Stage Door News

Stratford: The Stratford Festival mourns the loss of esteemed text coach Ian Watson

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

It was with great sadness that the Stratford Festival learned of the death of Ian Watson yesterday, of cancer. An expert in Shakespearean text, Mr. Watson was a key member of the Festival’s coaching staff.

“Our Festival Company has lost a loved mentor, a great ally and a kind friend,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Ian was one of the most passionate theatre artists I've known. His was a profound love for the stage that made him a source of strength to all of us that have chosen this beautiful but sometimes painful way of life. Ian’s insights into Shakespeare, his deep commitment to his fellow artists and his love of the Stratford Festival were extraordinary. I so deeply appreciate his help during my tenure. Our hearts are broken.”

The Stratford Festival is dedicating the 2019 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor to Mr. Watson’s memory, with gratitude for his many contributions.

Mr. Watson’s career at the Festival spanned many decades. He was invited by Artistic Director John Hirsch to join the company as an actor in 1984. Over four seasons, Mr. Watson appeared in such roles as the Young Collector in A Streetcar Named Desire, Luce in Knight of the Burning Pestle, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Martius in Titus Andronicus, and Silvius in As You Like It

Mr. Watson also performed at theatres across Canada, including the National Arts Centre, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Grand Theatre, Centaur Theatre, Persephone Theatre, The Piggery and Theatre Lac Brôme.

In 2001 he began teaching at the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre and continued his work with the Conservatory until his death. He also served as a teacher and consultant for the Education Department, and as a guest artist for the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction.

For the past five years Mr. Watson was a core member of the Festival’s coaching team. His unparalleled expertise in Shakespearean and classical text contributed enormously to the work on stage and to the development of a new generation of classical actors.

His work as a teacher and coach stretched far beyond Stratford, however. From the 1990s through 2001, and from 2014 until his death, Mr. Watson taught at the National Theatre School of Canada. In 2003, he joined the faculty at Ryerson University’s School of Performance. He also taught at George Brown Theatre School, the University of Waterloo, CEGEP John Abbott College and Concordia University.

An esteemed mentor, Mr. Watson was awarded the William Needles Award for Mentorship at the Festival’s 2017 Guthrie Awards, a truly well-deserved honour. As a coach and teacher he was beloved by artists, both at the Festival and across the country. Mr. Watson himself was influenced and mentored by the great acting teacher Michael Mawson and his dear friend Bernard Hopkins.

Mr. Watson is survived by his wife, Janine Pearson, and their daughter, Anik, as well as by many family members, including his father, Douglas, sister, Martha, and brother, Alick.

Photo: Ian Watson. © 2019 Terry Manzo.