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Monday, 31 May 2010

Honours for Seana McKenna

Leading Stratford actress Seana McKenna (right) was awarded an honourary Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting on May 18th from the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. 

Ms. McKenna reprised her role as Ph├Ędre this past winter at A.C.T., which co-produced the show at Stratford during the 2009 season.  A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff directed both productions. 

Ms McKenna has been a leading player at Stratford for 19 seasons, and in the 2010 season will perform as La Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons and Paulina in The Winter’s Tale.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Winter's Tale: a Fairy Tale in disguise?

While I researched The Winter's Tale for my Hitchhiker's Guide series this spring, I came across a great article by Dr. Philippa Shepherd on the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's website that suggested that the play could be viewed through the lens of a child's fairy tale.  It inspired me to adapt the plot into a short fairy tale; so many people requested a copy that I decided to post it here.  Enjoy!

Once Upon A Time…

There were two kings of the neighbouring kingdoms of Sicilia and Bohemia who were great friends. The King of Bohemia, Polixenes, was visiting his friend, King Leontes, who was trying to persuade him to stay longer. But King Polixenes had been away a long time, and it was time to get back to his own kingdom. But Leontes’ queen, Hermione, also asked him to stay, and her eloquence was such that King Polixenes decided to stay. His easy agreement to Hermione’s plea made King Leontes quite suspicious and terribly jealous that the two were secretly lovers, and he asked his faithful advisor Camillo poison his friend.

Camillo thought the King was wrong, but the jealous Leontes would not listen, so Camillo reluctantly agreed to do as his king asked. However, Camillo later confessed all to King Polixenes, and told him to flee home. Touched by is concern, the Bohemian King promised to shelter Camillo from Leontes’ anger, and they fled to Bohemia together.

Then, one winter’s night, as the queen’s son Mamillus was telling her a story, the furious King Leontes had his wife arrested for adultery, for he believed that by running away King Polixenes had shown his guilt in the affair, and that the baby the Queen was carrying was not his but Polixenes’. Queen Hermione heartily denied this, but the King would not listen, and he ordered her and her ladies in waiting to be taken to jail. The king’s lords tried to get him to see reason, and he still would not listen, but he agreed to ask the powerful Oracle of Delphi for the truth.

While in prison, the queen gave birth to a baby, a princess. Hermione’s trusted companion, Paulina, resolved to take the baby to King Leontes, in hopes that the sight of his new daughter would rid him of his jealousy. However the King became even angrier, and after Paulina scolded him for his stubborn madness, she left the baby with the King. But the king told lord Antigonus to get rid of the baby, or be charged with treason. Faced with this unhappy choice, Antigonus took the baby away, just as messengers returned from the Oracle.

King Leontes appointed himself judge in his wife’s trial, and although she defended herself eloquently, the king still refused to listen, and sentenced his queen to death. However, the Oracle’s answer was then read aloud: the queen is innocent, Leontes is a jealous tyrant, and he will live thereafter without an heir until what has been lost is found. As Leontes denied the truth for a third time some terrible news came – prince Mamillus had died of a broken heart for his mother, so the king was truly without an heir. The queen fainted to hear this horrible news, and was taken away by Paulina.

The King finally came to his senses, and was horrified by what he had done, but it was too late – the prince was dead, his daughter lost, and Paulina, upon returning, announced that Queen Hermione had died too, out of grief for her children. The penitent King swore to spend the rest of his days paying for the sins that cost him his family…

…Sixteen years passed, and one day in the Kingdom of Bohemia, King Polixenes asked his advisor Camillo why his son Florizel, had been lately absent from Court. Camillo told him that the prince was spending time at a shepherd’s cottage, where lived a maiden of great beauty. The king did not want his son to marry a mere shepherdess, so he and Camillo decided to disguise themselves to spy on Florizel.

In the meantime out in the countryside, a rascally thief named Autolycus was making his way towards town. He encountered a boy who told him of a great spring festival, and after robbing the unsuspecting boy, the wily thief decided to go to the festival to rob more people, but in disguise.

