Legendary UBC theatre professor and director Klaus Strassmann dies
by Charlie Smith on March 6th, 2014 at 3:38 PM
One of B.C.’s most memorable theatre professors has died.
From 1964 to 1991, Klaus Strassmann was an anchor in the UBC theatre department, inspiring many of B.C.’s best actors, directors, and set designers.
In his first three years on campus, he directed Joy Coghill in two productions—as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days and as Clare in Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Visit, which both played at the Frederic Wood Theatre.
He also mentored Camille Mitchell and many other actors, according to his friend Gerald Vanderwoude, UBC’s assistant dean, facilities and human resources.
Strassmann was born in 1926 and died at on UBC’s Point Grey campus on March 3. In May of last year, he suffered two strokes.
“Klaus was an explorer of life,” Vanderwoude told the Straight by phone. “He was a great guy.”
Strassmann was one of Vanderwoude’s professors while he was studying for a master’s degree at UBC in the 1980s.
He recalled that as a director, Strassmann had a reputation for delaying making decisions.
“It used to drive set designers and the tech crew nuts because he wouldn’t commit until the very, very end,” Vanderwoude said. “And I think what he was always trying to do was let the actors know that it was an ever-evolving process. Your journey didn’t end just because the rehearsals stopped and the show started. He was always looking to see if there was more truth he could find—or a different direction.”
Strassmann made the most out of life, Vanderwoude added, suggesting that perhaps this was linked to his experiences living in Europe during the Second World War.
“He loved to travel,” Vanderwoude said. “He went on a trip to China as recently as four years ago—all over China. It was quite astonishing.”
Strassmann was also caretaker of his building into his mid 80s. He remained physically fit with regular morning walks.
Vanderwoude said that Strassmann was disciplined and organized, but thrived in a cluttered apartment.
“He knew that everything that was in there has some special meaning to it.”
Strassmann often left the second “n” off his surname, but legally, it was never changed.
Even though he was a master of the theatre, he didn’t have a degree in this subject.
According to Vanderwoude, Strassmann studied philosophy at Stanford.
He’s survived by his son Kirk (wife Danielle), former wives and good friends Satya Danu and Edel Walsh, and many other dear friends.