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Richard Monette

( b. Jun 19, 1944 Montreal, Quebec, CANADA - d. Sep 09, 2008 London, Ontario, CANADA ) Male

Mr. Monette's affiliation with the Stratford festival, where he first appeared on stage in 1965, was nearly continuous for more than four decades. He became known for unabashedly audience-pleasing productions that were sometimes dismissed by critics who derided him as a populist. But no one would dispute that he entirely reversed the fortunes of the theater, which was founded in 1952 and was frequently in difficult financial straits even as it was becoming the de facto national theater of Canada. In 1994, his first year leading the festival, its accumulated deficit became a surplus of 800,000 Canadian dollars, or $745,000. By the time he stepped down last November, he had become the longest-serving artistic director in the organization's history, and the festival had made more than it spent for 14 consecutive seasons.

Both in programming and in directing, Mr. Monette was prone to experimentation and flights of fancy. He made musicals a regular feature of the festival, dismaying some critics, who felt they should be left to the commercial theaters. His championing of new Canadian plays -- like Elizabeth Rex by Timothy Findley -- also broke from festival tradition.

He did not always serve dessert first; he also presented difficult works like Oedipus Rex and The Alchemist by Ben Jonson on the festival's larger stages.

In one of Mr. Monette's final productions last year, a wildly slapstick Comedy of Errors, he both acknowledged and defiantly upheld his reputation when, with Monty Python-like absurdity, he had an actor in a penguin suit waddle across the stage wearing a sandwich board reading: "For the Critics."

Mr. Monette graduated from Loyola College (now Concordia University) in Montreal in 1967. By then he had already begun appearing onstage at Stratford and elsewhere. In 1968 he made it to Broadway in a short-lived play, Soldiers, and in 1970 he was in the original London cast of Oh! Calcutta! He became well-known in Canada when he played the title role in Michel Tremblay's play Hosanna, about a transvestite in denial of his sexual predilections whom some critics perceived as a metaphor for Quebec wrestling with the issue of separatism. The play went to Broadway in late 1974, after which Mr. Monette joined the Stratford company. During the next 15 years he played Caliban, Hamlet, Romeo, Edmund, Prince Hal, Henry V, Antonio and Mercutio, among many other roles.

Source: NY Times Obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Richard Monette [Hosanna]
Oct 14, 1974 - Nov 03, 1974
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Richard Monette [Dorland's Son]
May 01, 1968 - May 18, 1968
1975 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play
Hosanna [nominee]
Performer: Richard Monette
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