Thomas Proehl, a longtime fixture in the Twin Cities theater and arts scene, died at his Minneapolis home Tuesday night. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office reported that Proehl was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. after attempts to revive him failed. The death was attributed to natural causes.
Proehl, 46, was producing director of the theater arts and dance department at the University of Minnesota at the time of his death.
"I've been talking to staff and students, and I can't tell you how in the short time he's been here the impact he had," said Carl Flink, chair of the department of theater arts and dance. "He saw this position as a way to synthesize all of his experiences and use the university as an engine to influence the arts community. It's a substantial blow to our department, to lose the drive and energy he had."
Proehl joined the university last August after serving as administrative leader of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 2 1/2 years. He went to that job after heading the Minnesota State Arts Board in 2006 and 2007.
Proehl is best known for his long association with the Guthrie Theater. He served as general manager from 1999 to 2002, and then as managing director from 2003 to 2006, leaving shortly after the Guthrie opened its new three-theater complex.
"We're all here bereft today, because he was an amazing man," said Guthrie director Joe Dowling. "He had such a calm wisdom way beyond his years, a great awareness of how people mattered when we were trying to develop this building. It just doesn't feel real that he's gone."
A native of Moorhead, Minn., Proehl began his career in the theater's box office in 1984. Away from Minnesota, he worked at the La Jolla Playhouse in California and was founding managing director of New York's Signature Theatre. Proehl's longtime partner, James Morrison, headed the Guthrie's public-affairs department and later the World Stages program.
A service for Proehl will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at University Lutheran Church, 601 13th Av. SE., Mpls. Memorials are asked to The Foundry Theatre and Signature Theatre Company, both in New York, and to the theater department at Minnesota State-Moorhead.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299