Stage Door News

Stratford: The Stratford Festival mourns the death of Brent Carver

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Stratford Festival is devastated to learn of the death of Brent Carver, an actor of incomparable talent, winner of a Tony Award for his starring role in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and a long-time Stratford Festival company member.

News of Brent’s death came from his family in Cranbrook, B.C., where he died on August 4, at the age of 68.

“Brent was an artist who demanded the utmost of himself, opening up his heart to reveal the pain and beauty of life. He was an inspiration to everyone who knew him,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino.

“Like Cleopatra, he had infinite variety: he was fire and air and he now leaves the other elements, earth and water, to this mortal life.”

Brent was a national treasure, performing on stages across Canada as well as in dozens of film and television roles. In 1993 he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman. He was nominated again in 1999 for Parade. He also toured to New York in 2004 with the Stratford Festival’s production of King Lear, in which he played Edgar to Christopher Plummer’s Lear.  

In his nine seasons at Stratford he moved audiences in dramatic, comedic and musical roles. There was truly no one like him. He made his Stratford debut in 1980, playing Edmund Tyrone in Robin Phillips’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with William Hutt and Jessica Tandy. That same season he played Henry Paddington in The Beggar’s Opera, Dillard Nations in Foxfire and Florindo Aretusi in The Servant of Two Masters

His other Stratford roles include Hamlet in both Hamlet and Rozencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in 1986; Don John in 1987’s Much Ado About Nothing; Ned and Beatrice in the world première of Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex in 2000; and Jaques in 2010’s As You Like It

His musical roles included the Pirate King in 1985’s The Pirates of Penzance; the Master of Ceremonies in 1987’s Cabaret; Tevye in 2000’s Fiddler on the Roof; Merlin and King Pellinore in 2011’s Camelot; and Pontius Pilate in 2011’s Jesus Christ Superstar. In 2010 he starred in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, the musical that helped launch his career in the 1970s.

His final performances at Stratford were in 2017, playing Feste in Martha Henry’s production of Twelfth Night and Rowley in Antoni Cimolino’s production of The School for Scandal. That same year he presented his remarkable cabaret with The Art of Time Ensemble at the Avon Theatre.

“Everyone in Stratford is devastated by this tragic news,” said Cimolino. “He was the best of us and represented the best in us. He was singular: an original in every sense. And yet his heart was so big it encompassed us all and made us one. Our thoughts are with his family and all who loved him.”

Brent was predeceased by his parents, Ken and Lois Carver, his sister Sherry Laurie and brothers Archie and Danny. He is survived by his sisters Vicki Stanley (Donald) and Frankie Reekie (Kelly), and brothers Randy (Janine) and Shawn (Alisha), as well as many nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and -nephews.

A private family memorial will be held on Monday. A celebration of his life will be held by the Stratford Festival when public health conditions allow.

Photo: Brent Carver as Hamlet. © 1986 Robert C. Ragsdale.