September 10, 2008

Stratford Festival’s Monette Dies at 64

Actor-director Richard Monette, best-known for his 14 seasons as artistic director of the Stratford Festival of Canada, has died, the festival said Wednesday.

Monette died Tuesday night in London, Ontario, at age 64, a festival official said.

Monette suffered a pulmonary embolism while going into a hospital for tests for vascular disease, festival General Director Antoni Cimolino said.

Cimolino described Monette's death as a terrible loss for Canadian theater.

Montreal-born Monette was a "brilliant" actor and an extraordinary artistic director, whose accomplishments at Stratford "set the standard by which all others will be judged," Cimolino said in a statement.

Born June 19, 1944, Monette appeared in several student productions at Montreal's Loyola College, now Concordia University, before making his professional stage debut at age 19, playing Hamlet for Toronto's Crest Theatre.

He joined Stratford in 1965, playing a variety of small roles, before moved to England, performing in various London East End productions, including the original "Oh! Calcutta!"

He returned to Canada in 1974 and played more than 40 roles at Stratford before being named its artistic director in 1994.

As artistic director, he not only staged every Shakespearean play, but also introduced big production musicals such as "My Fair Lady" and "Anything Goes." Critics argued the musicals were too populist, but Monette erased the festival's considerable debt and was credited with attracting new audiences.