Richard A.

Born November 18, 1939 in Wichita, Kansas. Died April 7, 2022, five weeks after being diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

A graduate of Yale University majoring in French, Rick’s brilliance, curiosity and creativity led him down many paths. An award-winning producer/director/writer for public television both here and at WGBH in Boston, his first love was drama. He received much acclaim for his adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter as well as memorable works inspired by Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde. He also had an innovative career at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. His media output is known for original formats to present arts, culture and social issues. With his company, Beyond.Broadcast, he created The Performance Lab, which used interactive technology to connect the arts community across the country starting in 1996 (long before the Covid-19 pandemic). He was always a man ahead of his time.

Rick’s love of archaeology and his decades of digging in Syria evolved into a revolutionary way of analyzing terra cotta figurines. He wrote several books on the subject that are now core to research in the field.

He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Nancy Mason Hauser; their daughter, Hannah (Rachel Green); grandsons, Gus and Ori; and son, Noah (Shannon Lukes Hauser). A memorial service will be held in person (masks required) on Wednesday, April 13 at 2:30 PM (CT) at Mount Zion Temple (1300 Summit Ave, St. Paul) and also streamed at Shiva will also be in person at Mount Zion Temple (masks required) later that day at 7:30 PM (CT); it will be zoomed. The family is grateful for the loving support of the community as well as Allina’s Hospice at Home program. Memorials may be made to the donor’s favorite charity.

Published on April 13, 2022  StarTribune

From Jim Jalenak
I am sad to tell you that our classmate, Rick Hauser, died on April 8th and his funeral was Wednesday, April 13th in St. Paul Minnesota. I thought you might like to read the lovely eulogy given by the rabbi at his funeral:

Rick Hauser was the very personification of valiant will. Look up the word valiant and you find such adjectives as bold, intrepid, indomitable, unflinching, and also spirited, plucky and spunky. Turn the page to “will” and you find determination, drive, purposefulness, tenacity.  And Nancy Mason Hauser is the personification of love and devotion.  Nancy’s tender care of Rick during his last days allowed him to die comfortably, at home in his own bed, in her loving arms.

Sometimes we say gratefully that a person died as they had lived.  That’s not really so of Rick.  Rick went out quietly, peacefully, without drama.  Which was quite a surprise to Nancy, because that is not at all how he lived.  Rick lived and loved drama – the good kind – the kind that makes people think and feel deeply, the kind that captures the complexity of life with all its pain and joy and struggle, and helps people connect to their own and others’ humanity.  This is the drama Rick lived for, worked for, and stood for.

Rick Hauser was born in Wichita, Kansas, from which, he said, he fled as soon as he could.  He came into a large extended family after his older brother died as an infant, and so, as he said, he “was cherished to within an inch of my life.”  His dad was a master salesman who, I suspect, instilled in him the drive to pursue excellence in everything he did, which he then passed on to his own children.  Rick was the salutatorian of his high school, missing valedictorian only because of a C in gym.  Perhaps that is why he liked wearing athletic jock headbands in his adult life – so people would never suspect that High School “C”.  While gym may not have been his subject, theater definitely was, and that became his lifelong passion.

He went to Yale College, majoring in French language and literature, and becoming a true Francophile.  Thinking he was applying to Ohio State for graduate school because of their reputation in research, Rick mistakenly applied to Ohio University which was a happy accident because there he was exposed to the craft of producing live television. Inspired by what he learned at Ohio, Rick secured a production internship at WGBH in Boston, of Masterpiece Theater and Julia Child fame.  The internship developed into a 14-year stellar career writing, directing, and producing, and winning awards for all of the above.  His crowning achievement at WGBH was his production of The Scarlet Letter miniseries.

Well, The Scarlet Letter was one of two crowning achievements of his time in Boston.  The other was falling head over heels in love with Nancy.  Nancy had been a dance critic in New York and had moved to Boston looking to become more actively involved in dance. She had reached out to many people, but Mr. Hauser at WGBH was the first to respond, even though he was about to leave for the Amazon for 6 months.  Nancy was impressed by Rick’s passion – not to mention his long legs – and felt he would be the one that would change her life.  Little did she know…

Rick was impressed with Nancy’s writing, so he hired her and left for the Amazon.  When he returned, they worked together on a couple of projects and had a couple of dates, and he fell hard for her.  Rick had been tapped to work on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, so he proposed to Nancy by asking her: “How would you like to spend the first 6 months of married life in England?”  She did, and they had great fun.  And later they had their 2 children, Hannah and Noah, and finally 2 beloved grandsons, Gus and Ori.

Back, now, to The Scarlet Letter.  It was so innovative that it impressed the bigwigs in Hollywood, and Rick was recruited to Columbia Pictures, and later moved to Paramount.  Rick’s work was always cutting edge; he loved pushing the boundaries of creativity.  He was, as I mentioned a moment ago, indomitable, intrepid, and bold, purposeful and determined.   His curiosity and brilliant mind produced ideas that were well ahead of his time, and he was all in with them.  He would pursue his vision doggedly until it was realized.  One colleague wrote of his arrival at Paramount: “Rick immediately earned the respect and admiration of Peter Bogdanovic, Adrian Lynne, [Gene Rodenberry] and Leonard Nimoy who all succumbed to his directorial prowess. Rick put them at ease and scripted their dialogue.”

From Hollywood, Rick was recruited to Twin Cities Public Television KTCA as Senior Executive Producer of Arts and cultural Programs.  Here he created national models for arts activism and community involvement and again, his work won many awards.

