Who was Michael Rudman?
As the eldest son of a Texas oil magnate and a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and St Edmund Hall in Oxford, the late theatrical director Michael Rudman, who died at 84, might have worked his way to the top of business or politics. Instead, he became enamoured with the theatre.
He attended the Cannes Film Festival with his father while on break between Oberlin and Oxford. His father had turned down Pablo Picasso’s offer of a free painting because he preferred the artist over the work. He also got his first job as a stagehand with the avant-garde New York group Living Theatre, who were on their first European tour.
Rudman was tall, attractive, and charming, just like two other American directors who significantly influenced the radical theatre scene in London in the middle of the 1960s: Jim Haynes at the Arts Lab in Covent Garden and Charles Marowitz at the RSC. However, with complete conviction, Rudman ultimately chose a more traditional path.
His Achievements and Career:
In three crucial performances at the Nottingham Playhouse, he directed Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller’s most famous play, where he served as an assistant in the late 1960s.
He gained notoriety in the 1970s as the creative director of the Hampstead Theatre Club as a sensitive and perceptive director of competent performers in competent new pieces, several of which were produced in the West End: Billie Whitelaw, Barbara Ferris, and Felicity Kendal—the latter his future wife—in two of Michael Frayn’s early successes, Alphabetical and The Ride Across Lake Constance; Nigel Hawthorne and Alan Howard in Peter Handke’s elliptical, enchanting The Ride Across Lake Constance.
He gained the respect of performers, particularly the most technically brilliant since he had a very excellent ear and admired their skills. He described rehearsing McCowen and Geraldine McEwan in a 1980 Rattigan’s The Browning Version and Harlequinade performance as “the greatest pleasure I’ve ever had with the lights on.”
His Private Life:
Michael Rudman, the eldest son of MB “the Duke” Rudman and his wife, Josephine, a schoolteacher whose zeal and effectiveness on the golf field her son inherited, was born in Tyler, Texas. He attended Dallas’ Saint Mark’s School before attending Oberlin and Oxford (1961-64), where he was voted president of the theatrical society.
From his first marriage, his daughters, Amanda and Katherine, and his grandchildren, Catherine, Archie, Dylan, Lucas, and Rosa, survive him. He was recently married and recently divorced to Veronica Bennett and Felicity Kendal. His younger brother Wolfe passed away before him.
What Became of Him?
On Thursday (March 30), the theatrical director died, two years after spending a week in critical care on a ventilator with Covid.
Rudman’s death was confirmed by The Soho Agency talent agency, who represented him, in a statement released on Twitter. ‘We are extremely grieved by the death of our customer, talented theatrical director and writer Michael Rudman,’ it said.
‘He will be profoundly missed, but his contribution to the theatre business will not be forgotten. Michael, rest in peace.’