Title and statement of responsibility area
Irene Prothroe fonds
General material designation
- Textual record
- Graphic material
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Title statements of responsibility
- Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.
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Edition statement of responsibility
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
ca. 1924-1989 (Creation)
- Irene Prothroe
Physical description area
ca. 93 cm of textual records
ca. 388 photographs : b&w and col.
30 strips of negatives : col. ; 16 mm
22 slides : col. ; 75 mm and 35 mm
2 silk ribbons
1 cloth calendar with metal pins and buttons attached
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Irene Prothroe (née Powlan, 1925-1989) is an actress, teacher, director, and producer who taught at the Banff Centre from 1958 to 1970, and served as the Head of the Theatre (1969-1970) and the Musical Theatre Division (1970-1974).
Irene was born on March 19th, 1925 in Winnifred Alberta to father Frank Yuen Powlan (b. 1887) and mother Mary Organ. Frank immigrated to Canada from Sunwui (Guangzhou, China) in his late teens, and is described by his son Henry as one of Alberta’s original Chinese herbalists. Mary was born in Liverpool England and met Frank in Raymond, Alberta. Irene has eight siblings, including Vi and Ron, both of whom also worked in the theatre.
Raised in Calgary, Prothroe was an original member of Workshop 14, organized by Dr. Betty Mitchell in classroom 14 of Western Canada High School. Prothroe continued her studies at the American Repertory Theatre in Los Angeles (1946-1949), where her tutors included Russian actress and teacher Maria Ouspenskaya. Prothroe was subsequently invited to join Charles Laughton’s Shakespeare Foundation in Los Angeles (1949), and later studied with Morris Carnovsky, and the dance instructor Hanja Holm in New York (1950). While visiting home during her studies in America, she married Jack Prothroe, a lawyer based in Calgary.
Irene taught drama at the University of Alberta (1951 to 1954); and at the University of British Columbia (1954-1957; 1970-1974). She received a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alberta (1960) and a Bachelor’s of Education at the University of Calgary (1963).
As the recipient of two Canada Council Senior Arts Fellowships (1965, 1967), Prothroe was able to survey international theatres and theatre schools as well as attended conferences as the Canadian Representative of the International Theatre Institute.
While engaged at the Banff Centre during summers, Prothroe served as Artistic Director at the Calgary Arts Centre Theatre (1960-1964), and as a drama advisor to the University of Calgary (1961-1974). She worked the Radio Drama Producer for CBC Calgary (1974-1981) and founded the 85th Street Players, a touring dinner theatre group, and Powlan Productions with her brother Ron, in Calgary in the early 1980s.
Irene died of a brain aneurysm on October 11, 1989.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of material relating to Prothroe's professional life, personal life, and personal interests. The fonds is divided into nine series which reflect the many items found in the fonds. Materials in the fonds include textual records (both by Prothroe and by others), scripts, programs, articles (about Prothroe and others), photographs (personal and professional), and other material.
Immediate source of acquisition
In 1990, the executor of Irene Prothroe's estate transferred the materials to the Banff Centre Archives. The material was initially organized and itemized by Elizabeth Kundert-Cameron. Two supplementary boxes were found at an unspecified date.
Arrangement imposed by the processing archivist. Only archival material in the donation was preserved. Contact the Archives for a full listing of the material that arrived with the donation.
Language of material
Script of material
Location of originals
Availability of other formats
Restrictions on access
There are no restrictions on access.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Itineraries generated by the estate and by previous processing archivists are available in the accession file.
"Interview with Irene Prothroe by Peggy Leighton July 16, 1981" (Tape 1993-41.02), 1990-44.04, LE08A.004.
The fonds consists of the following accruals: 1990-58. No further accruals are expected.
Only some material in the fonds has been digitized. Please contact Banff Centre Archives to explore the whole fonds.
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Brennan, Brian. "Theatre Pioneer left mark." Calgary Herald. Wed., May 28, 1997.
Leighton, David & Peggy. Artists, Builders and Dreamers. McClelland and Stewart Limited: Toronto.
Morrow, Martin. "Prothroe is praised by former students." Calgary Herald. Wed., October 18, 1989.
Powlan, Henry. Interview. The Chinese Canadian Oral History Project, University of Calgary. 2006.