Stage career prior to Star Trek
Ever since childhood, Patrick Stewart has had a strong affinity for Shakespeare, and his early career includes numerous appearances in Shakespeare plays.
In 1966, Stewart left Manchester’s Library Theatre to join the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he became an associate artist of the company two years later. In the early 1980s, he moved to the Royal National Theatre, but kept his strong ties with the Royal Shakespeare Company alive.
Stewart´s first Broadway appearance was in the role of Snout in director Peter Brook´s much praised production of A Midsummer Night´s Dream. Here, Stewart was playing opposite Frances de la Tour (Helena), Ben Kingsley (Demetrius) and John Kane (Puck).
Return to stage in the 1990s
Starting around 1990, Patrick Stewart began writing his own one-person shows for the stage and perform them at universities and acting schools in California. He was still associated with the Royal Shakespeare Company, but his work with Star Trek required him to be in California for long streches of time and largely kept him from the English stage.
A Christmas Carol
One of the plays he wrote during this time was a version of Charles Dicken´s “A Christmas Carol” with over 40 different characters for Stewart to portray. After performing it on Broadway, the show won a 1992 Drama Desk Award in the chategory Outstanding Solo Performance.
Stewart has staged this show show several times since, including Broadway performances in 1992, 1994 and 2001, London in 1993 and 2005, and Los Angeles in 1996. All proceeds from the 2001 Broadway show were donated to charities, including the 11 September campaing of the Actors Fund of America.
Examples of Shakespeare roles portrayed on stage by Stewart in the 1990s:
- Prospero, in “The Tempest” on Broadway in 1995
- Othello, in “Othello” with the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. This was a 1997 production where Othello was portrayed by a white actor while the rest of the cast was black.
- Prospero, in “The Tempest” at the Royal Shakespeare Company´s Complete Works Festival in 2006.
Patrick Stewart on stage in the 21st century
A few exampeles of Stewart´s stage work in the 21st century:
Antony and Cleopatra
In 2007, Stewart played the lead role Antony against Harriet Walter at the Novello Theatre in London and received glowing reivews.
When it was announced that Stewart would take on the title role as Macbeth in a 2007 West End production of the play, some critics claimed that he was too old for the role. Nevertheless, the show – including Stewart´s performance – was met with excellent reviews.
In 2008, Stewart and fellow scifi star David Tennant shared the stage in a production of Hamlet, where Stewart portrayed King Claudius.
When accepting his Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor, Stewart dedicated it in part to Tennant and Tennant´s understudy Edward Bennett, as a back injury had forced Tennant to four weeks of absence from Hamlet and disqualified him from an Olivier nomination.
Waiting for Godot
Stewart and long-time friend Ian McKellen portrayed Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) in a 2009 production of Waiting for Godot. For Stewart, taking on this role marked the fulfilment of a wish he had harboured ever since age 17 when he saw the play at the Bristol Old Vic.