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Michael Langham, Theater Director, Dies at 91

Michael Langham, prominent director of North American theater, died Jan. 15 in Cranbrook, England. He contracted a chest infection before Christmas and never recovered, passing away at 91.

Langham was born Aug. 22, 1919, in Bridgewater, England. Son of Seymour and Muriel Andrews, he studied law at the University of London and enlisted in the British Army in 1939, spending five years as a prisoner of war. After leading several U.K. repertory theaters, he became the second artistic director in the history of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, serving in that role from 1956 to 1967.  "Love's Labour's Lost" became his signature production, and he directed the play for several theaters and three times at Stratford, most recently in 2008, his final production.

From 1979 to 1982, and again from 1987 to 1992, Langham was the director of the Juilliard School's drama division. Shortly after, he worked as an artistic adviser for Tony Randall's National Actors Theatre. He directed the company's rendition of Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens," which garnered Langham his only Tony Award nomination as best director, play, in 1994. During the course of his career, he directed productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Old Vic, working with then–rising stars Peter O'Toole, Ian Richardson, Irene Worth, Denholm Elliot, and Judi Dench.

He is survived by his wife, actor Helen Burns; son, Christopher; and five grandchildren. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival will dedicate the 2011 season to Langham and will hold a memorial at a later date.

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