12 May 2023 • Alums Kaltschmidt ’84 Supports Theatre Scholarships
Motivated by a lifelong passion for theatre, Russell Kaltschmidt ’84 has committed to a $100,000 endowed scholarship fund to support theatre students.
“Acting at HWS put me in the shoes of others, requiring me to adapt diverse perspectives — a practice we so need in today’s divided world,” says Russell Kaltschmidt ’84, who recently committed to a $100,000 endowed scholarship fund to support theatre students at HWS.
“I’m at the point in my life when I’m thinking about legacy and the impact I want to have,” he says. Scholarships offer “a way to support students like me,” he adds, noting that he relied on financial assistance to attend HWS.
Kaltschmidt’s gift will receive a 50 percent match from the Anderton Impact Challenge for Scholarship and Financial Aid. To reach its $3 million goal, the Anderton Challenge offers a 50 percent match to alums and friends 60 years and older who join the Wheeler Society with a planned gift of $100,000 or more.
“While I didn’t major in theatre at HWS, I felt like I minored in it,” says Kaltschmidt, who acted in six campus productions and directed another. “Theatre was very meaningful and rewarding for me. I hope this [scholarship fund] continues to elevate the visibility of, and the resources for, theatre at the Colleges.”
Kaltschmidt earned a B.A. in East Asian Studies (a major he designed), minored in American history, and earned teaching certification in secondary education. He went on to earn an M.F.A. in theatre with a concentration in directing from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He then embarked on a long career in human resources, focusing mainly on talent management. Since 2017, he has been self-employed as a career and leadership coach and devoting time to writing and producing theatre.
“My life today reflects a number of streams that were enriched by Hobart and William Smith,” he says, noting the teaching, writing and theatre skills he developed as a student.
Since graduate school, he has directed more than a dozen productions — mostly dramas and a few musicals — and written five plays. In 1995, he moved to the West Coast, where he has staged Bent, Cabaret, La Cage Aux Folles, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, ’night, Mother and The Full Monty, among others — all at theaters in Sonoma County, Calif.
Kaltschmidt recently wrote a monologue, “So Close to the Door,” based on a teacher’s account of a shooting incident at an elementary school in Stockton, Calif., in 1989. The story — which was included in a compilation of narratives in the book If I Don't Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings — moved him to write the monologue, which he refined after meeting the teacher.
“The highlight for me was getting to know the teacher who lived through this horrific shooting, and to take her account, find a way to put it on stage that was truthful to her account, and to sensitively dramatize the story,” Kaltschmidt says.
The monologue was performed at Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg, Calif., this spring, as part of a series of short plays based on the book.
More recently, Kaltschmidt has been involved in theatre as a producer. He was a coproducer of Little Dancer, a musical about the ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas’ iconic 1880 sculpture; the show premiered at the Kennedy Center and had its West Coast premiere in Seattle in 2019. He is excited to co-produce Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical when it moves to Broadway in the near future following a successful run off-Broadway in 2022.