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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Stratford Shakespeare Festival mourns the loss of actress Domini Blythe

Domini Blythe 1947 - 2010
(As Rosaline in 1979's Love's Labours Lost. Photo by Robert Ragsdale)
 [Press Release]

December 16, 2010… It was with great sadness that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival learned of the passing of Domini Blythe on Wednesday, December 15. Ms Blythe was a member of the Festival’s acting company for 11 seasons over a 30-year period between 1976 and 2006.

“Perhaps the most beautiful actress of her generation, Domini Blythe met a young Richard Monette in England as they performed in Oh! Calcutta!,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Richard was wise enough to ensure it was a life-long friendship. Domini came to Canada and ultimately made it her home. She was a resourceful actress who played a wide variety of roles in the Shakespearean canon. It was my great pleasure to direct her as Maria with William Hutt as Feste in our 2001 production of Twelfth Night. Her vitality and impish humour made rehearsals a joy.”

“Domini was a magnificent actor and a luminescent beauty. I have long admired her work, and I take comfort in the knowledge that her legacy continues here in Stratford with the many artists that she mentored over the years,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “She will be missed by hundreds of theatre artists and many thousands of theatre patrons. Domini first joined the Festival company in 1976 to play leading roles in The Way of the World, The Merchant of Venice and Antony and Cleopatra. In 1978, she appeared in the Festival’s very first production of Titus Andronicus. Antoni and I plan to dedicate this year’s production of Titus Andronicus to the memory of Domini.”

Ms Blythe last appeared on the Stratford stage in 2006 when she played Mistress Quickly in Henry VI Part 1, directed by former Artistic Director Richard Monette, and that same year she staged her one-woman show Fanny Kemble at the Studio Theatre. Most recently she appeared as Judge Evelyn Rowe in the 2010 television movie The Ties that Bind. She also starred as Mrs. Danvers in the 2009 award-winning Canadian comedy The Trotsky.

Domini Blythe as Celia with Dame Maggie Smith as Rosalind in 1977's As You Like It. photo by Robert Ragsdale

Ms Blythe played many leading roles at Stratford, including Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest with William Hutt, directed by former Artistic Director Robin Phillips; the title role in Miss Julie; Marwood in The Way of the World; Sorel in Hay Fever; Celia in As You Like It; Lavinia in Titus Andronicus; Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost; Desdemona in Othello; Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife; Elmire in Tartuffe; Mrs. Shankland and Sybil in Separate Tables; Portia in The Merchant of Venice; Gertrude in Hamlet; The Countess in All’s Well that Ends Well; Frau Lehzen in The Swanne; Mamita in Gigi; Liz Essendine in Present Laughter; and Goneril in King Lear opposite Christopher Plummer. This production of King Lear toured to New York and garnered two Tony nominations. She also played leading roles in Richard II and Richard III with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appeared on NBC’s Search for Tomorrow and played one of the leads in the CTV series Mount Royal.

Ms Blythe died of lung cancer and she is survived by her husband, Jean Beaudin; her father, Richard Blythe; her brother, Ben Blythe, sister-in-law Andrea Schlieker and their two children Lily and Phinn. A funeral service will be announced at a later date.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Blyth Festival Announces 2011 Season

[Press Release]

Blyth Festival 2011 Season to Celebrate Canadian History and Identity

Blyth, Ontario, November 19, 2010—The Blyth Festival is gearing up for another compelling season of homegrown Canadian theatre. The 2011 season pays homage to Canada—past and present—and explores ideas of the Canadian identity in a sometimes reverent and sometimes playful way.

“The Blyth Festival is housed in Blyth Memorial Hall, which is always forefront in my mind,” says Artistic Director Eric Coates. “It is a community space, but the original intention of the building is to serve as the village cenotaph. It is important for us to pay tribute to both uses in the artistic choices that we make each year.”

The 2011 summer season runs June 21-August 27, 2011 and features four productions on the main stage—two of them world premieres:

Hometown (June 21 – August 7) by Jean Marc Dalpé, Mieko Ouchi, Mansel Robinson, Martha Ross, Peter Smith and Des Walsh (world premiere)
Where is your hometown? Is it the prairie village where you learned to ride a bicycle or is it a condo by the ocean? Is it the town where you played hockey for ten years or is it the city where you watched your favorite team for thirty years? We asked six writers from across Canada to answer this question: is hometown a place or is it a state of mind? Through memory, stories and song, this dynamic group of artists shines a light on Canada’s hometowns from coast to coast.

Vimy (June 29 – August 6) by Vern Thiessen “A victory of a play…” The Globe and Mail
On April 9, 1917 more than 15,000 Canadian men went over the top to storm Vimy Ridge. Despite blinding sleet, snow, heavy enemy fire, and the endless quagmire of mud, our troops took the ridge and held fast. Many believe that Canada was truly born on this day. In a field hospital, four soldiers reflect on their lives before, during and after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. A young nurse from Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia guides them through the aftermath of grief and fear as they look to the future in a changed world. Vimy earned the 2009 Carol Bolt Award for playwright Vern Thiessen.

Rope’s End (July 27 – August 27) by Douglas Bowie “Uplifting romantic comedy…” Winnipeg Free Press
Toby Boone is a forty-something loser, living in a rundown apartment, unlucky at love and everything else. Just as he reaches his rope’s end, Toby stumbles across a photo of his long lost love – and the written promise that they would one day reunite. The only problem is that thirty-one years have gone by. In Toby’s hopelessly romantic fantasy life, the reunion is a cinch but in reality, it’s a trifle more complicated. Join Toby Boone on his fearless and fantastical quest for love against all odds in this hilariously bittersweet romantic comedy.

Early August (August 3 – August 27) by Kate Lynch (world premiere)
In the women’s dressing room of a small Canadian theatre in a small Canadian village, three actresses battle their inner demons along with the practical problems of living in the country: an infestation of possums, an amorous veterinarian, and the quest for a decent Chardonnay. And just to complicate matters, they are all vying for the attention of Albert, a handsome young actor with a heart of gold. Enter Teddy, the assistant stage manager. She’s calm, she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s going to whip these slackers into shape if it’s the last thing she does. Early August is a loveletter to summer theatre and a comedy for those who always wondered what really happens backstage.

In addition to main stage offerings, for the first time in Blyth Festival history the Young Company will be promoted to the main stage with a revival of the musical hit Alligator Tears by Britta Johnson, directed by Rebecca Picherack. Anyone who saw it in the Phillips Studio in 2010 knows that this show has enormous potential and we are eager to provide the resources that our young artists deserve for such work.

Finally, we will be presenting a very exciting Studio Series in the Phillips Studio August 23-September 4, 2011. The Studio Series is a new initiative that will introduce our audience in Southwestern Ontario to two productions from 2010 Summer Works, an indie theatre and arts festival held annually in Toronto.
For more information on the Blyth Festival 2011 season, visit or call 1-877-862-5984.

P.S. Check out our recipe for summer fun! 2011 season passes are on sale at special holiday prices until December 24 and are the perfect holiday gift. You choose the right pass for you! For more information, visit or call 1-877-862-5984.

The Blyth Festival’s season sponsors are Sparling’s Propane Company Limited and CTV.

Media Contact:
Marcie McLean
Marketing & Publicity Coordinator
519-523-9300/1-877-862-5984 Ext 209

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Stratford Shakespeare Festival might shoot 'Twelfth Night,' says filmmaker

[The Canadian Press Online]
Victoria Ahern, The Canadian Press
Nov. 17, 2010

Brian Dennehy
TORONTO - The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is looking at "Twelfth Night," starring Brian Dennehy, as its next big-screen project.

