Benjamin Stewart, beloved character actor and ATC mainstay, dies at 70

2013-06-07T00:00:00Z Benjamin Stewart, beloved character actor and ATC mainstay, dies at 70Carmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Longtime Arizona actor Benjamin Stewart, who appeared in Arizona Theatre Company productions for 25 years, died Tuesday in Phoenix. He was 70.

Stewart had suffered from diabetes complications.

"In ATC's 47-year history, no actor was more beloved nor played more leading roles on our stage than Ben," said David Ira Goldstein, artistic director of the company.

"His passion, heart, craft, imagination and wonderfully wicked sense of humor made him a delight to audiences on stage.

"Those same qualities endeared him to those of us who worked with him in rehearsals, onstage and backstage. He loved everything about the theater," Goldstein said.

Gary Gisselman, ATC's artistic director from 1980 to 1991, described Stewart as a "mainstay of the theater company. It is a great loss."

"He was unique in that he had such a wonderful voice. He was a wonderful character actor. People became very fond of him. He was a star in Tucson and gained the same following in Phoenix when he moved there in the late 1990s," Gisselman said.

Stewart acted for more than three decades in state theatrical productions, including Actors Theatre and Arizona Jewish Theatre, said Goldstein.

Stewart performed in more than 40 ATC productions, including "Tartuffe" in the 1978-79 season in the role of Cleante; "Waiting for Godot" in the 1981-82 season in the role of Pozzo; two productions of "A Christmas Carol" as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons; and "Little Shop of Horrors" in the 1995-96 season as Mushnik. His last role was in "Much Ado About Nothing" as Leonato in the 2002-03 season.

In 2005, Stewart received the Actors' Equity Association's Arizona Theatre Service Award. He was honored for his "support and service as mentor to many of Arizona's young actors."

He also was recognized for his work in Arizona's professional theaters and for his career, including work with Rex Harrison, Vanessa Redgrave and Peter Ustinov in plays by Shaw, Shakespeare and Ustinov himself at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Stewart also appeared in the 1976 Broadway revival of "The Night of the Iguana" as Jake Latta with Richard Chamberlain, Dorothy McGuire and Sylvia Miles, said his niece Sandra Archer.

He appeared in performances at many regional theaters around the country.

Stewart was born Sept. 29, 1942, in Houston, and after graduation from Lamar High School in 1961 he attended Harding College in Searcy, Ark., for several years, said Archer.

After college, he returned to Houston and decided "to seek his fame in Hollywood and drove off in his lemon yellow 1964 Ford Mustang headed west," Archer said.

He performed in many venues in California before moving to Tucson, and then Phoenix, Archer said.

Stewart was preceded in death by his parents, Gertrude and Langston Stewart, and his wife, BJ Stewart.

Services are pending.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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