Peter Brook, Celebrated Stage Director of Scale and Humanity, Dies at 97

His own job, he said, was to encourage and enable, clarify and refine, and not to dictate. He had ceased preplanning, or “blocking,” movement onstage as a young director in 1946, when he came to the first rehearsal of “Love’s Labor’s Lost” with plans that, after a few moments with the actors, he realized were absurdly inflexible and promptly tore up.

He was never known to lose his temper during rehearsals, and he sometimes lapsed into an amused detachment. But his seriousness was never in doubt. For Mr. Brook, theater was “a whole mirror of human existence, visible and invisible,” which should challenge both performers and audiences to reassess the world and their lives.

Mr. Brook’s long and globe-spanning career continued well into his 90s. In September 2019, “Why?” a play written and staged by Mr. Brook and his longtime collaborator, Marie-Hélène Estienne, opened in Brooklyn after its debut in Paris, with a tour planned for China, Italy and Spain. And a new book, “Playing by Ear: Reflections on Music and Sound,” was published the following month.

With his piercing blue eyes and quiet authority, Mr. Brook had undeniable charisma, though he disliked being described as a guru. He wryly rejected his nickname, the Buddha, since he felt that he was far from attaining spiritual certainty and, indeed, didn’t think any certainty was possible.

He was influenced by George Gurdjieff, a mystic who believed that nothing was to be taken for granted, that everything needed questioning, and that collaboration with others was vital. As Mr. Brook told The Times in 1998, “I am ready to disclaim my opinion, even of yesterday, even of 10 minutes ago, because all opinions are relative.”

Emma Bubola contributed reporting.

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