Richard A. Via

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Richard A. Via, former East-West Center Visiting Fellow and Research Staff, on August 13, 2008.

From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, Richard Via’s life centered on Broadway theatre, both as actor and stage manager. It was during the “Hello, Dolly!” run in Japan that Via became enamored with Japanese culture, and subsequently applied for and received a Fulbright award to teach in Japan.

Based on his successful experience of using Broadway drama techniques to teach English in Japan, Richard A. Via was invited by the East-West Center in 1971 to write a book for teachers and teacher trainers. That book English in Three Acts was published by The University Press of Hawai`i in 1976 as an East-West Center monograph and was the best selling book of all the EWC’s publications for a decade. From the mid 1970s to the early 80s he taught in the ESL Department at the University of Hawai`i and conducted training workshops for teachers at the East-West Center and throughout Asia.

As a result of this, he and EWC researcher, Larry Smith, wrote a book Talk and Listen, English as an International Language via Drama Techniques that was published by Pergamon Press (Oxford) in 1983. He was a well known international authority on the use of drama techniques for teaching and was a frequent presenter at international conferences all over the United States and Asia.

Also during the 1970s and 80s, Via was one of the key figures in the establishment of arts programming at the East-West Center. In 1974, he began presenting dance, music, puppetry, poetry, and theater productions in a performing arts series called “Cultural Manifestations.” His goal was to use performing arts as a tool for better understanding the people and cultures of the Asia-Pacific region.

His pioneering efforts brought to Hawai`i audiences such traditions as Maori dance and theatre, Indian sitar and sarod music, Japanese shakuhachi (flute) music and Butoh dance, Malaysian theatre, Chinese hand puppets and circus acts, Mongolian dance and music including “throat singing,” Flamenco dance, American bluegrass, Mexican-American mariachi music, and storytellers from Asia, the U.S. continent, and the Pacific.

After his retirement from the EWC in September 1987, Via continued to be active in the local arts community, and to be in demand as a language teaching consultant, particularly in Japan and Southeast Asia.