Peter Brook, visionary theater director, dies 

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Image Source: World of Theater and Art

According to his publisher, Nick Hern Books, director Peter Brook, whose innovative theatrical plays revolutionized 20th-century theater, has passed away at the age of 97.

Announcing his passing on social media, his children Simon and Irina, both of whom work as directors, referred to him as “the luckiest kid in the world to have had such an amazing and loving father.” However, neither of them gave details about how or where their father had passed away.

Brook, who was born in London in 1925, staged a production of Shakespeare’s “King John” in Birmingham, England, before making his directing debut in the early 1940s. Following the staging of avant-garde plays by Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau, he directed a number of critically acclaimed Shakespearean productions starring some of the era’s greatest actors, ranging from a 1955 production of “Hamlet” with Paul Scofield to a European tour of “Titus Andronicus” with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Brook developed a reputation for defying convention while working for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in the UK for many years. The Tony Award-winning 1970 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which starred Frances de la Tour, Ben Kingsley, and later Patrick Stewart, is one of his most well-known works. It rejected the traditional interpretations of the time with minimal staging, overtly sexual undertones, and globally-inclusive contemporary costumes.

The play, also known as “Peter Brook’s Dream,” continues to “exert a profound influence on theater artists today,” according to the group.

Along with the English writer’s works, Brook also directed a Tony Award-winning production of German playwright Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade” and “US,” a scathing condemnation of American involvement in the Vietnam War. One of the more than a dozen movies Brook created during his lifetime, which also included adaptations of “King Lear” and William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” was directed by Brook in 1967.

Brook moved to France in 1970 and became control of the Bouffes du Nord theater in Paris. He oversaw plays by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov and Senegalese poet Birago Diop in addition to French translations of Shakespeare there.

The International Centre for Theatre Research, a group of performers, directors, and others who traversed the world performing plays and investigating elements of narrative that may cross-cultural boundaries, was also based at the Bouffes du Nord. The trio is renowned for creating a nine-hour version of the classic Indian epic “The Mahabharata,” which Brook then turned into a five-hour film with the same name.

In his final years, Brook persisted in bringing stories from all over the world to his stages, describing the sufferings of Black South Africans under apartheid in his adaptation of Can Themba’s “The Suit” and recounting the life of the Sufi mystic Tierno Bokar.

Peter Brook was praised for bringing his performances outside of traditional theater settings. For example, during travels to poor nations, his troop performed in abandoned buildings and indigenous villages.

From 1951 till her passing in 2015, Natasha Parry was Brook’s wife.

In addition to the aforementioned Tony Awards, he received an Emmy, an International Emmy, the Prix Italia, and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale, making him one of the theater’s most illustrious individuals. In addition to being a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Companion of Honor in the UK, he was made a Commander of France’s Legion of Honor in 2013.