Theatre professor to direct his son in ‘Hamlet’

Photo by Anne Richoux


David Burke, professor of theatre and director of the theatre, watches as his son, Will Burke, senior music major, rehearses lines from ‘Hamlet’ Feb. 20 in the W.D. Powell Theatre. | Photo by Anne Richoux

David Burke is more than just the Union University director of theatre. He’s the father of five, and his youngest son, Will, is playing the lead role in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” which opens March 20.

However, this is not Burke’s first time directing productions in which his children have played a role.

Burke has had the unique chance to work with all five of his children on different productions throughout the years, even working with one of his sons on a production that he wrote himself.

Burke said producing a play with one of your children is not all fun and games, noting that working on productions can sometimes be difficult.

He mentioned the possibility of animosity with the rest of the cast because people may cry favoritism.

Burke said that he has given roles to others just to avoid that kind of criticism.

“I’ve had my own daughter in tears over a part before, just to avoid that outside pressure that can come from a cast,” Burke said.

“I hurt her feelings deeply at one point, because she should have had the role and I didn’t let her have it simply because of what people would say,” Burke said.

Will Burke said that favoritism is a struggle for him, too.

“I always doubt or wonder if I’m being shown favoritism and I just don’t notice it,” he said.

David Burke said he made sure this time around that favoritism was not an issue.

“I gave five or six guys ample opportunity to knock Will off for the role, and they just didn’t do it,” Burke said.

Burke has directed at least one production with all five of his children now and said he is proud to have worked with his children on productions and see them perform something they worked on so closely together.

Theatre has obviously played a big role in the Burke family – Burke’s daughter is a theatre teacher in Tulsa, Okla.; and his helps build sets for several theatre companies in Nashville.

“All of my kids have been involved in theatre, some more than others,” Burke said, noting that all five of his children attended Union for some length of time.

Burke cites his family as the reason he came to Union in the first place.

“I was working for a professional theatre company and started having a family and my life was too complicated, and so I started trying to find a way to still do theatre and have a family life as well,” Burke said.

Burke returned to graduate school where he received his master’s degree at the University of Houston.

He then submitted his resume to colleges all over the South and eventually became the director of theatre at Union, a position he has held for 28 years.

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
About Jake Wynn 34 Articles
Jake Wynn is a Public Relations major in the Union University class of 2015, and the Cardinal & Cream's Arts and Entertainment editor. Jake loves music, film, and sports.