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Sheila Livingston, theater champion and educator who impacted thousands of lives dies at 93

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The curtain has fallen on the real-life theatrical hero that some have likened to an angel.

Sheila Livingston, a theater educator and humanitarian whose Guthrie Theater helped hundreds of thousands of students feel like they belonged for more than 50 years, died Wednesday at her home in Minneapolis. she was 93 years old. She was recently hospitalized with a systemic infection, said her daughter Franci Livingston.

Former artistic director Joe Dowling said, “Without a doubt, Sheila has influenced more people than anyone else who has worked for Guthrie. Her impact cannot be overstated.”

Formally, her positions at Guthrie included head of the volunteer Stagehands organization, director of education, and director of community affairs, which helps plan actors’ accommodations and parties. Livingston said she was hired by artistic director Michael Her Langham in 1971 to build the company’s award-winning educational programs, and on free or discounted travel for cultural education, she traveled with teachers from five states. I took my students to the theater.

“Michael Langham asked me to join his staff after hearing people say they should hire someone like Sheila.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and raised in small-town Saskatchewan with little exposure to arts and culture, she made her first professional stage debut at the age of 20 as a newlywed. It was in 1953 that she “Richard III” at her Stratford (Ontario) Festival, an institution co-founded by Tyrone Guthrie and designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch.

This experience ignited her lifelong passion for theater, not just as engaging entertainment, but as a tool for building community. When she moved to the Twin Cities just as Guthrie and Moiseyevich were building a new theater, she got to practice it fully.

The move was prompted by her husband, Ken Livingston, taking over the family business, Northwest Corrugated Box Company, on Marshall Street, Minneapolis.

“Ken was passionate about theater,” said Livingston.

Both believed in the idea that theater was for everyone and that everyone should feel welcome, especially at the famous Guthrie Theatre.

“What most people remember about Sheila is her warmth, candor and friendliness,” Dowling said, adding that her work came from a source of seeing the best in people. rice field.

To mark Guthrie’s 40th anniversary, the theater has established a fund to honor the Livingston family.

“I said to her, ‘You decide what you want to do with this money,'” recalls Dowling. “And she said, ‘I want one day when her parents can bring their kids and introduce them to the words of Shakespeare.

“That’s how she does it, and she’s always been thinking about how to make the theater a more community-friendly organization.”

One of her projects is Project Success, which has brought over 200,000 students to the show over the past 29 years. She joined the board of directors and encouraged the founder, her Adrienne Diercks.

“Sheila was my mentor, my champion, my friend,” Dierkus said. “She was a champion of children, theater, especially Shakespeare.”

Actor and singer T. Michael Rambo got emotional when he remembered Livingston singing the national anthem at presidential candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign rally at the Target Center. .

Livingston was kind to everyone, Rambo said. “She was blessed as an angel to change people’s lives.”

Besides Francie of Minneapolis, the daughter of Robin Livingston Richter of Minneapolis, Sandy Friedman of Cleveland, and several grandchildren survived. Worship was held on Sunday.

Donations can be made to the Kenneth and Sheila Livingston Education Fund at the Guthrie Theater.