Canadian theater icon Martha Henry dies days after last stage performance

Legendary Canadian actress, director, educator and theater leader Martha Henry died at her home in Stratford at the age of 83.

Surprisingly, she gave her last performance as the character named “A” – a dying old woman – in Edward Albee’s “Three Tall Women” in Stratford just 12 days before her death from cancer.

“His sense of responsibility towards the theater was so profound that it enabled him to endure the pain and face his terminal illness to complete an astonishingly truthful performance,” said Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino in a statement.

“Our hearts are broken. By losing Martha Henry, we have lost the dearest friend, the most inspiring mentor, and an original and unforgettable talent, ”said Cimolino.

Henry’s last interview before his death was with The Star last August, with its “Three Tall Women” director Diana Leblanc. He said that from the moment he discovered theater at the age of seven, it was “all I had in my head, always.”

He insisted that becoming a “theater person” was available to anyone: “If you have something that you know is you, that you know what you have to be or need to be … that’s what you do. And you find places to do it. “

Henry was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1938. He moved to Canada after graduating from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), having seen productions at the Stratford Festival: “I thought any country that produced a Stratford was one. I wanted to be a part of that, ”he said in an interview in 1994. He was a member of the first cohort of actors to graduate from the National School of Theater in 1960.

He joined the Stratford acting company in 1962 and acted in more than 70 productions there. Stratford’s notable performances include Mary Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (1994), directed by her friend and classmate from the Leblanc National Theater School; Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing” with one of her favorite leads, Brian Bedford, and directed by Richard Monette (1998); and Prospero in “La tempestad” directed by Cimolino in 2018.

Henry directed 14 productions at Stratford, served as director of its Birmingham Conservatory (an acting training program) from 2007 to 2016 and as director of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Directing from 2017 to 20.

She served as Artistic Director of the Grand Theater in London, Ontario from 1988 to 1994 and directed productions throughout Canada. He served two three-year appointments on the board of the Arts Council of Canada, was a Companion of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Ontario, and received the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

A tribute to Henry will be held at a later time in Stratford, the festival in a statement, and Shakespeare’s first production at the new Tom Patterson Theater will be dedicated to his memory.

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