Filmmaker Barry Avrich, who shot "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "The Tempest" at the festival, tells The Canadian Press he's now "exploring the potential of filming 'Twelfth Night' next year."

Film versions of the festival's productions of "Caesar and Cleopatra" from 2008 and "The Tempest" from this year have screened at Cineplex theatres across the country.

"Caesar and Cleopatra" also aired on TV around the world and "The Tempest" is set for broadcast on Bravo in Canada in the spring.

Both productions starred Christopher Plummer and had festival artistic director Des McAnuff at the helm.

McAnuff will also direct Shakespeare's comedy "Twelfth Night," in which Dennehy will play Sir Toby Belch.

"We'd like to keep doing more with Stratford," Avrich said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Because it's about not only the extension of Stratford's brand nationally and internationally, but it's the preservation of live work."

Dennehy, a veteran film, TV and stage star, last performed at the Stratford festival in southwestern Ontario in 2008 in productions of "Krapp's Last Tape" and "Hughie."

The Woodstock, Conn., resident will also play Max in a production of Harold Pinter's "The Homecoming" at next year's festival.

Other productions on the docket for the 2011 festival include "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Richard III" and "Titus Andronicus."


Monday, 15 November 2010

2011 Casting Complete

[Press release]

Roberta Maxwell rejoins company in two Shakespeares

Leads named for Camelot

Roberta Maxwell
November 15, 2010… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that Roberta Maxwell will return to the acting company to play the Duchess of York in Richard III and the Nurse in Titus Andronicus.

“Roberta Maxwell is one of the greats,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “She started at the Festival as a child actress. A few years later, when I came to Stratford on one of those yellow school buses, I saw her play Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor. A decade or so after that I was directing her in the title role of Mary Stuart at New York’s Public Theatre. What an absolute delight it is to be working with her once more.”

Ms Maxwell was last at Stratford in 2009, when she played Oenone in Phèdre, which featured Seana McKenna in the title role. Ms McKenna will also play the title role in Richard III as previously announced.

In 14 seasons at Stratford, Ms Maxwell’s roles have included Lady Macbeth, Rosalind in As You Like It, Olivia in Twelfth Night, Nina in The Seagull, Elmire in Tartuffe and Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. An award-winning actor, she has performed across the U.S. and on Broadway, in such productions as Equus, Our Town and The Carpetbaggers’ Children. Her films include Brokeback Mountain, Popeye and Dead Man Walking.

Richard III will be directed by Miles Potter and, as previously announced, will feature Peter Donaldson as Buckingham and Martha Henry as Queen Margaret, with Sean Arbuckle as Catesby, Nigel Bennett as Hastings, Andrew Gillies as Stanley, Bethany Jillard as Lady Anne and Yanna McIntosh as Queen Elizabeth.

“We have completed most of our key casting for 2011 and advance ticket sales to members of the Festival are now getting underway,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “I know our patrons are going to be excited by the lineup we have in store and I urge them to start making their plans to visit us next season.”

Key casting for Camelot completed

Kaylee Harwood
The Festival is delighted to welcome two hot young actors from B.C. to play Guenevere and Lancelot in the 2011 production of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, directed by Gary Griffin. Festival favourites Dan Chameroy and Mike Nadajewski will also play key roles in the production.

Kaylee Harwood will make her Festival debut as Guenevere, having captured the hearts of West Coast theatregoers soon after graduating from Trinity Western University in 2009.

Joining her as Lancelot is Jonathan Winsby. Also a rising star on the B.C. theatre scene, Mr. Winsby made his Stratford debut in 2006, playing Stewpot in South Pacific. He is the son of Festival company member Sandy Winsby, who will also appear in the production.
Jonathan Winsby

“Everyone was blown away by the chemistry that Jonathan and Kaylee had during the audition process,” says Mr. McAnuff. “I can’t wait to see what these young performers can create under the direction of the wonderful Gary Griffin. With Dan and Mike now joining the cast, the production promises to be something very special.”

Ms Harwood and Mr. Winsby have performed together before, as Cosette and Enjolras in the Arts Club Theatre production of Les Miserables in 2009. Ms Harwood also recently played Johanna in the Citadel production of Sweeney Todd and Eliza Doolittle in the Western Canada Theatre production of My Fair Lady. Mr. Winsby’s theatre credits include Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and Chris in Miss Saigon, both for the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. Ms Harwood and Mr. Winsby will also appear in Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Mr. McAnuff.

Dan Chameroy will return for his 10th season to play Sir Dinadan in Camelot. Mr. Chameroy, who played Charles and William in As You Like It and Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale, will soon open in the Toronto production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, in which he plays a hilarious Miles Gloriosus. Mr. Chameroy made a knock-out Stratford debut playing Lancelot in the 1997 production of Camelot. The 2011 season will also feature Mr. Chameroy as Pistol in The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Frank Galati.

Also joining the cast of Camelot is Mike Nadajewski, who will play Mordred. Like Mr. Chameroy, Mr. Nadajewski is heading to Toronto, where he will reprise the role of Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Mr. Nadajewski was extremely well received in this season’s production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and in As You Like It, in which he played Amiens. As announced earlier, Mr. Nadajewski will also play Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar.

These performers join those already announced in the cast of Camelot: Brent Carver as Merlyn and Pellinore, Lucy Peacock as Morgan le Fey and Geraint Wyn Davies as King Arthur.

Casting for the 2011 season continues with Trent Pardy announced as Sebastian in Twelfth Night, directed by Des McAnuff. Mr. Pardy, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory, returns for his fourth season, having played the Second Twin in Peter Pan and Christie in King of Thieves in 2010. His other Stratford credits include Bartholomew Cokes in Bartholomew Fair, Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Samson in Romeo and Juliet. As previously announced, the cast of Twelfth Night includes Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch, Stephen Ouimette as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Tom Rooney as Malvolio, Andrea Runge as Viola and Sara Topham as Olivia. Ben Carlson will play Feste; Cara Ricketts will play Maria; and Mike Shara will play Orsino.

Gord Rand will play Lenny in The Homecoming, directed by Jennifer Tarver. Last seen at Stratford in 2002, Mr. Rand spent the 2010 season at the Shaw Festival, where he appeared as Petya Trofimov in The Cherry Orchard and Hugh Paton in Half an Hour. He has performed at theatres throughout Canada and has numerous film and television credits, including the new Kids in the Hall series Death Comes to Town. As previously announced, The Homecoming features Brian Dennehy as Max and Stephen Ouimette as Sam, with Ian Lake as Joey, Cara Ricketts as Ruth and Mike Shara as Teddy.

Tim MacDonald will return for his 17th season to play Acaste in The Misanthrope. Mr. MacDonald played Merriman in the Festival’s 2009 production of The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Brian Bedford, and will reprise the role this winter at New York’s Roundabout Theater. He has appeared on Broadway many times, including in Timon of Athens and The Government Inspector. His Stratford credits also include Metellus Cimber in Julius Caesar, the King of France in King Lear and Mark Meddle in London Assurance. As previously announced, The Misanthrope will be directed by Brian Bedford (who will play Oronte) and will feature Ben Carlson as Alceste, Juan Chioran as Philinte and Sara Topham as Célimène, with Martha Farrell as Eliante, Kelli Fox as Arsinoé and Steve Ross as Clitandre.

Also returning to the company in a principal role is Paul Fauteux, who has been cast as Lucius in Titus Andronicus. Mr. Fauteux made his Stratford debut in 2010, playing Cecco in Peter Pan and Stringer in King of Thieves. As announced, Titus Andronicus will be directed by Darko Tresnjak and will feature John Vickery in the title role, with Peter Donaldson as Marcus Andronicus, Dion Johnstone as Aaron, Claire Lautier as Tamara and Amanda Lisman as Lavinia, with Sean Arbuckle as Saturninus. As mentioned, Roberta Maxwell will play the Nurse.

