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Deborah Hay as Laura Jesson, Goldie Semple as Dolly Messiter and Patrick Galligan as Alec Harvey in brief Encounters at Shaw Festival.

Actor Goldie Semple, a veteran of the Stratford and Shaw festivals, died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer.

She was 56.

Semple was most recently seen on stage this past season at the Shaw Festival in Brief Encounters , a trio of one-act plays by Noel Coward in which critics praised her three distinct comic turns. She was set to return to the Shaw's Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., stage this summer to play Madame Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard .

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"The loss of Goldie is inestimable for both the Shaw Festival and the Canadian theatre community of which she was such a celebrated and beloved member," said Jackie Maxwell, Shaw's artistic director.

Over 17 seasons that date back to 1981, Semple appeared in a long list of Shaw Festival shows such as William Inge's Picnic , Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music and Coward's Easy Virtue .

In addition, Semple spent nine seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where she was an audience favourite and played many of the great Shakespearean parts - including Lady Macbeth opposite Brian Bedford, and Cleopatra in Anthony and Cleopatra . In those years, she was often paired with Colm Feore, playing opposite him as Hermione in The Winter's Tale , Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew .

Born in Richmond, B.C., Semple acted in theatres from the Vancouver Playhouse and Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre to Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and Montreal's Segal Centre.

Semple leaves her husband of 33 years, fellow Shaw ensemble member Lorne Kennedy, and their daughter Madeline, 14.

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