Monday, July 13, 2009

RIP Neil Munro

Neil Munro, a Canadian actor and playwright who had been a resident director at the Shaw Festival since the 1990s, died Monday. He was 62.

Munro died at University Hospital in London, Ont., after a lengthy illness, according to a statement from the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Munro was a familiar face to Canadians for playing the title role in the TV movie Beethoven Lives Upstairs, as well as film roles in The Jonah Look and Dancing in the Dark.

He also appeared on the small screen on series such as Night Heat, Ray Bradbury Theatre, The Twilight Zone and RoboCop.

But most of his career was spent in the theatre, including a tour as Hamlet with the National Arts Centre of Ottawa and appearances at Stratford, Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Theatre Calgary, Tarragon Theatre and Toronto Free Theatre.

Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell remembered Munro on Monday for his passion for theatre and love of actors.

"As a director he had a vision that was unique — blending extraordinarily detailed preparation with brilliant and at times outrageous ideas, always in the service of illuminating and revitalizing each play," she said.

"As resident director, his commitment to and love for the ensemble and all it stood for was clear daily as was his brilliant skeptical humour which unsuccessfully hid his true warmth and empathy."

Munro most recently directed Somerset Maugham's The Circle and Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke (2007) at the Shaw Festival.

His other directing credits included The Constant Wife, Man and Superman, The Man Who Came to Dinner, All My Sons, Joy, The Petrified Forest and the North American premiere of Lord of the Flies.

He set a production of Shaw's Saint Joan in contemporary times and had the Joan of Arc character dress in a paratrooper's outfit.

For Citadel and Canadian Stage, he directed A Delicate Balance.

Munro was born in 1947 in Musselburgh, Scotland, but moved to Toronto at an early age.

He graduated from the National Theatre School in 1967 and worked on stages across Canada.

In addition to acting and directing, Munro also wrote for the stage. For the Shaw, he adapted George Feydeau's C'est une femme du monde as Something on the Side as well as Ibsen's Rosmersholm.

Munro received a best new play Dora Award for his work on Bob's Kingdom at Factory Theatre and a best director Dora Award for Hamlet's Room, a 1991 adaptation of Hamlet that he wrote and directed.

He was also a Chalmers Award nominee for best new play for Extreme Close Up.

Munro was predeceased by his wife Carole Galloway and is survived by his sister Anna Munro, nephew John Munro and his mother-in-law Stella Galloway and sister-in-law Jackie Martinez.

Born: 1947, Musselburgh, Scotland, U.K.
Died: 6/13/2009, London, Ontario, Canada

Neil Munro's western - actor:
Tales of the Klondike (TV) - 1981

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