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The bold and the Bard

Richard Pasco, Sheila Allen, Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley.
Richard Pasco, Sheila Allen, Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley. Credit: SFU Archives. School of Contemporary Arts fonds, F-109-12-5-0-193

Before reaching international stardom, English actors Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart graced the stages and classrooms of SFU as artists-in-residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company—sharing their dramatic expertise with students and the public alike.

Over five days in February 1977, Stewart and Kingsley—alongside Sheila Allen, Juliet Aykroyd and Richard Pasco—engaged in a whirlwind of workshops, lectures and seminars and performed six plays that attracted more than 1,900 theatre fans to the Burnaby campus.

Instead of performing full-length plays with elaborate costumes and sets, each production offered a sampling of Shakespeare vignettes following a chosen theme, such as “Lovers and Madmen” or “Wooing, Wedding and Repenting.”

In addition to these special events, the quintet met with more than 600 English and Fine and Performing Arts students in individual sessions, which included everything from a sonnet workshop to a class on theatre movement for dancers.

The sojourn from Stratford-upon-Avon distinguished SFU as the first Canadian university to host the Royal Shakespeare Company and the only one on this hectic, six-week North American West Coast tour.

Five years later, Kingsley would go on to play Mahatma Gandhi in the eponymous 1982 epic biographical film, garnering widespread critical acclaim and an Academy Award for Best Actor.

It would be another decade before Stewart’s television career took off playing the leading role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as the celebrated Captain Jean-Luc Picard.


Photos from The Peak in 1977

“Program lacked Spirit,” The Peak, 15 Feb. 1977 & “Snippets of Shakespeare,” The Peak, 11 Feb. 1977.

This story is part of our summer 2024 edition of Engage, our magazine celebrating the impact of SFU’s donor community.
To read more stories, please visit the Engage landing page.