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Bernard Hopkins | 1938 - 2014
As published in the London Free Press, October 23, 2014.

The London and Canadian theatre community are mourning Bernard Hopkins, who starred at the Stratford Festival and was a former artistic director at the Grand Theatre.

“We lost our Beloved Bern (Wednesday) Oct. 22 at 4:02 p.m. He passed peacefully in the arms of his husband Ian White. He thanks you ALL for your support, sympathy and love,” said a post on Hopkins’ Facebook page.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Liverpool and raised in London, England, Hopkins was 77.

“I’d like to make a change but I’m too old to sell shoes,” Hopkins told The Free Press in 2007 when asked what he might be doing if he hadn’t been in the theatre.

“I used to say I’ve never been without a cigarette or a glass of wine. I no longer smoke and the wine is down to a minimum, so what the hell am I doing? . . . I’m going out to play Lear (as the Fool in the 2007 Stratford production) tonight.”

After arriving in Canada decades ago, Hopkins played a dizzying array of theatre roles on- and off-stage and influenced many careers.

“I first worked with Bernard when I was a relatively young director,” Grand Theatre artistic director Susan Ferley said Thursday in recalling their first meeting decades ago at a Kamloops, B.C., theatre company,

“Here was this seasoned actor. He was funny and generous and supportive. What I realized in hindsight is some of the things I say and do as a director I can remember him in a very gentle and generous way mentoring me through the process.”

At the Grand, Hopkins was responsible for 23 productions, including A Christmas Carol, Gypsy and Equus.

Later, when Hopkins was helming the Banff centre for the arts in the 1980s, he invited Ferley to work with him there.

Other friends of Hopkins shared their loss on the late actor’s Facebook page.

“He danced into our lives and into our hearts. He took his final bow yesterday. My sympathy to all of his extended, theatrical family,” one friend from the Stratford Festival said on Facebook Thursday.

“You are with me, dearest man and mentor, every time I step in front of any classroom or coaching, ever. You are with me every line I speak on-stage, in a rehearsal room, in an audition. You are in every word in every play I write,” said another friend in a Facebook post.

Hopkins made his professional Shakespearean debut in 1964 playing Lorenzo and Puck in two productions that had Ralph Richardson as Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The productions opened in Britain and then played extensively in South America and Europe.

He first appeared at the Stratford Festival in 1975, playing Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.

Over 24 seasons, the last one in 2007, his other Shakespearean roles at Stratford included Touchstone in As You Like It, Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well and Gonzalo in The Tempest.

Among his film roles for Stratford-tied productions were Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet and Robert Cecil in Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex.

Stratford productions he directed include Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Knight of the Burning Pestle.

He was also director of Stratford’s Young Company from 1989 to 1992 and a teacher at Birmingham Conservatory.

His ties to London go back many years and he lived here during much of the non-Stratford year.

Hopkins was the artistic director at the Grand Theatre in London from 1980-1983.

In recent times, he mentored the London theatre community and was involved in productions here.

james.reaney@sunmedia.ca

 
   
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