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Theatre Prospero

Theatre company, based in Edmonton, Alberta, founded in 1994 by Edmonton actor, director, and producer Mark Henderson and Edmonton actor/director Owen Brierly. Its mandate is to provide innovative and affordable classical theatre for student and community audiences, and to provide high-level training and performance opportunities for teenagers. As Theatre Prospero expands into a broader role in the arts community with ambitious new projects, it remains true to this vision.

Under Artistic Director Mark Henderson, it is known for its high-energy performances, with casts that include high school students and professional actors. The average cast size is six professional actors and up to thirty students, although student casts have been as large as two hundred and fifty in the company’s week-long residency programs. Its productions tour schools throughout Alberta. Theatre Prospero’s website states that “our primary role is in arts education and audience development. We like to give young performers a chance to fly. Many of our student performers keep coming back to our projects in increasingly challenging roles. We believe that putting faith in youth can only have positive psychological and sociological repercussions.”

Theatre Prospero’s first production was The Taming of the Shrew in 1994, directed by Brierly and described by Edmonton Journal theatre critic Liz Nicholls as “a high-speed low-tech small-budget brawl of a production, full of pratfalls, thrashings, screams, body slams, raucous high spirits... The audience is delighted.”

Although the company has focused on the plays of Shakespeare, it has also presented adaptations of Nicholas Nickleby, The Bacchae, The Second Shepherds Play, and other classics. Recently, it has expanded into new play development and production, including the four-part Sterling Award nominee Maggie Now adapted from Betty Smith’s novel by Jennifer Spencer, a saga about an impoverished Irish immigrant family’s struggles and survival strategies in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century; and Blood Opera: the Raven Tango Poems, featuring text by Edmonton poet Jannie Edwards, images by Paul Saturely, choreography by Kathleen Ochoa, performances by Jennifer Spencer, Jenny McKillop and Calvin Malaka, and direction and poeturgy by Mark Henderson.

In January 2009, Theatre Prospero launched its Serca Festival of Irish Theatre, in which it produced Maggie Now Part One. The next iteration of the Festival in June of 2010 featured three Irish plays (Spokesong by Stewart Parker; This Limetree Bower and The Good Thief by Conor McPherson), with Irish poetry readings and music between performances. The Festival also presented Maggie Now Part Two by Jennifer Spencer. In June-July 2011, Serca featured Secrets of Immortality by Jeff Page, based on Oscar Wilde's De Profundis; Beckett's Shorts, presented by Surreal SoReal Theatre; Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty; and Molly Sweeney by Brian Friel.

In 2017, Theatre Prospero initiated a collaborative project with First Nations artists and authors: Pawâkan Macbeth: A Cree Tragedy by Reneltta Arluk -- a reimagining of Shakespeare’s brutal tragedy into Cree history, legend and cosmology. Set in Plains Cree territory in the 1870s, before the establishment of First Nations reserves, Pawâkan Macbeth takes place in a time when First Nations warred with each other and the Canadian Government over territory, food supply and trade. The harsh conditions and desperate struggles awakened the darkest of Cree spirits, the Wihtiko – an evil being with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. The cast comprised professional actors and students. The play premiered in Edmonton, and toured schools throughout the city before undertaking an ambitious touring itinerary.

Theatre Prospero’s goal for the future is to maintain high energy audience appeal while deepening its artistic explorations and broadening its audience base.

Theatre Prospero website: www.theatreprospero.ca.

Profile by Joyce Miller and Mark Henderson

Last updated 2017-12-14