Donor Story

PARTNERING THEATER WITH ANTHROPOLOGY: Department Chair Emeritus Establishes Scholarship, Fellowship

Dr. Brian K. Hansen doesn’t know when to stop questioning. During his entire career in theater, he has asked himself and his colleagues, “Why do we get dressed up, smear makeup on our faces, and dance around on a platform generation after generation?”

His search to define the “selective pressures” that keep the arts alive eventually led him to the UNM Anthropology Department, where he became host to “the best kind of parasite”: the theories of evolutionary anthropology. “Evolutionary theory explains so much,” he says, “and it amazes me that areas that are relatively theory-free, like theater, don’t embrace it.”

A former chair of the UNM Department of Theatre and Dance, Dr. Hansen has established a planned estate gift that will benefit both that department and the Department of Anthropology. The Brian Hansen Endowed Scholarship in Theatre will support undergraduate or graduate students in the College of Fine Arts. The Hansen Family Fund will endow a fellowship for graduate students researching the evolution of behavioral ecology in humans or primates.

When Dr. Hansen arrived at UNM in 1979, he met several colleagues who found his questions about the arts and human evolution worthy of deeper study. However, he found those people in anthropology, psychology and biology, not in theater. He began enrolling in anthropology courses and was hooked.

“Every culture, past and present, has the arts,” he says. “Why? That question is not asked often enough or rigorously enough in this country.” He hopes an interdisciplinary approach to studying the arts can begin to change that.