Extension 6017 rang here at the Deseret Morning News and a familiar voice chirped "hello."

It was Ivan Lincoln, longtime theater critic who retired at the end of December. I chatted with him while sitting in his chair, looking at his view of the Wasatch Mountains and thumbing through stacks of files, a well-organized Rolodex, playbills, color-coded folders and a fortune-cookie fortune taped to the computer that reads: "Many admire your social and physical appearance." (I plan on leaving it up!)

Perhaps I should introduce myself. I'm Erica Hansen and I'm the new theatre critic/writer for the Deseret Morning News. A truly daunting task. Though you wouldn't know it by talking to Ivan who tirelessly covered all 80 Utah theaters and companies for more than 20 years. Yes, 80 of them ... aren't we lucky?

My love for theater began with musicals. Mom saw that PBS was going to show "The Music Man," so she recorded it for me. I was absolutely hooked! Complete with the pledge-week breaks and Osco Drug commercials, I watched it over and over again and can to this day recite the entire movie, songs and all.

Fast forward many years, a couple of college degrees, a marriage and a baby later, I still love theater.

For the past several years I've been involved in local theater, which has been a very rewarding chapter of my life. My circle of friends has grown leaps and bounds, and they're the most talented and enthusiastic people I've ever met. In the middle of it all, I've been lucky enough to act in some great roles in some wonderful shows. I have loved every minute of it.

Second only to being on stage is talking about the theater experience. I did every Saturday night for seven years as the original host of "Showtune Saturday Night." It became a No. 1-rated radio program from my personal library of Broadway music. Last year a new management had different plans for the station, and I was let go.

As luck would have it, I have a new job where I still can talk about theater — and I'm eager to get going.

Ivan deserves the accolades he has received from the theatergoers and the theater community. As a critic, he was always able to point out the good, was gentle when mentioning the bad but, above all, he just loved theater. Personally, I was grateful for the generous reviews that Ivan gave my stage work.

So, Ivan, reviewer, colleague and friend, thank you. You have been a true champion of the arts.

In the meantime, now I must figure out how you became so organized, how you stayed on top of 80 theaters with auditions, show openings/closings, and where I can locate one of those fancy pens that lights up!


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