to me over the last few days as people have come together and shared their memories of him with me is that so many people have the same kind of relationship with him that I do,” Richie said. “So many people looked up to him like a father figure and certainly as a mentor.”
Wendi remembers having Vosco as her directing professor when she was a theater student at USU.
“I can see the impact that he has had on generations of theater students,” Wendi said. “As a director, he had an uncanny sense of timing and comedy. He would regale us with experiences of his career and it was eye-opening for us as students.”
Wendi’s husband, Dennis Hassan, first met Vosco as a high school student many years ago and was a student of Vosco’s in years following. He worked closely with Vosco for eight years as the artistic director for the Lyric Repertory Company up until recently.
“He really is the founding father of performing arts in Logan,” Dennis said. “He started the great performing excellence that Logan is well-known for across the country. He was an inspiration to me.”
Dennis performed with Vosco and was impressed with the commanding tone of his voice and stage presence.
“He was good enough that he could have made it big anywhere in the world,” Dennis said, “but his roots were in Logan and he settled here and made a difference. He was deeply involved and was always there to give me advice, telling me what I was doing wrong and what could be done better.”
Richie relates to the idea that Vosco was an ever-present figure in the theater.
In 2008, Richie performed with Vosco in “The Dresser.” Just before the curtains closed on opening night, he and his grandfather were the last two characters on stage. He took his grandfather’s hand and led him offstage to wait.
“It was silent, there wasn’t any applause,” Richie said. “I was holding his hand walking around the stage when he patted my hand and said, ‘You’ve got them. You’ve got them, my boy.’”