British director and former leader of Royal Shakespeare Company Terry Hands died February 4 at the age of 79. The news was confirmed in a tribute from current RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and company member Antony Sher.
Born January 9, 1941, in Aldershot, Terence David Hands trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before co-founding Liverpool's Everyman Theatre (along with Martin Jenkins and Peter James) in 1964. While with Everyman, Mr. Hands directed a number of productions, notably a well received production of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. A favorable review of that production in London's Manchester Guardian put Everyman and Mr. Hands on the map.
Mr. Hands joined RSC to run their touring group Theatregoround in 1966, becoming an associate director the following year. His RSC directing debut came in 1968 with a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Over the 1970s, He would direct productions of such works as The Balcony, The Man of Mode, and The Bewitched.
He became RSC's joiny artistic director with Trevor Nunn in 1978, winning a Best Director Olivier Award the same year for his Henry IV. Standouts in Mr. Hands' directorial work in the 1980s included Poppy, The Winter's Tale, and Othello, the latter starring Ben Kingsley. Mr. Hands also worked on new work, such as the 1986 British premiere production of Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage.
Mr. Hands made his Broadway debut with a 1984 repertory production alternating between Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano De Bergerac, receiving Tony Award nominations the following year for directing the former and for his lighting design of both works.
After becoming RSC's sole chief executive in 1986, Mr. Hands began work on one his most ambitious career projects, a musical adaptation of Stephen King's novel Carrie. RSC hosted the piece's world premiere in 1988, a production that starred Linzi Hately in the title role and Barbara Cook as her overbearing mother. The complex and expensive production was plagued with technical issues and mixed reviews during its four-week run in Stratford-upon-Avon, leading to many revisions and Cook's departure prior to a Broadway transfer just a few months later. The show's troubles continued across the pond, with the Broadway production (now with Betty Buckley starring alongside Hately) closing after just 16 previews and five performances. Though the musical would ultimately come to be known as one of Broadway's most infamous financial failures, the work has enjoyed cult fandom in the years since its premiere.
Trevor Nunn succeeded Mr. Hands as artistic director of RSC in 1997. Mr. Hands' next theatre would be Theatr Clwyd. Over 17 years, he took the theatre, then on the brink of closure, to one of the most successful companies in Wales.
Mr. Hands was married three times: to singer Josephine Barstow in 1964, actor Ludmila Mikaël in 1974, and director Emma Lucia in 2002. He also had three children: a daughter, Marina, with Mikaël; and two sons, Sebastian and Rupert, with actor and dancer Julia Lintott. He is survived by all three children and Lucia.