Richard Easton Dies: Tony Award-Winning ‘Invention Of Love’ Actor Was 86

Richard Easton Shutterstock

Tony Award-winning actor Richard Easton, who broke a 30-year break from Broadway to make an acclaimed performance in Tom Stoppard’s  2001 play The Invention of Love, died Dec. 2 at age 86.

Easton’s death was announced in a Facebook post by his friend and colleague James Wallert, co-artistic director of Epic Theatre Ensemble. No cause of death was disclosed.

Born in Canada and building an acclaimed, six-decade Broadway career beginning in the 1950s, Easton won the Tony for leading actor for his performance as A.E. Housman in the Stoppard play (Robert Sean Leonard, who co-starred as Housman in his younger years, won the Tony for featured actor).

Easton made news of a different sort when he appeared in another Stoppard play five years later: During a preview of The Coast of Utopia, Easton fainted on stage after experiencing a heart arrhythmia. Co-stars Ethan Hawke and Martha Plimpton called out for a doctor in the house.

Though the emergency caused the one-night delay of opening night at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, Easton returned to the role three weeks later after undergoing a medical procedure.

Richard Easton, 2001 Tony Awards Shutterstock

“Richard was a phenomenal actor, an inspiring teacher, and a shining example of what it means to be a professional,” Wallert wrote about his mentor and friend on Facebook. “In 2011 during the lead-up to Epic Theatre Ensemble’s production of Macbeth, he was gracious enough to give me another acting lesson.”

Actor Michael Emerson, who co-starred with Easton in the New York Theatre Workshop’s 2005 production of Itamar Moses’ Bach at Leipzig, mourned the passing of the “neighbor, friend and superb actor.” The Person of Interest star tweeted, “Grateful to have shared the stage with him.”

Prior to his Broadway debut in 1957’s Measure For Measure, Easton performed in repertory in his native Canada, then appeared in a 1954 London production of Both Ends Meet.

Additional Broadway credits include The Taming of the Shrew, The Duchess of Malfi, The Country Wife, Pickwick, The Cherry Orchard, and, in 1972, Murderous Angels. The latter was his final performance on Broadway until his triumphant return, at age 77, in 2001’s The Invention of Love. He was inducted into New York’s Theater Hall of Fame in 2008.

Though he was primarily known as a stage actor, Easton also built a lengthy roster of TV and film credits, including appearances in Revolutionary Road, Finding Forrester, Doctor Who (portraying Captain Stapley in 1982), The Saint, and HBO’s Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire.

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