During the many years he worked in television, Rick also had a second, parallel and equally passionate career in archaeology.  It began when Rick met Giorgio Buccellati at UCLA.  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and some brilliant work on Rick’s part.   He said in his Humans of Mount Zion interview: “We were walking through the site in Syria one day, and someone said to me “Rick you really need a specialty.” So I looked down to the figurine I happened to be standing on, and said “how about figurines?”  This led to a passion for Object Biography, studying what objects have to tell us about culture, and using them as a window on the past. His unique insights about the figurines found at the Urkesh dig produced a book which has become the gold standard on the subject for museum goers and scholars alike.

When TPT changed its format, Rick founded Beyond Broadcast, whose mission was “to create unique arts experiences that challenge and inspire.”  It was built on Rick’s deeply held belief that “The language of traditional filmmaking is open to innovation.”  With Beyond Broadcast, Rick founded The Performance Lab, connecting artists and communities through innovative technologies that had barely begun to be imagined.  The Performance Lab’s website description truly captures Rick’s values and passions:

Using existing interactive technology and human resources –– imaginatively re–purposed video conferencing rooms, handheld mobile cameras and technology–savvy unafraid coaches –– THE PERFORMANCE LAB™ makes it possible to communicate emotion, develop style and coach the performing arts at a distance for audiences of diverse sensibilities and culture, and for those of varying ability. The technology itself disappears.  Only the compelling experience of art remains.

The compelling experience of art informed every aspect of Rick’s life.  Everything he did was infused with an eye to the aesthetic of it.  He sought beauty in everything, and more often than not, created it himself.  Whether wrapping a birthday present, having Zoom cocktail hour, or getting dressed, Rick would elevate the ordinary by paying attention to the finest details.  When the kids were little Hannah was into horses and wanted to leave oats for Santa’s reindeer along with Santa’s cookies and milk. Hannah awoke Christmas morning to find bits of oats and carrots scattered on the floor under a well-defined reindeer footprint.  On Passover, Elijah always managed to spill his wine on the tablecloth.  At Zoom cocktail hours with friends, he made sure his wine glass and the tree outside the window were perfectly framed on the screen.  And his fashion sense was best described by Leonard Nimoy the first time he met Rick: “Now, that’s what a director is supposed to look like.”

Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”  The world was Rick’s stage, and he truly did play many parts.  I’ve mentioned his roles as producer, director, writer, scholar, husband, father and grandfather.  Rick was also a lifelong learner, driven by boundless curiosity and extraordinary intelligence.  An avid reader, his home is filled with thousands of books on everything from animals to the Zohar.  Books were sacred to him, and made him feel safe.  In retirement, Rick went back to school at the U where he was proud of his straight A’s in graduate level courses in Akkadian, French Literary Criticism, and Philosophy.  And he was a lifelong teacher, both formally and informally.  He helped actors, musicians, dancers, and archeologists excel in their chosen fields.  He taught his children to notice detail and appreciate beauty, to be curious and adventurous, to commit to excellence and to have fun.

Rick embodied each of his many roles fully and with panache, which is remarkable because some of the roles were quite the opposite of one another.  While he was the epitome of the gentleman scholar, an erudite man living the life of the mind, he was also playful and boyish, which made him adored by the schoolchildren where he volunteered.  He loved oysters and Dairy Queen, Old Saabs, and new gadgets. He loved all things innovative and avant garde, yet was deeply sentimental about family heirlooms and a stickler for historical accuracy.  He could be stubborn and driven, but at the same time sincerely interested and curious about the opinions of others.  Though he never wanted to become Jewish because he felt it would be an affront to his family of origin, he was always learning about Judaism, was very supportive of Nancy’s Jewish identity and commitment to the synagogue community.  He and Nancy volunteered at Daily Services, and he was deeply moved when called to open the Ark at the High Holy Days this year.

It is fitting that we are gathered to remember Rick just days before Passover.  Passover, like Rick, is full of contrasts, blending the very ancient with the very contemporary, and deep acknowledgement of both suffering and hope.  It is a holiday of theater and pageantry as we tell the story of the journey from slavery to freedom. It is a holiday that encourages intellectual curiosity and challenging questions, whether historical, philosophical, or spiritual.  We set a beautiful table with good food and family heirlooms and surround ourselves with people we love.

One last story; I said earlier that Rick passed quietly, without drama.  That isn’t entirely true.  One of Rick’s quirky treasures was a winter lawn ornament, a lit-up stag bedecked with Mardi Gras beads and a tinsel boa, that they named Derk Deux.  Derk has stood proud on their lawn every winter, including this one.  After Rick breathed his last, Nancy looked out the window and noticed that Derk was lying down in the snow.  Perhaps Rick had directed one last scene from heaven.

Death is not the enemy of life but its companion, for it is the knowledge that our years are limited that makes them so precious. Death cannot deprive us of happy memories, or enduring friendship, or the eternal qualities of a beloved personality. Ironically, death enhances memory; and it makes even more vivid all that was meaningful and lasting. Death cannot erase a life, and the love that ennobled it. True, we shall not see Rick again; nor hear his familiar voice. That is, we shall not see with our eyes or hear as we heard before. But in the Holy of Holies of our hearts, where memory resides, we will again see the twinkle in Rick’s eye as he observes the world around him and says, “How odd.”

Also   is a brief look back on Boston public TVs production of the Scarlet Letter, written and directed by Rick.   I’m told it was a very positively reviewed and cutting-edge production at that time.