Tickets for the 2011 season go on sale to Members of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival beginning November 15, 2010. American Express Cardmembers have advance ticket access through Front Of The Line beginning December 11. Sales to the general public begin January 8, 2011.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Stratford Festival 2011 Season Casting in a Nutshell

The Merry Wives of Windsor  Festival Theatre
Directed by Frank Galati
Geraint Wyn Davies - Falstaff
Tom Rooney - Ford
Lucy Peacock - Mistress Ford
Janet Wright - Mistress Quickly
Tom McCaums - Page
Andrea Ruge - Anne Page
Laura Condlln - Mistress Page
Nigel Bennett - Dr. Caius
Andrew Gillies - Sir Hugh Evans

Richard III Tom Patterson Theatre
Directed by Miles Potter
Seana McKenna - Richard III
Martha Henry - Margaret
Peter Donaldson - Buckingham
Yanna McIntosh - Queen Elizabeth
Bethany Jillard - Lady Anne
Sean Arbuckle - Catesby
Nigel Bennett - Hastings
Andrew Gillies - Stanley

Titus Andronicus Tom Patterson Theatre
Director: Darko Tresnjak
John Vickery - Titus Andronicus
Peter Donaldson - Marcus Andronicus
Amanda Lisman - Lavinia
Claire Lautier - Tamora
Sean Arbuckle - Saturninus
Dion Johnstone - Aaron

Twelfth Night Festival Theatre
Director Des McAnuff
Brian Dennehy - Sir Toby Belch
Stephen Ouimette - Sir Andrew Aguecheek
Ben Carlson - Feste
Tom Rooney - Malvolio
Sara Topham - Olivia
Mike Shara - Orsino
Andrea Runge - Viola
Cara Ricketts - Maria

Shakepeare's Will Studio Theatre
Director - Miles Potter
Seana McKenna - Anne Hathaway

Camelot  Avon Theatre
Director - Gary Griffin
Geraint Wyn Davies - King Arthur
Brent Carver - Merlyn / Pellinore
Lucy Peacock - Morgan Le Fey

Jesus Christ, Superstar Avon Theatre
Director - Des McAnuff
Paul Nolan - Jesus
Chilina Kennedy - Mary Magdalene
Brent Carver - Pontius Pilot
Josh Young - Judas
Bruce Dow - Herod
Mike Nadajewski - Peter
Marcus Nance - Caiaphus
Lee Siegel - Simon
Aaron Walpole - Annas

Hosanna Studio Theatre
Director - Weyni Mengesha
Gareth Potter - Hosanna
Oliver Becker - Cuirette

The Little Years Studio Theatre
Director - Chris Abraham
Yanna McIntosh - Grace
Irene Poole - Kate
Chick Reid - Alice
Bethany Jillard - Tanya / Young Kate

The Grapes of Wrath Avon Theatre
Director - Antoni Cimolino
Chilina Kenndy - Rose of Sharon
Janet Wright - Ma
Victor Ertmanis - Pa
Randy Hughson - Uncle John
Chick Reid - Granma
Evan Buliung - Tom Joad
Paul Nolan - Al

The Homecoming Avon Theatre
Director - Jennifer Tarver
Brian Dennehy - Max
Stephen Ouimette - Sam
Mike Shara - Teddy
Ian Lake - Joey
Cara Ricketts - Ruth

The Misanthrope Festival Theatre
Director - Brian Bedford
Brian Bedford - Oronte
Ben Carlson - Alceste
Juan Chioran - Philinte
Sara Topham - Celimene
Steve Ross - Clitandre
Kelli Fox - Arsinoe

Festival Theatre:
The Misanthrope
Twelfth Night
The Merry Wives of Windsor

Avon Theatre:
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Homecoming
The Grapes of Wrath

Tom Patterson Theatre:
Richard III
Titus Andronicus

Studio Theatre:
Shakespeare's Will
The Little Years

Key casting complete for Jesus Christ Superstar, Hosanna, Grapes of Wrath, The Misanthrope, The Little Years


Leads cast for Titus Andronicus

Peter Donaldson
October 7, 2010… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that key casting is confirmed for a number of 2011 productions. Among those returning in leading roles next season are Oliver Becker, Juan Chioran, Laura Condlln, Peter Donaldson, Victor Ertmanis, Dion Johnstone, Claire Lautier, Amanda Lisman, Tom McCamus, Yanna McIntosh, Irene Poole, Chick Reid, Sara Topham, John Vickery and Josh Young, in addition to those previously announced.

“Our ensemble goes from strength to strength,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “We have an extraordinary depth throughout the whole company, which is what I think a great repertory company is all about – artists who can tackle any challenge presented to them.

“This is a dream for any artistic director: to produce a season that combines the best of the classical and contemporary repertory and to have a company so strong that you can’t wait to get to work each day. I can’t brag about them enough; they’re just terrific.”

“I’m really delighted with the company that Des and his team have put together,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “These artists provide continuity of practice along with fresh new voices and perspectives.”

Jesus Christ Superstar
Josh Young, who made a smashing Festival debut as Che in Evita, will be returning to play Judas in the 2011 production of Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff.

Mr. Young joins a dream team of musical performers previously announced: Brent Carver as Pilate, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene and Paul Nolan as Jesus.

Mike Nadajewski
Audiences will be delighted to learn that Festival favourite Bruce Dow will return to the musical stage to play Herod, after a season of classical performances in The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Mike Nadajewski, who wowed critics and audiences in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, will play Peter in the production. Mr. Dow and Mr. Nadajewski also appeared together in Mr. McAnuff’s 2009 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which will play Toronto this December as part of the Mirvish Productions season.

Marcus Nance, who was last at Stratford in 2008’s smash hit The Music Man, will return to play Caiaphas. Lee Siegel has been cast as Simon and Aaron Walpole as Annas.

The Grapes of Wrath
Key casting for General Director Antoni Cimolino’s production of The Grapes of Wrath has also been completed. Tom McCamus, whose 2010 season was spent playing with great gusto the villainous roles of Captain Hook in Peter Pan and le Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, will play the philosophical Jim Casy. In 10 seasons at Stratford, the Dora, Gemini and ACTRA award-winning Mr. McCamus has become one of the Festival’s most admired actors, playing leading roles in such productions as An Ideal Husband, Timon of Athens, Richard III, The Threepenny Opera, Waiting for Godot, Coriolanus, Camelot, Julius Caesar and Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Victor Ertmanis, who played Whit in Bartholomew Fair, will return for his fourth season to play Pa to Janet Wright’s Ma (previously announced). This season Mr. Ertmanis played Oliver Martext in As You Like It and Paulina’s Steward in The Winter’s Tale. His other Stratford credits include Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Soothsayer in Julius Caesar.

The Grapes of Wrath will also feature Dora and Gemini award-winning actor Randy Hughson as Uncle John. Mr. Hughson played Jordan Knockem in Bartholomew Fair and Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 2009. This season he played Antigonus and Father Time in The Winter’s Tale and continues as Corin in As You Like It. His Second Gravedigger was a standout in 2008’s Hamlet.

Chick Reid, last seen on the Stratford stage in 2007 as the Abbess in The Comedy of Errors and Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband, will return for her ninth season to play Granma. Among her Stratford credits, Ms Reid has played Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Calphurnia in Julius Caesar.

