The Stratford Festival has announced that Martha Henry has decided to move on from her position as Director of the Stratford Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at the conclusion of her contract.
“I have been trying to persuade Martha to stay on for another five-year term, but sadly to no avail,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in a release provided by the festival.
Henry will continue her relationship with the Festival as a valued artist, actor and director. In 2016 she’s directing the Festival’s production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
Henry’s first term as Director of the Conservatory began in 2007, when the baton was passed to her from David Latham.
“I had never been a teacher, or anything other than an actor and a director; I had no idea that I could do such a thing,” said Henry.
“Antoni Cimolino is a hard person to say ‘no’ to. Now, I am forever grateful.
When finished, Ann Stuart [the coordinator of the Conservatory] and I will have had 10 years of watching, nurturing, coaxing, paving the ground for young actors about to step firmly into their careers.
Many of them have become dear friends.
That we have also seen so many go on to enormous achievements has been the enriched payment of a lifetime.”
Added Cimolino, “Her dedication to her responsibilities and her devotion to the development of young actors have been an inspiration to us all.”
To ensure a smooth transition as her tenure comes to a close, she will share responsibility for the 2016-17 Conservatory, which begins next September.
A Companion of the Order of Canada
Henry’s contributions have been crucial to the Festival’s success.
A Companion of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario and a recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, she has enriched the cultural landscape of this country immeasurably. At the Festival alone, she has performed in almost 70 productions over 41 seasons and has directed 11 more.
“Martha has served as an incredibly important bridge between our history and our future in her capacity as Director of the Birmingham Conservatory,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney.
“We have benefited enormously from her wealth of experience, her stewardship of the next generation of artists, and her care for the Stratford Festival. The Birmingham Conservatory has been enriched by her contributions, and the Festival and the broader theatre community will be the beneficiaries of her work with these emerging artists for years to come.”
Henry’s storied career at the Stratford Festival began in 1962, when she appeared as Miranda to William Hutt’s Prospero and Lady Macduff in Christopher Plummer and Kate Reid’s “Macbeth.”
Her acclaimed roles have included many of Shakespeare’s women: Titania, both Helenas, Luciana, Cressida, Viola, Countess of Rossillion, Cymbeline’s Queen, Lady Anne, Queen Eleanor, Cordelia, Goneril, Rosaline, Princess of France, Thaisa, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, Doll Tearsheet, Queen Margaret, Joan la Pucelle, Constance, Isabella, Beatrice, Paulina and Volumnia.
Her more contemporary roles include Olga (Three Sisters), Mary Tyrone (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), Martha (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Mrs. Alving (Ghosts), Agnes (A Delicate Balance), Linda Loman (Death of a Salesman) and Prof in Taking Shakespeare, directed by Diana Leblanc in the 2013 season.
As a director at the Festival, her productions include “Brief Lives” (featuring Douglas Rain), “Richard II” (Geordie Johnson), “Richard III” (Tom McCamus), “Of Mice and Men” (Graham Greene), “An Enemy of the People” (David Fox) and “Three Sisters” (Lucy Peacock and Tom McCamus).
Henry’s contributions to theatre, film and television have been celebrated with five Genie Awards, two Betty Mitchell Awards, a Toronto Drama Desk Award, a New York Theatre World Award, three Gemini Awards and seven honorary doctorates. She has also been made a Lifetime Member of Actors’ Equity.
The Festival reports that a search for a new Conservatory Director is underway.