Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Richard Monette dead, 64

Some sad news in the entertainment business today. Richard Monette, stage actor and the long time artistic director of the Stratford Festival of Canada who was the first director of any company in many a year to having achieved completing the "canon" (i.e. every Shakespeare play was performed during his tenure), oversaw the restoration of the Festival and Avon Theatres and turned around the repertory acting company from a $17 million debt to a nearly $50 million slush fund, has died. He was 64.

His work to save the festival can be traced back to 1980 when in one of the rockiest annual meetings the festival's foundation has ever had (in the middle of an actor's strike, the artistic panel resigning and the Trudeau government refusing to give a work permit to a British guy called upon to replace the panel as the new artistic director), Monette called the chair of the board a "pig." Click here to the CBC digital archives then select clip #7 -- this was one hell of a meeting! In time, the festival picked a Canadian director, which has been fairly standard policy since and we owe Monette the credit for that.

Perhaps the heady early years of the Festival, or the rocky nature of the 1970s, can never be duplicated. But Monette made a once stuffy cornerstone of the Canadian arts community a lot of fun again. Adieu, sir.

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