Beloved Stratford theatre actor Eric Donkin has died after suffering a heart attack during rehearsals as Antonio for Much Ado About Nothing. He was also to have performed in Moliere's The Miser; both productions are scheduled to to go on to New York's City Center in November after the close of the Canadian season.
Donkin, 68, was a Liverpuddlian who spent most of his life in Canada and 42 years in professional theatre, joining the Stratford Festival in 1966 and gaining a popular following for his impeccable and hilarious performances in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He has starred as Ko-Ko in The Mikado, a production which toured to London's Old Vic Theatre and Broadway, the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers, and the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe.
As a serious actor he tackled the title roles in Shakespeare's Cymbeline and Julius Caesar and was awarded both the Tyrone Guthrie and Dora Mavor Moore Awards. In 1987 the Boston Herald named Donkin Best Performer of the Year.
Stratford's artistic director Richard Monette paid tribute to Donkin, saying "Eric was a dear friend and a treasured colleague...(he)... was not only one of this country's most versatile actors, excelling in every genre from classical theatre to musical comedy, he was also one of the best loved. His was a life dedicated to the theatre. It ended as I think he would have wished: hard at work on the art he loved."
By Mira Friedlander