As previously announced, the production will also feature Evan Buliung as Tom Joad, Chilina Kennedy as Rose of Sharon and Paul Nolan as Al.

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Tom McCamus will also be featured in the 2011 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which he will play Page. Mistress Page will be played by Laura Condlln, Ms Condlln was beloved by audiences as Mrs. Darling in this year’s production of Peter Pan. She also beautifully portrayed Polly Peachum in the new work King of Thieves at the Studio Theatre and last season was a delightful Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 2010 will mark her 10th season with the Festival. She was a member of the Birmingham Conservatory class of 2005.

Also cast in the production are Nigel Bennett as Dr. Caius and Andrew Gillies as Sir Hugh Evans. A Gemini and ACTRA award-winning actor, Mr. Bennett joined the Stratford company this year as Bill Jukes in Peter Pan and Brown in King of Thieves. After two seasons in the 1980s, Mr. Gillies, a long-time member of the Shaw ensemble, returned to the Festival to play Panthino and the Third Outlaw in this season’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. He also appeared in The Tempest.

Principal casting continues for The Merry Wives of Windsor, which will be directed by Frank Galati.

The Misanthrope
Key casting for The Misanthrope, directed by Brian Bedford, has been completed. Juan Chioran, who this year commands the stage as Juan Perón in Evita and Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate, will play Philinte. In 11 seasons at Stratford, Mr. Chioran has become a stalwart of the stage, standing out in the memories of theatregoers for his remarkable performances in such productions as Man of La Mancha, Three Sisters, Bartholomew Fair, Hamlet, As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Sara Topham, who this winter will reprise her glorious portrayal of Gwendolen Fairfax in Mr. Bedford’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest at New York’s Roundabout Theatre, will play Célimène in The Misanthrope. This season Ms Topham has received great acclaim for her portrayal of Wendy in Peter Pan and la Présidente de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons. In 11 seasons at Stratford she has played such roles as Laurencia in Fuente Ovejuna, Cordelia in King Lear, Mabel in An Ideal Husband, Laura in The Glass Menagerie, Jessica in The Merchant of Venice and Rosalind in As You Like It.

Martha Farrell
Martha Farrell, seen as the sexy Émilie in Dangerous Liaisons and as Lily in Peter Pan, has been cast as Eliante. Steve Ross, everyone’s favourite Gangster, will return for an eighth season to play Clitandre. In addition to his stand-out performance in Kiss Me, Kate, Mr. Ross is well remembered as Ragueneau in last season’s Cyrano de Bergerac. After returning to Shaw in 2010, Kelli Fox will join the Festival for a third season to play Arsinoé. Ms Fox made her Stratford debut in 2008, playing a memorable Cassandra in The Trojan Women, followed by a similarly outstanding portrayal of Natasha in Three Sisters in 2009. As previously announced, Mr. Bedford will also be featured in the production; he will play Oronte, and Ben Carlson will play Alceste.

Twelfth Night / The Homecoming
Sara Topham will also play Olivia in Mr. McAnuff’s production of Twelfth Night. She will be joined by Mike Shara as Orsino. Mr. Shara has also been cast as Teddy in The Homecoming, directed by Jennifer Tarver. After several successful seasons at the Shaw Festival, Mr. Shara had a dazzling Stratford debut in 2009, playing Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest and Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac. This season he delighted audiences as the Young Shepherd in The Winter’s Tale and Oliver in As You Like It. He has had an extensive television career and has performed at theatres across the country.

Ian Lake will play Teddy’s brother Joey. Mr. Lake, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory, won theatregoers’ hearts this year as Silvius in As You Like It and Florizel in The Winter’s Tale. In his three seasons at Stratford he has also played Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Trouble-All in Bartholomew Fair and Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Titus Andronicus
John Vickery will take on the title role in Titus Andronicus, alongside Peter Donaldson, who will return to the Festival for his 25th season to play Marcus Andronicus. Joining them in the production, directed by Darko Tresnjak, are Claire Lautier as Tamora, Amanda Lisman as Lavinia, Dion Johnstone as Aaron and Sean Arbuckle as Saturninus.

Mr. Vickery returns for his fourth season to take on the role of Titus. This season he was well received in both his roles – Antonio in The Tempest, brother to Prospero, and the Duke of Milan in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Critics also praised his portrayal of Victor in 2009’s Zastrozzi. That same season he took on the roles of Ross in Macbeth and the Comte de Guiche in Cyrano de Bergerac. Among numerous Broadway roles, Mr. Vickery played the original Scar in The Lion King. His television career includes appearances in Frasier, NYPD Blue and all of the Star Trek series (with the exception of Voyager).

Mr. Donaldson, one of Canada’s leading classical actors, was last seen at Stratford in 2008, when he played Rufio in Caesar and Cleopatra, opposite Christopher Plummer. That same season he played a remarkable Don Armado in Love’s Labour’s Lost and much praised Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet. Theatregoers will remember a host of stellar performances, including Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Kent in King Lear, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Antony in Antony and Cleopatra, Timon in Timon of Athens, Claudius in Hamlet and Jamie in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Ms Lautier played a delightful Silvia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Ceres in The Tempest this season. She made her Stratford debut in 2008 as Aricie in Phèdre. Ms Lisman made an impressive Stratford debut in 2009, playing Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac and Julia in Zastrozzi. Mr. Johnstone played a memorable Caliban in the season’s The Tempest and Valentine in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Last season he played three major Shakespearean roles: Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macduff in Macbeth and Octavius Caesar in Julius Caesar. Returning for his 10th season, Mr. Arbuckle appeared most recently as the First Forest Lord in As You Like It and Camillo in The Winter’s Tale. His portrayal of Clifford Bradshaw in 2008’s Cabaret was beautifully drawn.

Richard III
Peter Donaldson has also been cast as Buckingham in Miles Potter’s production of Richard III, featuring Seana McKenna as Richard and Martha Henry as Margaret, as previously announced. Also cast in the production are Sean Arbuckle as Catesby, Nigel Bennett as Hastings, Andrew Gillies as Stanley and Bethany Jillard as Lady Anne. Ms Jillard returns to the Festival for a second season, having made an impressive Festival debut as Cécile Volanges in this year’s production of Dangerous Liaisons.

Yanna McIntosh will play Queen Elizabeth in the production.

The Little Years
Yanna McIntosh will also play Grace in John Mighton’s new version of The Little Years, commissioned by the Festival. This season Ms McIntosh received high praise for her portrayal of Hermione in The Winter’s Tale and Mme de Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons. In 2009, she pulled off a remarkable Shakespearean hat trick, playing Lady Macbeth, Titania and Calphurnia. Her Helen of Troy in 2008’s Trojan Women is also memorable. A Dora and Gemini award-winning actress, Ms McIntosh has dazzled Toronto audiences with such performances as Condoleezza Rice in Stuff Happens and the title role in Mary Stuart.

Irene Poole
Ms McIntosh will be joined in The Little Years by Irene Poole as Kate, Chick Reid as Alice and Bethany Jillard as Tanya and Young Kate. Retuning to the Festival for her third season, Ms Poole will play Kate. Ms Poole made her Stratford debut in 2008, playing a feisty Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew and Montague’s Wife in Romeo and Juliet, followed by a beautiful portrayal of Olga in Three Sisters in 2009.

Oliver Becker has been cast as Cuirette in Weyni Mengesha’s production of Hosanna. As previously announced, Gareth Potter will play the title role. Mr. Becker played Pork in King of Thieves this season and can still be seen as Starkey in Peter Pan. He made a memorable debut as Bernardo in the 2009 production of Zastrozzi. He also played Menteith in Macbeth and appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac that season. Mr. Becker has an extensive stage career in Toronto, and throughout Canada, and is a series regular in The Line and Rent a Goalie.

