Whenever I saw Peter Donaldson's name in a show's program, I knew that I was going to witness a memorable performance.
The veteran Stratford actor, who died Saturday (January 8), had the enviable ability to communicate text and emotion with ease and simplicity, to bring us into the world his character inhabited.
In short, the audience believed everything Donaldson did and said onstage.
He spent nearly 25 seasons at Stratford, where his standout work included Long Day's Journey Into Night (later filmed), Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, the difficult title role in Timon Of Athens, Ghosts, To Kill A Mockingbird and Into The Woods. He last worked there in 2008's Caesar And Cleopatra, playing the staunch and practical Rufio opposite Christopher Plummer's Caesar; the production was also filmed.
But Donaldson also lit up Toronto stages in such works as I Am Yours, Plan B and Seven Stories at the Tarragon. Last season alone we were lucky enough to see him three times over the winter, in And So It Goes at Factory Theatre (as the mellow Ned, whose job loss turns him into an angry, distrustful figure), Art at Canadian Stage (playing the plain-dealing Marc, who won't lie to his friend that the friend's newly purchased painting is dreck) and a reprise of Glengarry Glen Ross at Soulpepper (as the vengeful Moss, with Donaldson giving David Mamet's shotgun dialogue an extra punch).
That last part was dramatically miles away from his other Soulpepper appearance, as the gentle, all-knowing Stage Manager who guides viewers through the action in Our Town.
There were film and TV appearances, too, among them The Sweet Hereafter, Murdoch Mysteries, Living In Your Car and Emily Of New Moon, the last with his wife Sheila McCarthy.
This coming Stratford season he was scheduled to perform in Richard III and Titus Andronicus. Whoever steps into those roles, no matter what his talent, we'll still miss Donaldson's dramatic skill and trademark honesty.