Robert Burr, a Jersey City, NJ, native who became one of the great American interpreters of Shakespeare, died May 13 in Los Angeles, according to The New York Times.
The cause of death was emphysema. Mr. Burr was 78 and had behind him a long list of classical and contemporary credits, beginning with small roles and ensemble parts in Shakespeare plays and modern works the 1950s in New York. At the Broadhurst Theatre, in 1951, he was a Citizen in Romeo and Juliet. In 1956, at City Center, he was Servant to Cornwall in Orson Welles' King Lear, among many other roles.
In 1964, he understudied Richard Burton as Hamlet (and went on) at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and also played Bernardo (under the direction of John Gielgud).
At the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park later that year, he took over for Alfred Ryder as Hamlet in a separate production, and played the rest of the run, becoming a favorite of producer Joe Papp.
Mr. Burr's career blossomed as choice roles followed in productions of Coriolanus, Bajour, The Royal Hunt of the Sun (taking over for Christopher Plummer), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Wars of the Roses and many other roles, particularly for The New York Shakespeare Festival under Papp. In his later career, he would play the Ghost in Hamlet several times. After serving in World War II, Mr. Burr made his Broadway debut in 1947 in The Cradle Will Rock. He studied at Colgate University.
He is survived by his sons, Robert and Britt; his wife, the actress-director Jacqueline Britton; and three daughters, Juliet, Elizabeth, and Laura.
-- By Kenneth Jones