Actors' Equity Releases Statement on the Passing of Former President Theodore Bikel

Actors' Equity has released a statement this afternoon following the news of former president and Broadway veteran Theodore Bikel's death at 91.

It reads:

"Actors' Equity Association mourns the passing of our dear friend, our brother and former President Theo Bikel. From the time he joined Equity in 1954, Bikel has been an advocate for the members of our union and his extraordinary achievements paved the way for so many. No one loved theater more, his union better or cherished actors like Theo did. He has left an indelible mark on generation of members past and generations of members to come. We thank you, Theo, for all you have done."

Bikel passed away at UCLA Medical as a result of natural causes, as BroadwayWorld reported earlier today.

Friends have defined Theo as the ultimate Renaissance man. He is compassionate, philanthropic, principled and an advocate for justice. Theo marched with Reverend Dr. MartinLUTHER King and was president of Actors Equity, Sr VP of the AJC, Board Member of Amnesty International and a member of the National Council on the Arts. Theo's inspiration instills a love of justice, Judaism, music and the arts in us all.

Best known for playing the role of Tevye on Broadway and elsewhere over 2,000 times-more than any other actor, he also created the role of Captain von Trapp on Broadway in the Sound of Music where the song "Edelweiss" was written for him to sing. He performed in over 35 stage productions in venues from Broadway to Israel to London's West End.

In his newly released edition of "Theo: An Autobiography," celebration Bikel's ninth decade, he looks back at his life as an activist for civil rights and progressive causes worldwide, and a singer whose voice has won him great applause. A compelling life story, that practically requires a passport to read, Theo was born in Austria, raised in Palestine, educated in England, and with a stellar career in the United States and around the world. Bikel offers a personal history parallel to momentous events of the twentieth century. In an eloquent, fiercely committed voice, he writes of the Third Reich, the birth of the State of Israel, the McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s, the tumultuous 1960s in America, and events in the Middle East.

Bikel, the unstoppable performer whose career spans more than 150 screen roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in The Defiant Ones) Theo made his film debut in the "African Queen" in 1951. From the Southern sheriff in "The Defiant Ones" (Oscar nomination), to the submarine captain in "The Russians are Coming," to the Hungarian linguist in "My Fair Lady" he acted in over 30 major films.

Bikel's television career spans 35 years. His roles on TV cover an amazing range of characterizations: from a Scottish policeman in Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, to Henry Kissinger in The Final Days and the role which earned him his Emmy Award in 1988 for his role as the 82-year old Harris Newmark. He also played the German butcher infatuated with Edith Bunker in "All in the Family"

Theo has recorded 37 albums-over 20 on the Elektra label. Considered one of the founding fathers of American folk music he has sung with Pete Seeger and the Weavers and is responsible for the establishment of world folk music, singing and recording songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Russian. This past summer, all of Theo's records on Elektra- with whom he had so many best selling albums - have been re-released by Rhino records and Warner music and are now available for download on iTunes. Theo's fan mail is showing a diversity of generations, who appear to be enjoying Theo's music individually and together.

Active until the end, Theo was currently touring the festivals with screenings of his lastest film "Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem," which combined Bikel's charismatic storytelling and masterful performances with a broader exploration of shalom Aleichem's remarkable life and work. The two men have much in common: wit, wisdom and talent, all shot through with deep humanity and Yiddishkeit.

Theo is survived by his wife, Aimee Ginsburg-Bikel, Sons Rob and Danny Bikel, his step-sons, Zeev Noam Ginsburg and three beloved grandchildren.

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