Mr. Rudd — who went simply by the name Paul Rudd during his acting days and is no relation to the current film actor of the same name — was omnipresent for a few years in the mid-1970s. He was in the Broadway premiere of Peter Nichols' The National Health at Circle in the Square in 1974; at the same theatre the next year in O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness, opposite Geraldine Fitzgerald, Teresa Wright and Swoosie Kurtz; played the Gentleman Caller in a 1975 Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Maureen Stapleton and Pamela Payton-Wright; was one of the leads in the original cast of David Rabe's Streamers in 1976; essayed the title monarch in Henry V at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, opposite Meryl Streep; and was Romeo in a 1977 Romeo and Juliet at the Circle in the Square Theater.
His final Broadway credit was as part of the original cast of John Guare's Bosoms and Neglect in 1979.
The Boston-born man's success in his trade was all the more remarkable in that he did not try his hand at acting until he was in his late 20s. He collected a bachelor's degree in psychology from Fairfield University in Connecticut, after which he briefly considered becoming a priest. Instead, he went to work for a New York advertising agency.
He used the tennis ball speech from Henry V for his first audition at Joe Papp's Shakespeare Festival in 1968. The play was Henry IV and he got the job.
From the beginning, Mr. Rudd focused on the work of the Bard. "Right from the start, I determined to ground myself in the most demanding part of the business," he said. "If you can do Shakespeare, you can do anything. I knew Shakespeare was going to be my meat." Fans of Mr. Rudd would spend most of the 1990s and 2000s wondering what became of the once prominent actor. He married in 1983, and, by 1986, he opted to stay home with his family. He did not leave the theatre altogether, however. He developed language and theatre workshops in middle schools and high schools from Harlem to Norwalk. Later, he was invited by Sarah Lawrence College to join their theatre faculty as acting teacher, and then as Shakespeare teacher and director. More recently, he taught at the New School for Drama.
Mr. Rudd's first marriage, to Joan Mannion, ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Martha Bannerman, whom he married in 1983; their three children, Graeme, Kathryn and Eliza; and his mother, Kathryn Rudd.
The actor did his share of television, including a regular role as an Irish chauffeur in the short-lived 1975 series "Beacon Hill." But the fame that television and film might have conferred on him never seemed to be his aim. "I might have been in that series for five years," he said shortly after "Beacon Hill" was cancelled. "I didn't want to become a living-room fixture, a household word."