Sadly, another great Canadian actor passed away in the new year. Peter Donaldson, who played Reverend Leonard in Road to Avonlea and Ian Bowles in Emily of New Moon, died of lung cancer at the age of 57 last Saturday.
His wife is Canadian actress Sheila McCarthy, who also guest starred on Road to Avonlea and played Aunt Laura on Emily of New Moon.
Donaldson was a Genie Award winning actor and a veteran stage presence at both Stratford and in Toronto. He would often play opposite his wife of 24 years, in series such as Emily of New Moon and other plays.
The actor, who was described in The Globe and Mail as “an in-demand talent with a strong masculine stage presence”, was supposed to return to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this spring in the productions Titus Andronicus and Richard III. It would have been his 25th season.
Antoni Cimolino, general director at Stratford, described Peter as the “finest actor’s actor” who was really coming into his own in the last decade of his career. “He was deeply admired for the conviction he brought to his work and the unsparing truth of his portrayals. He was versatile and able to give outstanding performances in modern plays, musicals and classics. But his home was Shakespeare…We’re only left to wonder what his Lear would have been like, what his Prospero would have been like, and it’s a big loss for the festival’s future.”
Donaldson first appeared at Stratford in 1977 in a production of Romeo and Juliet. The Midland, Ontario native studied at Guelph University as well as in New York under Stella Adler, Olympia Dukakis and Uta Hagen.
In 1996 he won a Genie Award for his supporting role in Long Day’s Journey Into Night – a Stratford play that was filmed. He also appeared in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, which starred Avonlea’s Sarah Polley, but it is said that he preferred the stage.
Even though Donaldson had been undergoing treatments for the past two years, he continued to appear in a number of plays, giving unforgettable performances. He leaves behind two daughters, as well as his close friend, CBC broadcaster Peter Mansbridge.