Studying for a BA at McGill, Mr. Sprung bought a specially priced $10 student season ticket to the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. Productions like Faut Jeter la Veille (Dario Fo) and Le Marquis qui Perdit, (Ducharme) in contemporary parlance, “blew his mind”, opening his imagination to the possibilities of theatre. His fate was sealed. A life in the theatre was ‘incontournable’. For the 1968-69 school year, he ran the McGill Players Club, facilitating over 50 productions playing to a total audience of over 12,000 in the small studio theatre that seated only 100. Many of his McGill contemporaries, actors such as Fiona Reed, Dixie Seatle and Sherry Flett, or film makers such as Lazlo Barna are today pillars of the Canadian cultural establishment. All left Québec to pursue their career. Mr. Sprung chose to make Québec his home despite the inherent hurdles of creating theatre in English in Québec.
At McGill, he also founded his first professional theatre company, Theatre XV (named in homage to Michel St Denis’ theatre, La Compagnie des Quinze) and presented a summer season in Moyse Hall. The repertory included the North American premiere of Harold Pinter’s, The Homecoming. By total serendipity, one of the actors in the company was David Mamet, the now world famous American, Pulitzer-prize winning dramatist and film director.
Having paid his rent as a drama critic for the Montreal Star while also working as a member of IATSE, the stage hands union, Mr. Sprung embarked on what he calls, “his wandering apprenticeship years”, in Europe. After a brief sojourn in Berlin as an Assistant Director at the Schiller Theatre, (in German), in 1971, Mr Sprung travelled to England and spent four formative years founding and running the Half Moon Theatre, a left-wing community theatre in the East End of London. Under his leadership, the converted former synagogue quickly became a highly-respected contributor to the London theatre scene. Five decades later the Half Moon, continues to thrive as one of the most important, high profile and best-subsidized Theatre in Education/Community Theatres in all of England. His repertoire mixed new work by local writers with innovative productions of the classics. The artistic, critical and box office success of the Half Moon was extraordinary. His production of Will Wat, a play about Wat Tyler and the 1381 Peasants’ Uprising, which he conceived and co-wrote, was hailed by John Mortimer in the London Observer, as “one of the best things I have seen as a critic”. The Half Moon was listed in the tourist guides as the “hot”, not-to-be-missed alternative theatre.