Casting continues for the 2011 season. The 2010 season runs until November 6, now featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita and Peter Pan.


Monday, 4 October 2010

Festival launches Stratford Challenge for Ontario students


Grand prize of $10,000 for performance competition
Total purse of $17,500

For youth, ‘All the world’s a stage’

October 4, 2010… Attention Ontario high-school students: bring the greatness of Shakespeare to life! The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is launching a huge performance contest called the Stratford Challenge, with the first ever competition focusing on the works of Shakespeare. Enter the Stratford Shakespeare Challenge and you could win the grand prize of $10,000 out of a total purse of $17,500.

It’s part of a new initiative to promote the performing arts amongst students, made possible by donor Felice Sabatino, who plans to expand the Stratford Challenge in coming years to incorporate other genres, such as musicals and new works.

“Felice is a very civic-minded person who has been a supporter of the Festival for some time. As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, he is filled with ideas, one of which he brought to us last year – a performing arts festival for students,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “He and I had many delightful conversations culminating in this wonderful Stratford Challenge. We are very grateful for his enthusiastic interest in coming to us with the concept for this competition and the generous seed money to get it off the ground.”

“The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the most significant classical theatre company in North America, is leading the way in enriching arts education,” says Mr. Sabatino, who has produced other world-class challenges. “The Stratford Challenge is intended to further that enrichment, by inspiring and nurturing the theatre artists of tomorrow and reaching out to the next generation of theatregoers. It’s my hope that the $10,000 prize – the largest prize being offered to performing arts students – will be a great incentive and will take kids beyond watching theatre to actually creating it. This approach allows interaction with other students and with the playwright, which can’t be realized any other way. Preparation for a performance of this caliber involves a different kind of teamwork than is usually experienced at school, which I believe will help students visualize and perform on a bigger stage.”

“The Stratford Challenge is another initiative we are launching to introduce more and more students to Shakespeare and Stratford,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “In 2009, we launched a new education outreach project to ensure that every student in Ontario has the opportunity to see a production at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival at least once in their academic career. These are just two of the many educational programs we offer in Stratford.”

The Stratford Shakespeare Challenge asks high school students in Ontario to produce a 10-minute scene from Shakespeare, record it and send it off to the Festival, where a panel of current and former Festival artists will review the entries and select five finalists.

These five groups will be invited to Stratford to produce their scene on the stage of the Festival’s Studio Theatre, where a different panel of current and former Festival artists and other experts will adjudicate, provide feedback and select the winners.

“Imagine the incredible experience of coming to this beautiful town and performing in the same environment as the magnificent Christopher Plummer – this is inspiration that will endure for a lifetime,” says Mr. Sabatino.

The first-place team will receive $10,000 – to be shared by the school and the students involved in the scene. The remaining prizes go directly to the students, to be split amongst members of the teams. Second place will receive $2,500 and third place $1,500. The fourth- and fifth-placing groups will receive $1,000 each.

“It is my hope that students will spend their winnings enriching their arts education,” says Mr. Sabatino.

Students are also encouraged to submit a two-minute trailer for their video to post on the Festival’s social media pages.

Stratford Writing Challenge

In addition there will be a Stratford Writing Challenge to broaden the reach of the competition to students interested in other creative disciplines. Entrants for this competition will be asked to write 500 words on “Why Shakespeare?” The winner will receive $1,500. Full details are online.

“The writing competition is a way of reaching out to students interested in other aspects of the creative disciplines and encouraging intellectual and spiritual reflection,” says Mr. Sabatino. “I hope that in the future, we will be able to reach out even further by offering challenges in musical theatre, new work and soliloquies and I would love to see the project expand nationally and internationally. It is my hope that directors, writers and others will gain a fuller perspective and appreciation for the art through the various aspects of this competition.”

The Stratford Challenge is open to Ontario students in Grades 9 through 12. They are asked to form teams to produce a scene of no more than 10 minutes in length from one of Shakespeare’s works. Teams will record their scene on a DVD and submit it to the Festival by February 28, 2011. The deadline for the essay competition is the same. Full details can be found online at

It is hoped that the competition will expand beyond Ontario in future years.

“The Stratford Challenge is a great way to get students excited about Shakespeare’s work,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I was a high-school student when I first visited the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and it was a production of Love’s Labour’s Lost that inspired me to pursue a career in classical theatre.

“Our Artistic Director Des McAnuff and many members of our company were similarly inspired by Stratford productions and we want to be sure to reach out to students to ensure they have the same opportunity to experience the work of the world’s greatest playwright.”

The Festival currently welcomes between 60,000 and 90,000 students each year. Through this challenge and other education programs, it is striving to surpass 120,000 annually.

“We really hope to encourage young people to develop a meaningful and lasting relationship with Shakespeare,” says Mr. McAnuff. “This challenge has the potential to spark an interest with students today and get them as excited about these plays as we are.

“Young people are our future. To capture their imaginations; to introduce them to a place where they will find insight, illumination and inspiration; to open the doors of their hearts and minds and souls to possibilities they might not otherwise perceive – this is one of our very highest priorities.”

For information on visiting the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and using its education programs, visit: where you will find links for students and teachers.

“This competition is a catalyst, encouraging greater interaction and engagement with the arts. It will spur future attendance and interest in all arts and will continue to reinforce Stratford as a leader in its field, as visionaries on stage and beyond,” says Mr. Sabatino. “This Challenge represents the embryonic greatness of the future.”

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2010 season runs until November 6, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; and Peter Pan.


Thursday, 30 September 2010

Shaw Festival Announces 2011 Season

The Shaw Festival is planning a 2011 season that includes a new musical and two contemporary plays that are to have their Canadian premieres, as well as works by Shaw and his contemporaries.

Artistic director Jackie Maxwell announced the 2011 season for the annual theatre festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on Tuesday.

She said she has chosen plays with a contemporary thrust, including one of George Bernard Shaw's most visionary works, Heartbreak House, for the coming season.

Other Shaw works include Candida and On the Rocks, in the new reworking by Canadian playwright Michael Healey.

"This play has fabulous ideas, but the denseness of the writing makes it difficult for audiences," Maxwell told CBC News. "This version of it is a provocative look at how a prime minister operates."

Other works lined up for the festival's 50th season:

My Fair Lady, the Lerner and Loewe musical, which has never before been performed at the Shaw.
The Admirable Crichton, a comedy by J.M. Barrie.
Drama at Inish — a Comedy, by Lennox Robinson.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams.
The President, by Ferenc Molnar, a reprise of the 2008 festival hit.

Maxwell calls The Admirable Crichton and Drama at Inish "rediscovered gems" by Shaw's contemporaries.

With the new musical, Maria Severa, she is trying something quite different — it is only the second time the festival has attempted a new musical work. Written by Shaw music director Paul Sportelli and ensemble member Jay Turvey, it was developed by the festival over the last four years in a series of readings and workshops.

Maria Severa follows the life of 19th century Portuguese singer Severa, who is credited with making the fado style of singing famous. The music has a mix of musical styles, including fado, Maxwell said.

"We're interested in visiting new worlds," Maxwell said. "This musical is set in Portugal and is a very different piece for us to be doing."

Maxwell has also programmed two contemporary plays that capture the "same sense of politics and wit that Shaw himself had."

Topdog/Underdog, which earned a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, gets its Canadian premiere with a short run in a smaller theatre. It follows the lives of African-American brothers Lincoln and Booth as they confront history, family and the future.

The other contemporary play, When the Rain Stops Falling, by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell follows a family's story over four generations and two continents.

