Richard Iglewski could elicit roaring laughter simply by walking onstage at the Guthrie Theater. A mainstay at the theater for a quarter-century, he acted in about 90 shows at what was his artistic home from 1985 to 2009.
But his love of theater began to sour after a personal tragedy, and he became estranged from the field that he mastered.
An intensely private man, Iglewski, 61, died recently. The Guthrie confirmed his death, but could not give a date, place or cause. There's no known information about services.
"It's such a sad situation," said press representative Lauren Mueller.
Known as Julio to friends — a name that was supposedly easier to pronounce than his Polish surname — Iglewski grew up in the Chicago area before moving to the Twin Cities to practice his passion. Tall and rotund, he could speak volumes simply by raising an eyebrow.
"He was one of the most accomplished actors I have ever worked with," said former artistic director Joe Dowling in a message from Ireland. "Julio was a completely instinctive actor who responded to his character with complete personal identity and conviction. While he could work closely with a director that he trusted and was generous with his fellow players, he was always true to his own instincts, and each performance was sculpted from his imagination and his unique physique."
Ethan McSweeny directed Iglewski in several shows at the Guthrie, including "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde." He likened the rehearsal process to watching "Rembrandt paint a portrait in some kind of time-lapse footage: little daubs of color applied, a mark here, a splotch there, and until the master was finished and revealed the portrait, you couldn't imagine how all those little brush strokes would combine into a remarkable whole — a living character," McSweeny said.
Iglewski appeared in a dozen productions of "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie and had numerous Shakespeare credits as well: "The Merchant of Venice," "Romeo and Juliet," "Othello" and "Twelfth Night." He applied his talent to dramas and comedies alike, classic and contemporary.
He began his Guthrie tenure under Garland Wright in 1985.
"He was very funny and known for his mastery in his later years, but he could be very moving as a straight actor," said Isabell Monk O'Connor, who acted with Iglewski in about two dozen shows.
Iglewski performed in "The Miser" and "Tartuffe" at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" at the Jungle and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Chicago Shakespeare. He acted at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and toured the country as part of John Houseman's the Acting Company. In 1999, Dowling gave him the Artistic Director's Award.
Dowling's memories of Iglewski, whom he directed extensively, included the actor's portrayals of Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Chasuble in "The Importance of Being Earnest," and Leonato, the governor, in "Much Ado About Nothing." Dowling said that last performance was astonishing.
"He found all the comic notes in the earlier scenes with ease, but when it came to the scene where he condemns his daughter in the chapel, Julio dropped the comedy and delivered the speech with a kind of ferocity that was chilling," said Dowling.
Iglewski's descent began when his longtime partner Tim Lee, who was managing editor of Lavender Magazine and co-founder of Outward Spiral theater company, died of an apparent suicide. . Lee disappeared near the Mississippi River on Oct. 28, 2002, and his body was recovered on March 17, 2003.
Iglewski "was very fragile at that point and hadn't healed from his loss," said Monk O'Connor. "He was probably seen by tens and tens of thousands of people, but he was very private. I hope there's a service that we are privy to. We loved that brilliant man."
Toward the end of his career, the Guthrie cast Iglewski in "Peer Gynt," which starred Mark Rylance, and McSweeny's production of "A View from the Bridge." He had to be replaced in both.
"While he had left the stage some years ago, he has left an amazing legacy in the memories of his colleagues and of Guthrie audiences," Dowling said.
Services or survivors have not been announced.