Establishing a Professional Theatre Company in Lethbridge: An Unfinished Comedy of Errors

In the late 1980’s, Brian Parkinson mentioned to a colleague that he planned to rent theatre space to establish a semi-professional summer theatre company in Lethbridge. He was warned, jokingly, that he was casting himself in a comedy of errors – being told that he’d never fill the Sterndale-Bennett Theatre, when in fact Parkinson had just rented the much-larger Yates Theatre.

To an artist, such challenges are like a glove across the face in that they automatically engage the artist’s natural qualities; imagination, creativity, talent, perseverance, faith, sacrifice and love. Parkinson, also a Drama Professor at the University of Lethbridge and a long-time contributor to the development of live theatre in Alberta, has found that it does take all of these qualities – and more – including the support of numerous talent people who shared his vision, to establish a professional theatre company in a small Alberta prairie city.

Speaker: Brian C. Parkinson

Born in England, Brian lived, and was educated, in various parts of Africa, the Far East and Europe before moving to Canada. He completed undergraduate work at the University of British Columbia and post-graduate work at Leeds University in England where he began his professional directing career before returning to Canada. A Full Professor, he is currently in his 28th year as a member of the Theatre and Dramatic Arts Department at the University of Lethbridge. He has taught directing, acting, theatre history and play reading analysis in the department for more than 27 years and has served in a number of administrative capacities including Chair of the Theatre & Dramatic Arts Department, Acting Chair of the Music Department and as Acting Associate Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

With more than 100 major productions to his credit, Brian has directed in academic and professional companies in both England and Canada. He was the original founding director of TheatrExtra, a University of Lethbridge summer stock company and has directed countless university productions, including, in recent years, Noises Off, The Beggar’s Opera, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Peer Gynt, Macbeth, She Stoops To Conquer, and As You Like It. Next January he will direct Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado.

He has also worked for many years at establishing professional theatre in Southern Alberta and his productions have played in both Alberta and British Columbia. He was the founding Artistic Director of Fort MacLeod'’s Great West Theatre for seven years before becoming the founding Artistic Managing Director of New West Theatre in Lethbridge. He has directed the majority of this company'’s productions in its 16 year history. For New West Theatre he has directed and produced a wide range of productions ranging from original rock and jazz revues, children’s theatre, classical plays (such as Death of a Salesman), and new Canadian works.

For five years Brian was the Board Treasurer for the Board of the Association for Canadian Theatre Research, and he is currently a member of the board of Theatre Alberta.

Brian has recently been nominated for the inaugural Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award. The two awards will be presented at a Gala Event at the Banff Centre on April 16.

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