"It feels abstract — it begins with man standing holding a fish in the rain, but it develops into a very human story told over generations," Maxwell said.

The Shaw Festival expanded its mandate to include new plays in the spirit of Shaw in 2009. Most of the plays in the 2011 season were written by Shaw and his contemporaries.

Read more:

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Recovered film opens festival

News: Stratford Beacon Herald

Sept. 22, 2010
A recently discovered colour film of the construction of the Festival Theatre and a documentary revealing less known aspects of the life of pianist extraordinaire Glenn Gould will kick off this year's DocFest Stratford.

DocFest artistic director Craig Thompson announced the third annual roster of films Monday, noting that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is stepping up its involvement in the film festival.

A significant change this year is a change in venue.

Several screenings, including the opening films for the Oct. 14-17 festival, will be at the Tom Patterson Theatre. Stratford Central secondary school will be the other venue, leaving City Hall Auditorium out of the picture.

There's a municipal election on the way and there were space problems for some shows last year at city hall, Thompson explained. As well, having equipment already in place at the theatre makes things more manageable.

DocFest 2010 will be launched with the Festival Theatre construction film shot by Dr. William (Mac) Gilmore who was a radiologist here when the theatre was being built.

The "lost film" was recently discovered during a reorganizing of the Festival's archives under the direction of new archivist Francesca Marini.

The 30-minute reel was found by audiovisual archivist and international film historian Rick Schmidlin who was helping out with the reorganizing project.

Gilmore's daughter, Betsy Gilmore, later informed the archivists that her father had recorded audio complementary to the film.

That too has been located.

"We thought we had a silent film" said Schmidlin, who will be synchronizing the sound with the visual footage.

Opening night will be shared with Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, a film that includes interviews with Gould's friends and lovers.

It will be introduced by director Peter Raymont.

Four other screenings will he at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

The musical theme will continue at DocFest Friday with Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, a film which explores the phenomenon behind what may be the world's largest cult band.

The other offering for the Friday is the National Film Board documentary Life with Murder by director and Emmy award winner John Kastner that tells the story of a mother and father from Chatham whose lives are ripped apart when their son is accused of murdering their daughter.

The filmmaker is scheduled to attend the screening of the film he produced over a 10-year period. The mother of the child who died is also expected to be present.

Academy Award winning director Brigitte Berman will be on hand at the theatre Oct. 16 to screen her documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel about the founder of the Playboy empire.

"It's sure to be a sell out," said Thompson.

Paired with that is Last Train Home by the Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan.

Fan's project looks into the fractured lives of a migrant family caught up in a desperate annual migration of Chinese city workers back to their rural villages for holidays.

The daytime program on the Saturday and a full-day of screenings on Sunday will take place in the auditorium at Stratford Central.

"Last year was our make or break year and I think it proved there is lots of demand for these type of films," Thompson said.

The documentary film festival will again include a hands-on educational component.

No Boundaries is a two-day filmmaking workshop for high school students that's presented in association with Fanshawe College.

The wrap-up show for the festival will be a screening of A Life in Stages profiling the extraordinary career of Stratford Shakespeare Festival artistic director Des McAnuff.

Other documentaries in the line-up include: Winnebago Man, a cult documentary which reveals the story of Jack Rebney, an unlikely folk hero whose funny outbursts were caught on tape during the making of a Winnebago sales video in 1988.

Girls on Top is about the eight lovely and talented women in the Soulpepper Theatre production of Top Girls; The Big Wait documents the frustration of foreign- trained doctors in Ontario, a film that Thompson suggests has current relevance to the possible loss of emergency services at St. Marys Memorial Hospital.

Sweetgrass is described as a modern-day cowboy film which follows shepherds as they move their flocks of sheep up into Montana's breathtaking and dangerous mountains for summer pasture.

In a news conference yesterday, Thompson and the Stratford Festival's Marini gave every indication the DocFest connection with the theatre would continue.

The theatre has a storehouse of audiovisual material that tells the story of Stratford and of the Festival.

The theatre views the film festival as complementary to what it does, said Thompson.

"We think we will have many years of content for the film festival."

The full DocFest program is available at
Tickets go on sale next week and will be available in person at Anything Grows on St. Patrick St. and at Fanfare Books on Ontario St.

Tickets can also be purchased online at and are available at the door.

Opening night tickets are $20. General admission to all other screenings is $15.

Festival welcomes new talent into Birmingham Conservatory

September 21, 2010… The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre begins its 12th session next week, with a new group of actors embarking on five months of intensive training under the direction of Martha Henry.

The group includes two current company members: Bruce Godfree (Peter Pan, Dangerous Liaisons), who is returning for a second year, and Victor Dolhai (As You Like It, The Winter’s Tale), who will be entering the first year of the Conservatory. The other participants are: Miranda Edwards, Josh Epstein, Carmen Grant, Ashleigh Hendry, Sarah Kitz, Tyrone Savage, E.B. Smith and Dylan Trowbridge.

“We are about to welcome an outstanding group of actors hailing from B.C. to Nova Scotia,” says Ms Henry. “They are already highly experienced professionals, some of whom have started their own companies. These young artists will be a tremendous asset to this company in 2011 – as well as to the theatre community across the country over the next 50 years.”

“These actors are all past the first phase in their careers and we can consider the Conservatory a step beyond graduate school,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “It aims to give talented artists the skill set they need to tackle classical roles and verse drama. A look at the extraordinary graduates who have participated this past decade shows that the Birmingham Conservatory has an astonishing track record. I have no doubt that this new group will excel under Martha Henry’s enlightened leadership. They will be given access to the world’s top voice, movement and text coaches. And they will have an opportunity to work on one of the world’s most revolutionary stages – a stage that demands greatness from an actor.”

The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre is the only conservatory program in North America which concentrates exclusively on training for the classical actor and which actually takes place within a classical repertory theatre. All members of the Conservatory will be offered contracts for the 2011 season.

The program, which begins on September 28 and concludes on February 12, includes two Conservatory performances of a classical work – in December and mid-February.

Ms Henry will direct the final piece, by William Shakespeare. The December presentation will be directed by Christopher Newton, former artistic director of the Shaw Festival for 22 seasons, the founding artistic director of Theatre Calgary and former artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse.

“We are so pleased that Christopher Newton is able to join us in Stratford to share his immense talent with the actors of the Conservatory,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Having directed the Conservatory’s December presentation myself last season, I can say that Chris is in for a real treat. These young actors are superbly talented and working with them in this environment gives a director great hope for the future of classical theatre.”

Support for the Conservatory is provided through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Birmingham Family and other donors to the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Endowment Foundation.


Victor Dolhai made his Stratford debut this year appearing in As You Like It and The Winter’s Tale. Past credits include Pride and Prejudice (Citadel Theatre); Brilliant! (Belfry/Electric Company Theatre); The Full Monty (Patrick Street Productions); Pirates of Penzance (Chemainus Theatre Festival); Grimm Tales (Itsazoo Productions); Guys and Dolls, Tartuffe, Metamorphoses, Street of Crocodiles and Tyrants (Phoenix Theatre); As You Like It, Death of a Salesman and The Fantasticks (Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre); Pretty Little Instincts, BLiNK and Riyoku Butoh (SNAFU Dance Theatre) and 13 cabarets with Atomic Vaudeville. Victor was an inaugural participant in the Citadel/Banff Professional Theatre Program and holds a BFA in Acting from the University of Victoria.

