He was 77. Born in Trinidad in 1927, Mr. Bryden came to Canada in his teens, graduating from Ridley College in St. Catharines before taking a degree in English literature at the University of Toronto. In 1951 he went to England to take an MA at Cambridge University, after which a series of jobs in journalism led to his making his reputation as literary editor for the Spectator, drama critic for the New Statesman and then the Observer, and dramaturge for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Mr. Bryden returned to Canada in 1976 as a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto's Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, of which he was later director. He served on the boards of several theatre companies in the 1970s and '80s, including the Stratford Festival. On his retirement from the University in 1992, Christopher Newton, artistic director of the Shaw Festival, invited him to become The Shaw's literary adviser, a position he held with distinction until both Newton and Mr. Bryden retired in 2002.
Two collections of his theatre essays have been published, "The Unfinished Hero" (1969) and "Shaw and His Contemporaries" (2002).
Since retiring from the Shaw Festival, he continued to serve the company as one of its Corresponding Scholars, lecturing at the Shaw Seminars and attending all productions. He has also continued to act as an informal resource person for artistic director Jackie Maxwell and for other artists at The Shaw and in Stratford and Toronto.
Upon hearing of his passing, Maxwell said, "We will sorely miss Ron's presence at our openings and shows, his brilliant scholarship which we were so lucky to benefit from, and his warmth, enthusiasm and unbridled love for the Festival." Artistic director emeritus Christopher Newton added, "He would reach out and connect us all — new actors and directors — with his own memories of the passing gods of our theatre. He knew us all and loved us all."