Bernard Hopkins, left, as The Fool and Brian Bedford as Lear in the 2007 Stratford Festival production of King Lear . . . David Hou photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival
JBNBlog’s thoughts & prayers are with the family & friends of the great Londoner Bernard Hopkins. The actor was born in Liverpool and later starred at Stratford, was the artistic director of the Grand Theatre & inspired the London theatre community whose members were part of his extended family during his time here.
Bernard Hopkins was in the cast of the 1965 production of my late father’s play The Killdeer at Glasgow. The production was the chief contribution to the Commonwealth Arts Festival by the Citizens’ Theatre Company. JBNBlog is hoping to find more material about this production via the Scottish Theatre Archives.
The Stratford Festival and Grand Theatre both sent out moving tributes to Bernard Hopkins on Thursday . . . here are the words from the Grand:
London, Ontario, October 23, 2014 - The Grand Theatre is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Artistic Director, Bernard Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins served as Artistic Director from 1980 – 1983 during thetheatre’s tenure as Theatre London.
We mourn the loss of this dedicated artist – actor, director, teacher, mentor and artistic director. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the many actors, directors, teachers and audiences whom he taught, directed, mentored and inspired.
While serving as Artistic Director, Mr. Hopkins was responsible for 23 productions including A Christmas Carol, Gypsy, and Equus. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.
. . . & here is the Stratford release:
Festival mourns the loss of Bernard Hopkins
October 23, 2014… The Stratford Festival was saddened to learn of the passing on Wednesday, October 22, of Bernard Hopkins, whose theatre career spanned half a century, including 24 seasons as a beloved member of the Festival company.
“Bernard began as a child performer, and even after a lifetime on stage he never lost the childlike sparkle in his eye for the magic of the theatre,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “He was an accomplished actor and director, but perhaps his greatest strength lay in teaching. His kindness, his keen mind and his insights into the craft of acting made him a much-loved mentor to several generations of Canadian actors.
“Yet despite his erudition and passion for the classical canon in drama and opera, Bernard never lost touch with that poor child whose sheer talent, intelligence and vast imagination opened up for himself a life in the magic of the stage.”
Born on March 4, 1937, in Liverpool, England, Mr. Hopkins appeared with Joan Littlewood’s company in London while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Leaving RADA to accept a television role, he went on to play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice – productions starring Sir Ralph Richardson that toured South America and the capitals of Europe.
After appearing in the U.K. première of Canadian dramatist James Reaney’s The Killdeer, he was invited by the Manitoba Theatre Centre to play Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. He played that same role – along with that of Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona – in his first season at the Stratford Festival in 1975.
Mr. Hopkins’s many other Shakespearean roles at Stratford included Touchstone in As You Like It (1977), Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well (1988), Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet (1992) and Gonzalo in The Tempest (2005). He was a memorable Robert Cecil in Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex, both in its stage première at the Festival in 2000 and in the subsequent film version. His Festival season was in 2007, when he played Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice and an acclaimed Fool in Brian Bedford’s King Lear.
Festival productions that he directed include Love’s Labour’s Lost (1989), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1990), Twelfth Night and The Knight of the Burning Pestle (both 1991). He also served three terms as an Associate Artist of the Festival.
From 1980 to 1983, Mr. Hopkins was Artistic Director of the Grand Theatre in London; then, in 1984, he became Head of Drama at the Banff School for the Arts, a post he held until 1987. He also taught at other schools across Canada and the United States, including Bishop’s University, the University of Alberta, the National Theatre School, Florida State University and Carnegie-Mellon University.
He was Director of the Festival’s Young Company from 1989 to 1992, and in more recent years he taught in its Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Training, helping to hone the talents of Canada’s next generation of leading classical players.