Former UVM theater director has died

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(Host) Ed Feidner, whose theater career spanned 35 years at the University of Vermont, died last week.

He was especially known as the producer and artistic director of UVM’s Champlain Shakespeare Festival.

VPR’s Betty Smith has more.

(Smith) Feidner held many titles at the university… first director of drama, first full professor of theater, first chair of the department.

But Shakespeare was in his heart, and he believed strongly that Shakespeare was central to the university’s theater department.

While he was teaching at UVM, he produced or acted in all but three of Shakespeare’s plays.

Opening in 1962, the Champlain Shakespeare Festival ran for 18 years, and even in retirement, he claimed that a careful reader could always find something fresh in Shakespeare’s plays.

(Feidner) No matter how many times you see a play by Shakespeare, each time there’s something new, whether it’s in rehearsal or performance. A perceptive mind learns something new each time.

In the early years plays were performed in the old Arena Theater under the Fleming Museum.

As the need grew for a fine arts center, Feidner proposed transforming a former gymnasium into what is now the Royall Tyler Theater.

(Feidner) I said, there’s the old gymnasium and we can build a first rate theater within that space. The Williams Science Hall – give that to Fine Arts – those laboratories would make wonderful studios. And give Southwick to the Music Department. It has a wonderful gymnasium/auditorium, which would make an ideal recital hall. They bought the idea, and that’s what’s there now.

In 2000, he and his wife, Mary, moved to Bennington.

His career was peppered with many achievements and he made a significant contribution to the arts in Vermont.

Tom Slayton is the former editor of Vermont Life.

(Slayton) Ed Feidner was a brilliant director, who for many, many years – twenty years at least – directed the Shakespeare festival at the University of Vermont. He was a very visual, very intelligent, and very active director, and he made Shakespeare – all the plays of Shakespeare, accessible and fun for Vermonters for a long time. One of the things I remember most vividly about Ed, one of the last things he did for the Shakespeare Festival, was he cast himself in the role of King Lear, which I think was a very courageous thing for an older man to do and he gave a stunning performance.

Ed Feidner is survived by his wife Mary, a brother, five children and many grandchildren.

Ed Feidner was 77.

For VPR News, I’m Betty Smith.

(Host) A celebration of Ed Feidner’s life will be held on May 10th at 4:00 at the ParkMcCullough House in North Bennington and also on June 14, at 11:00 at the Royall Tyler Theatre in Burlington.





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