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Shakespeare & Company Founder Krausnick Dies at Age 76
01:36PM / Wednesday, November 28, 2018
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Dennis Krausnick plays King Lear at Shakespeare & Company. Krausnick died Tuesday at the age of 76. (Photo by Kevin Sprague)

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. - Dennis Krausnick, 76, of Stockbridge passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by loved ones Tuesday, Nov. 27, after a long battle with cancer. 

Krausnick was a founding member and the director of actor training at Shakespeare & Company, a leading performance, training and education center located in Lenox, Mass.

He was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in July 1942 to the late Leo and Naomi McVeigh Krausnick. He attended local schools and was a 1960 graduate of Scottsbluff High School in Scottsbluff, Neb. A teacher, writer, director and performer, he grew up in rural Nebraska, the sixth of seven children.

When he was 19, Krausnick entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1973. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Letters from St. Louis University, and his M.A. in French from McGill University, Toronto. During his time with the Jesuits, he met Kevin G. Coleman, who later became Shakespeare & Company’s education director. Their friendship and artistic collaboration lasted over 50 years. In 1976, he was awarded an M.F.A. in acting from New York University.

It was at N.Y.U. he met Tina Packer, who had been brought in to direct all the plays in Shakespeare's "War of the Roses" sequence, in which Krausnick played multiple roles. In 1978 Krausnick helped found Shakespeare & Company with Tina and Kristin Linklater. Krausnick became a designated Linklater voice teacher in 1993. After being together for 25 years, Tina and Dennis married in 1998.

For more than 40 years, Shakespeare & Company, with vision and guidance from Krausnick, has been a creative force in western Massachusetts. It has enthralled audiences with productions of Shakespeare as well as modern plays. It has brought its distinctive training into the lives of an international array of professional actors, teachers of theater, researchers, directors, and writers, many of whom credit the company's Training Program with life-changing breakthroughs in their work.

As a master teacher of text, rhetoric and structure of the verse, Krausnick has provided residencies and workshops for theater companies and university theater departments across the country and around the world. As a teacher, director or guest-artist, he has worked in theater training programs across the country, including NYU, ACT, Boston University, Emerson College, Wake Forest University, Southern Methodist University, University of Washington, MIT, University of Pittsburgh, University of Tennessee, Chapman University, Bradley University and University of South Carolina, University of Louisville, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Prague Shakespeare Company, and the University of Miami.

Krausnick was awarded the 2006 Bingham Chair of Humanities by the University of Louisville in recognition of his accomplishments as a Master Teacher of Shakespeare Performance.  

In addition to teaching voice, text and philosophy of theater around the world, Krausnick also graced Shakespeare & Company stages as an actor; his favorite roles included King Lear, Polonius, Lord Capulet, and Bertrand Russell. Additionally, writing has always been an important part of his life. Over his lifetime he adapted and/or wrote more than 40 plays, many of which included adaptions of Edith Wharton and Henry James stories during the 23 years Shakespeare & Company resided at The Mount, Edith Wharton's famed residence in Lenox. As recently as 2017, Shakespeare & Company staged two of his Edith Wharton adaptions, "Roman Fever" and "The Fullness of Life."

He has written poetry since his teenage years, and recently completed his first book and audio book of poetry titled "White Flash," set to be released in early 2019. A late-night reading of some of his poetry to 150 participants in the flagship Month-Long Intensive, summer 2000, was the genesis for his book of selected poetry. Krausnick was putting the final touches on his second book, "Elizabethan World Pictures," a non-fiction exploration of the physical and psychological perspective of the characters in Shakespeare's plays before he passed, and it is also expected to be posthumously completed and released in 2019.

In his 25 years of leading Shakespeare & Company’s renowned Center for Actor Training, Krausnick mentored and taught more than 5,000 actors and students from across the country and around the world. His legacy of innovative actor training methods, quick wit, spirit of generosity, and depth of thought, will be carried on through the artists, teachers and students with whom he collaborated.  In the last few months of his life, Krausnick worked on establishing the Dennis Krausnick Fellowship Fund, to support and increase diversity within the Shakespeare & Company Actor Training Program.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Dennis Krausnick Fellowship Fund online or by mail to Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 01240, Attention: Dennis Krausnick Fellowship Fund. There will be a public memorial service held on June 24, 2019, at 1 p.m. on the Shakespeare & Company Campus in Lenox.

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