The British-born stage actor and director's years at the helm of the Canadian company were 1990 to 1993, but he was at the festival for a total of 17 years.
"David made an enormous contribution to the festival that spanned many decades," Stratford general director Antoni Cimolino said in a statement. "He directed a great deal of Shakespeare at Stratford, and became Canada's go-to director for Shakespeare's contemporaries, the Restoration and the Greeks. His work was characterized by a precision and intelligence that made the most challenging classical text enjoyable to all audiences." Mr. William first directed at Stratford in 1966, piloting a production of Twelfth Night. In 1971, he directed Stratford legend William Hutt in the title role of Volpone in 1971, and again in 1972 in King Lear.
During his time as artistic director, he was known for expanding the commissioning of new work and producing Canadian playwrights.
Cimolino, a former actor who is now general director, said that during his first season at Stratford, he was in the cast of Mr. William's production of T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral; and current artistic director Des McAnuff said the first professional Shakespeare production he saw was Mr. William's The Merry Wives of Windsor. "That production changed my life, and I have little doubt that his work had an equally powerful effect on many other audience members over the years," McAnuff said.
David William was born June 24, 1926, in London. By the mid-1950s he was directing. From 1962 to 1968, he was artistic director of the New Shakespeare Company, which performed at the Open Air Theatre. Soon after, he moved to Canada.