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Peter Brook, Legendary British Theatre and Film Director, Dead at 97

The visionary theater director was also active in film throughout his eight-decade career.

Peter Brook

Peter Brook

AP

Peter Brook, the innovative film and theater director known for groundbreaking adaptations of classic literary works and bringing prominent non-Western influences into the theater world, has died at the age of 97. The news was confirmed by BBC.

For the majority of the 20th century, Brook was consistently viewed as one of the most important directors working in the theater world. Born in London in 1925, he began directing Shakespeare productions at Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1940s. He quickly became known for his willingness to infuse classic texts, including operas and Christopher Marlowe plays, with experimental aesthetic choices. After several of his productions transferred to Broadway in the 1960s, Brook moved to Paris in the early 1970s. He founded an experimental theater company known as the International Centre for Theatre Research, which traveled throughout Africa and the Middle East to work with local artists on collaborative theater pieces.

As time went on, his productions became more experimental in their approach and more global in their scale. One of his most notable works was “The Mahabharata,” a sprawling nine-hour theater production of the Indian national epic that famously utilized puppetry to tell a story that many thought was impossible to stage or film.

In addition to his theater career, Brook also found success as a film director. He competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival twice, in 1960 with “Moderato Cantabile” and again in 1963 with “Lord of the Flies.” He also directed the film “Meetings With Remarkable Men” in 1979. Throughout the rest of his career, he primarily focused on filming productions of his stage plays, winning two Emmys for his work. In 1984 he won his first Emmy for his staging of “La tragedie de Carmen,” then in 1990 he won an International Emmy for the TV adaptation of “The Mahabharata.”

Brook stayed active as a theater director up until the end of his life. He continued to direct productions in Paris with his longtime collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne, recently staging original productions like “Why?,” “The Prisoner,” and “The Tempest Project.” He was married to actress Natasha Parry, who died in 2015, for 64 years. Brook is survived by their two children.

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