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Teacher, Theatre Director, former Theatre Arts& Dance Chair Stephen Kanee Dies

Stephen Kanee (March 17,1941-January 18, 2013)

Born in Winnipeg, the only child of Sol and Florence Kanee, Stephen grew up in a household devoted to the arts, surrounded with love and nurtured by his aunts and uncles and grandparents, especially by his dear Bubba Rose Kanee. His father introduced him to fishing at an early age and Stephen enjoyed happy childhood summers out in the boat at their cottage in Lake of the Woods. Stephen's mother ignited in her son his lifelong passion for theater, art and music. Stephen said it was Florence, along with his Bubba Rose, who gave him the inner strength to follow his heart into the dramatic arts. His apprenticeship in the family flour milling business took him to London, where his interest in theater led to an internship at the avant-garde Royal Court Theatre.
In 1974, as a student at the University of Minnesota Theater Department, he was awarded a McKnight Fellowship in Directing, which brought him to the Guthrie Theater. At the University, he met and fell in love with MaryAnn Lippay. They married in 1981, and their life together became a celebration of love, wit, music, food, art, travel, family and friends. They were a truly devoted and joyous couple, and counted themselves lucky to find each other and the love they shared.

Stephen, who was mentored at the Guthrie by Michael Langham, scored his first success with his production of Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker.' It was followed by the first Guthrie production of 'A Christmas Carol,' which brought together for the first time playwright Barbara Field, scenic designer Jack Barkla, lighting designer Duane Schuler, costume designer Jack Edwards, and composer Hiram Titus. 'A Christmas Carol,' became a perennial Minneapolis favorite over a 35 year run. For the Guthrie, he also directed 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' 'Rosencrantz and Guidenstern are Dead,' 'Catsplay,' 'Hamlet,' 'Great Expectations,' 'The Tavern,' 'On the Razzle,' 'The Birthday Party,' and I.B. Singer's 'Teibele and Her Demon,' which was later moved to Broadway. Elsewhere, he directed for the Cricket Theatre, the Houston Grand Opera, the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Meadowbrook Theater, and Park Square Theatre, among others. Stephen was a gifted and adventurous director, highly theatrical in style, aware of the music and nuances of his texts. His use of the challenging Guthrie thrust stage was masterful. Under his direction, there never was a bad seat in the house.

When in 1980 the opportunity arose to pursue his lifelong ambition, teaching, he accepted a faculty position at New Mexico State University, which he held for five years. He then returned to the Guthrie to help steer the theater through a period of transition. In 1986, he realized his dream to join the faculty of the University of Minnesota Department of Theater Arts and Dance. As an Associate Professor and Head of the Directing Program, he directed 'Old Times,' 'Spring Awakening,' 'Restoration,' Mrozek's 'Tango,' 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'The White Devil,' 'The Dybbuk,' 'The Visit' and many others, at Rarig Center and on the Showboat. His theater wisdom and advice helped guide and inspire theater professionals all over the country. He retired from the faculty in 2003. Stephen said the happiest, most stimulating times of his career were with his students. He will be deeply missed by his students and theatre colleagues, who had the priviledge of knowing him.

Donations may be made to the U of M Dept. of Theater Arts and Dance or charity of choice . A Memorial Celebration is planned for the spring. Hodroff-Epstein 612-871-1234
--Excerpted Star Tribune January 27, 2013

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