Mervyn Blake, a Mainstay at Canada's Stratford Festival for 42 Seasons, Dead at 95

Obituaries   Mervyn Blake, a Mainstay at Canada's Stratford Festival for 42 Seasons, Dead at 95
 
The Canadian theatre community lost one of its giants with the Oct. 9 death of Mervyn "Butch" Blake, a longtime member of the Stratford Festival company.

Mr. Blake was 95 and died at Toronto's Rekai Centre, his home for the last four years.

"Butch Blake was a beloved actor and had the distinction of playing in every single play of Shakespeare's, in a career that spanned 70 years," Stratford artistic director Richard Monette said in a statement. "He was respected and he had many friends who mourn his passing."

Mr. Blake was born in 1907 in Dehra Dun, India. He graduated from London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1932 and made his professional stage debut the following year at the Embassy Theatre. He acted until he was commissioned to be a driver in World War II, and returned to the stage after.

From 1952-55, he was a member of the Stratford-upon Avon Memorial Theatre Company in England and came to Canada in 1957 to join the Stratford Festival company, in its fifth year. He remained for the next 42 seasons, last appearing in Two Gentlemen of Verona in 1998. A decade earlier, artistic director John Neville programmed Two Gentlemen specifically because it was the only play Shakespeare Mr. Blake had not appeared in.

Mr. Blake also acted in film and TV over the years, and won a Dora Mavor Moore Award in 1987 for his work in Saturday, Sunday, Monday at the St. Lawrence Center. Mr. Blake was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1978 and was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada Nov. 16, 1995. A biography, "With Love From Butch," written by Canadian theatre critic Audrey Ashley, was published in 1999.

Survivors include wife Christine Bennett, an actress; children Andrew and Bridget; and stepson Tim Davisson.

A celebration of Mervyn Blake's life is expected at the Stratford Festival in the future.

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