Leon Pownall, Canadian Actor Who Wrote, Directed and Taught, Dead at 63

Obituaries   Leon Pownall, Canadian Actor Who Wrote, Directed and Taught, Dead at 63 Leon Pownall, an actor, director and writer who spent 14 seasons at the Stratford Festival in Canada, died June 2 after a battle with cancer, the Festival announced.

He died in Stratford. He was 63. Artistic director Richard Monette remembered his long association with Mr. Pownall: "Leon and I started working together in the mid-1960s. He was a wonderful actor as well as a director and a writer. He was last here directing Do Not Go Gentle, a play he wrote about Dylan Thomas — and though he could be difficult, he had a heart of gold. He shall be missed as a talent and as a friend by those who knew him."

Leon Pownall was born near Wrexham, in northern Wales. His family immigrated to Canada in 1957 and settled in Hamilton, Ontario. Inspired by a drama teacher at Hamilton's Central High School, Mr. Pownall was accepted to the National Theatre School of Canada, but at the same time he received an offer to join the Stratford Festival for the 1964 season. He chose Stratford over school, beginning a relationship with Stratford that would last eight consecutive seasons. During this time he progressed from playing messengers and pages to such roles as Henry V (1966) and Laertes (1969).

From Stratford, Mr. Pownall moved to Canada's West Coast. He took a hiatus from theatre, running his own business in Vancouver. But when he started teaching drama at the Matsqui Penitentiary in Abbotsford, B.C., he was inspired to return to the arts. Mr. Pownall worked as artistic director of the White Rock Summer Theatre and artist-in-residence at the University of British Columbia.

In 1986 Mr. Pownall returned to Stratford to play Henry VIII. His later Stratford roles included Claudius in Hamlet and Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1991); and Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra (1993). In 2002, Mr. Pownall's one-man play Do Not Go Gentle, based on the life of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, was part of the Studio Theatre's inaugural season.

Mr. Pownall is survived by two children, Monty and Peter.

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