Miranda is a graduate of the York University Theatre Acting program. Her theatre credits include likklebit in who knew grannie: a dub aria, (Obsidian/Factory); Mary Frances in The Madonna Painter (Factory Theatre); Toronto The Good (Factory Theatre); Sherelle in ’da Kink in my Hair (Mirvish Productions); Seeyee Seera in The Taxi Project (Pen Canada); and Penelope in Danny King of the Basement (Roseneath Theatre). Miranda’s film and TV work includes NBC’s Covert Affairs; CTV’s The Bridge and TMN’s The Line as well as the Paramount film Mean Girls.

Josh is thrilled to be joining the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. His recent theatre credits include Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Belfry/Arts Club); Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Vancouver Playhouse, Jessie and Ovation nominee); Leo in The Producers (Arts Club, Ovation Award); Studies in Motion (Electric Company, Canadian Tour); The Drowsy Chaperone (Canadian Tour); Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors (Stage West); Death of a Salesman (Theatre Aquarius); The Lord of the Rings (Mirvish Productions); Bard on the Beach (three seasons); and a European tour of his solo show. Josh is a two-time Jessie acting nominee with several TV and film credits, an award-winning playwright, and a UBC Commerce and Studio 58 grad. Josh recently formed the production company Motion 58 (, their films include the 2010 NSI Drama Prize and Bravo! Fact winner Wait for Rain and Hop the Twig.

A graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bruce made his Stratford debut in 2008 as Laertes in Hamlet, Nathaniel in The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well That Ends Well. This season he is First Twin in Peter Pan and appears in Dangerous Liaisons. His other Stratford credits include Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Third Murderer in Macbeth and Titinius in Julius Caesar. Other theatre credits include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (The Lord Chamberlain’s Men); Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Avery in Charlotte’s Web, Tom in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Dukes Theatre, Lancaster); Edgar in King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company); Kip in Tennessee Williams’s Something Cloudy, Something Clear (U.K. première, Finborough Theatre); Dickon in The Secret Garden (Neptune Theatre); and Hank in Marvin’s Room (Festival Antigonish). His film work includes The Magic of Marciano and Parsley Days. On radio he played Norman in Peyton Place (BBC Radio 4).

Originally from Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Carmen Grant has lived in Saskatoon, Calgary, Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver, and now calls Toronto home. The many roles she has played include Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare in the Park); Lady Macduff in Macbeth (Shakespeare By The Sea); Rosalind in As You Like It (National Theatre School of Canada); Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People); Ruth in Zadie’s Shoes (Albert Theatre Projects); Catherine in Proof (Neptune Theatre); Myrtle Mae in Harvey (The Segal Centre), and the many wonderful characters of The Syringa Tree (The Grand Theatre/Manitoba Theatre Centre).

Ashleigh was born and raised in Toronto and is a graduate of both the University of Toronto and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Stage credits include Caught in the Net, The Importance of Being Earnest, The G-String Broke, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty (Port Hope Festival Theatre); Goldilocks (Theatre Collingwood); Macbeth (Modern Times Stage Company – tour to Tehran, Iran); Refugee Hotel (Factory Theatre-CrossCurrents Festival); The Melville Boys (Thousand Islands Playhouse); Finger of Fate (workshop – Videocab/Canadian Stage Company).

Sarah Kitz is an actor, director and writer. Her past theatre credits include Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Celia in As You Like It (St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival); Mother/Queen Jahan in The Veil (One Light Theatre, Canadian Tour and Fadjr Festival Iran); and One Woman Freakshow and Cheap Queers (Buddies in Bad Times). Her directing credits include Strings (Here Is My Hand); The Laramie Project (Working Productions); The Vagina Monologues (Triple Threat Theatre); Oliver! (Leah Posluns Theatre); and Baby Making (SummerWorks). Sarah’s writing credits include Strings (Here Is My Hand – of which Sarah is co-founder and artistic director); Roots (Havergal College); and City of Light (One Night Stand). Her television and film credits include Flashpoint (CTV) and Mary in Amelia. Sarah has an Honours BFA in Acting from the University of Windsor.

Tyrone’s selected theatre credits include The Rookie in Howie The Rookie, Jerry in The Zoo Story (Red One Theatre); Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (Canopy Theatre); Septimus Hodge in Arcadia (Hart House Theatre); Thomas Moore in The Warrior Bard (Toronto Irish Players); Robin Hood in A Musical Called Robin Hood (Toronto Youth Theatre); Orlando in As You Like It (Canopy Theatre); Jean in Miss Julie (V.C.D.S/Theatre Inferno); and the Pilot in This Bloody Business (Toronto Fringe ’06); Jerry Springer The Opera (Hart House Theatre); The King…The Musical (Toronto Fringe ’08); At the Black Pig's Dyke (Toronto Irish Players); Yerma (Players Academy); Picasso at the Lapin Agil (V.C.D.S. Theatre); Six Characters in Search of an Author (V.C.D.S. Theatre). His film and TV credits include Producing Parker, Total Drama Island, American Pie: Beta House, Instant Star, Dresden Files, Wind At My Back, Goosebumps, Stoked, Redwall, Franklin, Magic School Bus.

E.B. Smith is delighted to be the Chicago Fellow in the 2010/2011 Birmingham Conservatory. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, E.B. moved to Chicago in 2007. He began his love affair with classical theatre during his training at Ohio University, and moved quickly into regional theatre, with credits at The Great Lakes Theater Festival, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and the Cleveland Play House. His favourite turns include King in King Hedley II, Moustique in Dream on Monkey Mountain, MacDuff in Macbeth and Maelstrom in Men of Steel. In Chicago, he has recently performed with First Folio Theater, and with Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.

Dylan Trowbridge’s recent stage credits include the West End and Mirvish productions of Dirty Dancing. Prior to that he spent five seasons at the Shaw Festival appearing as John Rutherford in Rutherford and Son, Etienne in The Coronation Voyage, Harry Tench in Widowers’ Houses, Simon in The Lord of the Flies, Barnaby Tucker in The Matchmaker and Peter in Peter Pan. He is also a founding member of Theatrefront, with whom he co-created the multi-Dora nominated Return: The Sarajevo Project. His credits include Escape from Happiness (Factory/Luminato); Tideline (Factory Theatre); Tiny Dynamite (Theatre Smash); Mojo (Theatrefront) and Vinci (Canadian Stage).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Tom Patterson Productions Extended

Three more shows extended at Stratford
Tom Patterson Theatre remains open for an additional week

August 25, 2010… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that the Tom Patterson Theatre’s 2010 season will be extended by one week to October 3. Demand for tickets for all three productions at the theatre has been extremely strong.

“I’m delighted that these three productions have proven such a hit with our audiences. Jacques Brel was a true poet for our times, and our success with the show that bears his name – so brilliantly directed by Stafford Arima, a newcomer to the Festival – proves once again that poetry belongs on stage,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff.

“For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, beautifully staged by another Festival newcomer, Chris Abraham, deepens our already warm and long-standing relationship with Michel Tremblay, arguably Canada’s leading playwright. Finally, it has been such a pleasure to welcome back Marti Maraden, who has given us in The Winter’s Tale a tremendously sensitive and entertaining production of one of Shakespeare’s most moving plays.”

“Excellent reviews and word of mouth have kept ticket sales for all of the shows at the Tom Patterson Theatre moving very swiftly,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino.

“Having sold-out houses is, of course, a mixed blessing for any theatre company – while it is most rewarding to see such great demand, it’s very hard to have to turn away patrons eager to buy tickets. These extensions will create some much-needed supply.”

