Ian Prinsloo

In 1989, he co-founded Orange Dog Theatre with Alyson Green. While originally founded to present classical and contemporary plays, Orange Dog (1989-95) largely focused on premiering avant-garde Canadian plays in a fringe or festival context.

Prinsloo, Ian
The work of director and actor Ian Prinsloo has had a profound effect on theatre in Alberta (photo by Trudie Lee).

Prinsloo, Ian

 Ian Prinsloo, actor, director, artistic director (b at Kuwait City, Kuwait 28 April 1964). Ian Prinsloo was raised in Ontario and attended Ryerson Theatre School (1984-85). Debuting at the SHAW FESTIVAL as an actor in 1986, he was inspired by its long-term artistic director, Christopher NEWTON, to consider directing. While he later returned to Shaw as an assistant/apprentice director, he honed his craft primarily in the Toronto alternative theatre scene.

In 1989, he co-founded Orange Dog Theatre with Alyson Green. While originally founded to present classical and contemporary plays, Orange Dog (1989-95) largely focused on premiering avant-garde Canadian plays in a fringe or festival context. As a freelance director, Prinsloo also premiered the first English translation of Normand Chaurette's Fragments of a Farewell Letter Read by Geologists (1992) and the first productions of Jason SHERMAN's Chalmers Award-winning play The League of Nathans (1992), The Retreat (1996) and Patience (1997). The last production culminated in a Dora Award for best production and direction, even as Prinsloo prepared to assume the helm of THEATRE CALGARY.

Only 33 at the time of his appointment in 1997, Prinsloo's 8-year tenure as artistic director marked a major period of recovery and growth in Theatre Calgary's fortunes after a time of fiscal and artistic crisis. Prinsloo rededicated Theatre Calgary to doing "plays of the Canadian and Classical repertoire that have strong, complex stories which are relevant to the people of Calgary and southern Alberta." At the same time, he committed himself to significantly raising the number of local directors, designers and actors involved in the productions. His programming was characterized by variety and balance. He mixed popular fare like musicals and adaptations of Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and A Christmas Carol with more intellectually challenging plays like Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and Charlotte Jones's Humble Boy. He directed new local work in the alternative theatre scene and engaged local playwrights Greg Nelson and Stephen Massicotte to help him adapt older work for the Theatre Calgary mainstage.

Ian Prinsloo's continuing connection to the Shaw manifested itself in an exchange of directors. Prinsloo directed Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (1999) and Conan Doyle's Waterloo (1998, 1999) at the Shaw, while Shaw directors Newton, Bradecki and Mezon directed at Theatre Calgary. The best of Prinsloo's own directing seemed to focus on playwrights of the earlier 20th century; he felt they critiqued the booming materialistic and corporate culture of Calgary with grace, eloquence and humanity. Highlights included his production of Noel Coward's Private Lives (1998), J.B. Priestley's Dangerous Corner (2001), Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story (2003) and Holiday (2000), Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (2002), and most notably, Elmer Rice's 1931 epic Counsellor-at-Law, which won 5 major Betty MITCHELL awards in 2004.

Between 1997 and 2005, Theatre Calgary's subscriber base was rebuilt from 3600 to 8600 and the $1.2-million deficit of 1996 transformed into a 2.4-million trust fund aided by 7 years of surpluses. When Prinsloo departed in 2005, he left the theatre in good financial and artistic shape for his successor, Dennis Garnhum.