Accomplished stage actor, pioneering theatre director Marti Maraden dies at 78

TORONTO — Stage actor Marti Maraden, who helped break down barriers for women as an early theatre director in Canada, has died at age 78.

Mirvish Productions says Maraden faced a sudden illness while visiting her family in Sweden. She died on Thursday.

Born in the United States, Maraden came to Canada with her husband in 1968 because they wanted to avoid the Vietnam War draft.

They both joined the Stratford Festival six years later, with Maraden playing Katharine in "Love’s Labour’s Lost" and Antiochus’s daughter in "Pericles."

Within a year, she was a Stratford favourite taking on roles as Mary Warren in "The Crucible" and Irina in John Hirsch’s production of "Three Sisters," alongside Maggie Smith and Martha Henry.

In 1979, she moved to New York where she began teaching and directing before she returned to Canada to become what Stratford called one of the country's most respected directors of both classical and contemporary repertoire.

Artistic director Antoni Cimolino credited Maraden as "among the first women in Canada to work regularly as a director."

Theatre producer David Mirvish called her "a brilliant actor" whose "performances were luminous, captivating and vividly alive."

"Because of her rich experiences as an actor and a teacher of theatre performance, she became a very sensitive director, attuned to the needs of other actors," he said in a statement.

Maraden performed twice at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto with productions of "Cyrano de Bergerac" in 1984 and "The Women" in 1987, part of her seven-year stint in the Shaw Festival company.

She returned to Stratford in 1990 to direct a dozen productions that included "Les Belles-Soeurs," featuring Janet, Susan and Anne Wright and "Alice Through the Looking Glass" with Sarah Polley.

Her other roles included artistic director of English theatre at the National Arts Centre from 1997 to 2006, and that year shetook the role of co-artistic director at Stratford, alongside Don Shipley and Des McAnuff.

The Stratford Festival says it plans to dedicate one of its 2024 Shakespeare productions to her memory.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press