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again will have two additional performances:
2 p.m. on September 28; and
8 p.m. on October 2.
The production – Tremblay’s moving tribute to his mother – features a tour-de-force performance by Lucy Peacock, exquisitely supported by Tom Rooney.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris will also have two additional performances:
8 p.m. on October 1; and
2 p.m. on October 3.
This musical revue features touching, funny and heart-wrenching performances by four masters of song and stage: Jewelle Blackman, Make Nadajewski, Nathalie Nadon and Tony Award-winner Brent Carver.

The Winter’s Tale will have one additional performance:
2 p.m. on September 29.
Ben Carlson, Yanna McIntosh and Seana McKenna lead a stellar cast in this poignant Shakespearean tale of love, loss and redemption.

Last week the Festival announced an encore performance of The Tempest, featuring Christopher Plummer as Prospero. Scheduled for 2 p.m. on September 13, it will raise funds for the Festival’s New Play Development activities.
Six other shows have already been extended this season: Kiss Me, Kate, Evita, Peter Pan, Do Not Go Gentle, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and King of Thieves.

Tickets for all performances are available by calling 1.800.567.1600 or visiting

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival runs until November 6, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; The Tempest; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; Peter Pan; The Winter’s Tale; Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again; Do Not Go Gentle; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; and King of Thieves.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Audrey M. Ashley, First Lady of Canadian Theatre Critics, Dies at 83

by Kenneth Jones, Playbill

Audrey M. Ashley, the retired theatre critic of The Ottawa Citizen in Ontario, and one of the major theatre critics of 20th-century Canadian theatre, died Aug. 16 in her Stratford, Ontario, home with her family at her side.

The British-born 83-year-old Ms. Ashley had battled multiple myeloma that slowed her body, but not her feverish mind. In recent years, she wrote a memoir about her life (and her theatregoing life) in England and Canada. The book, "The Time of My Life," is dedicated to her son, Warwick, who announced the news of her passing. She is also survived by her husband, James, daughter-in-law Erin and grandchildren Devon and Meredith.

Full obituary by Kenneth Jones, Playbill.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Sheer Pleasure

For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
By Michel Tremblay, Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Directed by Chris Abraham
Featuring Lucy Peacock and Tom Rooney
Photos by David Hou

The story: A narrator returns from his mother’s funeral and becomes immersed in his memories of a funny, loving woman whose flair for dramatic storytelling inspired his career as a writer.

A large diamond of plush, vibrant red carpets the floor, a single table and two chairs near one point. An old record-player churns out tunes from 1950’s Quebec, and a clothesline awaits its laundry. A man enters, his footsteps quiet on the carpet. He looks both sad and ponderous, but not unhappy, and begins to tell us about his mother, Nana.

Within moments a hurricane of a woman storms into the stage and begins a litany of tirades about her kid – the narrator - whose run-in with the police has driven her to near death. And so begins the emotional roller-coaster of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again.

No need to worry. This is not a dysfunctional relationship, no Oedipal complexes are present. It is merely the author remembering how various points in their relationship came to bear on his own life. There is much laughter, much tenderness, even during moments of stand-off between mother and son.

Tom Rooney is the narrator (right), who is in fact the author of the play. Each entrance of Nana takes him – and the audience – to a different point in time, and to a different point in his relationship with his mother. While it may look like Mr. Rooney is merely staying out of Nana’s way during all her rants, there is great subtlety in the way he reacts – the way he asks the audience to react – to this dynamic, complex woman.

Nana is played by Lucy Peacock (left), in what must be called a virtuoso performance. From her whirlwind first entrance, through her ranting, hilarious monologues, to her wrenching portrayal of a woman struck by cancer, and finally her joyous – yes, joyous! – parting, Ms. Peacock is simply mesmerizing. In one particular monologue about the nature of theatre, she conveys a layperson’s amazement so well it is almost metaphysical in character. It is truly one of the best moments on Stratford’s stages this season.

This autobiographical play, written as a farewell to the author’s mother, is neither saccharine nor bitter. It achieves a fine balance between sadness and laughter, and the actors who perform it delicately dance the line between regret and joy. Short, sweet, and poignant all at the same time, go see For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again for the sheer pleasure of their performances. Tissues are a must for anyone whose mother has passed away, or whose life has been touched by cancer.

It continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 26th.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bank Robbery Walker Style: King of Thieves

King of Thieves
By George F. Walker
Directed by Jenifer Tarver
Featuring Nigel Bennett, Jay Brazeau, Evan Buliung, Laura Condlln, Sean Cullen, Nora McLellan
Photos by David Hou

After last year’s success with Zastrozzi and Anything Goes (Factory Theatre) George F. Walker has a new fan base in Stratford. His plays challenge perceptions and perspectives, can turn your mind inside out, leave your head reeling. When combined with brilliant directors such as Jennifer Tarver, and solid actors like Nora McLellan and Evan Buliung, they are stunning, exciting works of theatre.

There was every confidence that his new play, King of Thieves, would be excellent - based on the same story and characters found in The Beggar’s Opera and Threepenny Opera, what great fodder for a playwright of Mr. Walker’s talent?

Instead, the play is simply shrug-and-a-sideways-head-nod meh. As Mr. Walker’s plays go, it is not mind-numbingly challenging, it is as straightforward as they come. It is a criminal world, where the authorities are just as corrupt as the thieves, but maybe not as corrupt as the bankers, and so the thieves become the heroes.

Yes, it is a timely statement full of bitter irony – leaders of the banks collude to bring down the economy, and then gouge the common man to build it back up again. The most satisfying part of Walker’s story is that in his 1929 version, the bankers are made to pay for their crimes, unlike those who were bailed out in our recent economic collapse. That they go out singing in three-part harmony is disturbing, precisely the kind of darkly disturbing one has come to expect from Walker’s play – which means the play is not without hope for later rewrites.

In fact, it is only in the second half of the play as people begin getting bumped off that it becomes more Walker-esque. Two girls have their throats slit, but break into song as their bodies – literally dead weights – are carted off. The cart returns again and again like a grim reaper on wheels, anticipating another character’s death. Both funny and deadly serious – that is what makes George F. Walker plays extraordinary.

Sean Cullen (left) plays Vinnie, the night-club owner / narrator of the piece. As the night-club owner he is great, but the narration is rarely necessary. The character would be more effective as a type of chorus, as Mr. Cullen is certainly expressive enough to convey deeper meaning without stating the obvious. As Macheath (Mac for short), Evan Buling is fine, but the part is no challenge for him, either. (If you were lucky enough to see his recent work in Yasmina Reza’s Art at Canstage, there is no comparison.)

In this case, the female of the species is far more deadly than the male. Myrna Peachum is an ex-burlesque dancer with a passion for booze, crime, her hubby and guns – we see her cleaning a Colt, then a machine gun, loading them with bullets hidden in her brassiere. She is an utter hoot to watch as played by Nora McClellan (left). As her daughter Polly, now married to Mac, well let’s just say you do not mess with her family. Laura Condlln’s icily intimidating performance is also full of heart, making her character one of the most fleshed-out and believable.

Performances by Jay Brazeau and Nigel Bennett as are also noteworthy as Mr. Peachum and FBI Agent Brown, as each tries to foil the other, and Oliver Becker is back as the thug Pork, although he was far, far more menacing in last year’s Walker play, Zastrozzi. The entire cast can be applauded for their fine work with New York and Southern accents.

This play is actually a musical, a first for the Studio Theatre. A ragtime-jazz score by John Roby (also the band’s conductor) is toe-tapping, although Mr. Walker’s lyrics are a bit clunky. That it is a musical is not bad – it is the type of quirkiness one expects from Mr. Walker – but that the story is not tightly crafted is bothersome. Do not let that stop you from enjoying the actors though.

King of Thieves continues in repertory until September 18.

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