david-william

David William in 1990 in Stratford, Ont., on the set of As You Like It. ((Elisabeth Feryn/Stratford Shakespeare Festival))

David William, who was part of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for 17 seasons and its artistic director for three years, has died. He was 84.

The British-born stage actor and director died of a head injury suffered in a fall on Wednesday, according to a statement from the annual theatre festival in southwestern Ontario.

"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."

He first directed at Stratford in a 1966 production of Twelfth Night, featuring a young Martha Henry as Viola. He worked with actors such as Richard Monette, Marti Maraden, Seana McKenna and Colm Feore early in their careers.

William directed William Hutt in the title role of Volpone in 1971 and was at the helm when Hutt, one of Stratford's most noted actors, gave his first performance of King Lear in 1972.

He was artistic director from 1990 to 1993, when the festival was struggling to balance its books.

However, he broke important new ground in expanding the commissioning of new work and producing Canadian playwrights on larger stages at Stratford, including John Murrell's Memoir and Michel Tremblay's Forever Yours, Marie-Lou, according to Des McAduff, Stratford's current artistic director.

Born June 24, 1926 in London, William began his theatre career on London stages, including the Old Vic, Lyric Theatre and Mermaid Theatre, and by the mid-1950s he was directing.

He directed much Shakespeare, including The Tempest at the Open Air Theatre in London in 1955 and Much Ado About Nothing at the same theatre in 1963. He was artistic director of the New Shakespeare Company, which performed at the Open Air Theatre, from 1962 to 1968 before deciding to make his home in Canada.