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Ian Gallanar ’87

Ian Gallanar '87Ian Gallanar can’t pinpoint one particular thing that stands out in his role as the founding artistic director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Everything is the best part,” Gallanar exclaimed. “It’s really a dream job for me.”

According to Brian Jones, chairperson of the IUP Department of Theater and Dance, Gallanar has grown the CSC from an annual budget of $5,000 in 2002 to $1.2 million in 2014. The company’s website reports that, last season, the CSC served more than 12,000 residents of the Baltimore area with its high energy approach to performance and education.

“We have developed some important ideas about Shakespeare, about theater, about art, and about their relationship to the life of our community,” Gallanar said. “We have created, and continue to create, a unique aesthetic and performance style that approaches the performance of Shakespeare and other classics as a conversation with our audience. These ideas have gained enormous support and collaboration with other artists and our community.”

Gallanar credits his experiences at IUP as a theater major with fueling his love of the stage and his introduction to the performance of Shakespeare.

“IUP’s summer stock, then branded as Summer Theater by the Grove, had an enormous influence on me,” Gallanar said. “What it did was give me the experience working with extraordinary professionals so early in my career.”

Being part of IUP’s summer stock also taught Gallanar that even amazing artists had to work incredibly hard and be very lucky and still struggle to get by.

“They taught me that it was not going to be an easy road to have a profession in the theater,” Gallanar said. “They were right. But the experience also taught me that good work has its rewards.”

IUP theater professors Barbara Blackledge and Ed Simpson had a large impact on Gallanar’s life, and he considers them his mentors.

“Both of them had an energy and excitement about arts education that was contagious,” Gallanar said. “I learned so much about directing in a theater class taught by Barbara because she trusted us to be thoughtful. Ed Simpson guided me through my first project directing a full-length production with all the technical and design elements.”

Gallanar said that most universities did not offer this type of directing experience to undergraduate students. “Without this experience, I don’t think I would have had the confidence I had so early in my career,” he said.

Jones, who nominated Gallanar for the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award, said, “Since 1987, Ian has maintained a full-time professional career in a notoriously difficult profession. He has directed more than 120 professional productions, including an original adaptation of Lysistrata, which he also wrote for the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. A number of his theater-for-youth scripts have been published and produced by professional and amateur groups across the country.”

“This is not Shakespeare for just ‘fancy people,’” Gallanar said. “This is Shakespeare for everyone—for kids, for adults, for people who don’t attend the theater, for people who do, the millionaires and prisoners, people who love Shakespeare and people who have always detested it.”

Gallanar said he enjoys being out in front with an idea that people support, that resonates, and that has a positive impact on the people around him.

“It has given me a life of meaning, and that, to me, is fun!”

Profile published on 4/10/14

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