At the shepherd’s cottage, the beautiful maiden, named Perdita, was out walking with Prince Florizel, who was in disguise as Doricles. They were very much in love, and although Perdita did not know he was a prince, she knew he was higher born, and worried that his father would disapprove of her. The prince assured her that he would always be true to her. When her father the shepherd arrived with a crowd of people (including the disguised King and Camillo), many other people commented on Perdita’s beauty and bearing – there was something very special about her that could not be denied.

However, the King was very upset to hear of his son’s love for a mere shepherdess, and once he revealed himself as the king, he became angry with even the shepherd and his son, and ordered them never to see the prince again or else face execution. After warning the prince to stay away from Perdita, the king stormed back to his castle.

Florizel, however, remained true to his word and steadfast to Perdita, and Camillo advised them to flee to Sicilia – his old home – where the grieving King Leontes would welcome him as Polixenes’s son. The good Camillo offered to try to appease the king’s anger toward Perdita.

Perdita and Florizel agreed to flee, but the prince needed a further disguise to get to the ship that would take them to Sicilia, so he traded clothes with the rascal Autolycus before running off to their ship. Just then, the worried shepherd and his son came along, planning to tell the king that Perdita was not part of their family, but merely a child they found abandoned in the wilderness. Thinking to play atrik on them, the rogue Autolycus fooled them into going to the same ship on which Florizel and Perdita were planning to escape.

Back in Sicilia, with Paulina constantly reminding him of his past sins, King Leontes had grieved for his lost family for sixteen long years. But he eagerly welcomed news of Prince Florizel’s arrival, until it transpired that King Polixenes had arrived as well. Angry that his son had eloped with the fair Perdita, King Polixenes arrested the shepherd and his son. King Leontes resolved to help put things right between his friend and the prince, and went to meet him.

There it was revealed that Perdita, the child found in the forest sixteen years before, was actually King Leontes lost daughter, abandoned on the shores of Bohemia so long ago. The reunited father and daughter went to see Paulina, who had a statue of Perdita’s mother, Queen Hermione. Overcome with joy to see the image of Hermione, each wished to hold the statue’s hand, but Paulina would not allow it. Instead, she offered to bring the statue to life, and before the shocked company, the real, living Queen Hermione was restored to her daughter and husband. Leontes and his queen were reunited, he and Polixenes were friends once more, the loyal Paulina was betrothed the equally loyal Camillo, and Florizel was allowed to marry the princess Perdita.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Celebrated Writers Series Returns to Stratford Festival

What do Elizabeth Strout, Michel Tremblay, Judith Thompson, Louise Penny, Giles Blunt and Germaine Greer all have in common?

They will all be in Stratford this summer as part of the Celebrated Writers series.

Elizabeth Strout (left) won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for her novel Olive Kitteridge; she will be appearing at the Tom Patterson Theatre on Saturday, July 10.           
Mystery writers Giles Blunt (top right) and Louise Penny (below, right) will discuss their work at the Studio Theatre on Saturday, July 7; both authors have won multiple awards, and Mr. Blunt's novels are set in fictional Algonquin Bay, Ontario.

Judith Thompson (above, left) and Michel Tremblay (below, left) are two of Canada's best-loved playwrights and will appear at the Tom Patterson Theatre on Thursday, August 12.  Mr. tremblay's work For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again is being staged this season. 

Finally, one of the most inluential writers in the feminist movement, Germaine Greer (left), is appearing at the Tom Patterson Theatre on Sunday, August 15. 

Works by all these authors can be found at the Stratford Public Library; their online catalogue contains a list called Celebrated Writers 2010: Stratford Festival.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Patricia Hamilton joins the Blyth Festival

In an announcement released today, the Blyth Festival confirmed that Canadian theatre legend Patricia Hamilton (right) has been lured away from the Shaw Festival to Blyth for their 2010 season.

The multiple award-winning Ms. Hamilton is well known in her past role as Mrs. Rachel Lynde in the Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea series.  At Blyth she has joined the cast of A Killing Snow and Pearl Gidley.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Stratford Festival Designer Wins Cosume Design Award

Festival Costume Designer Wins Award - Tue. May 18 06:28 am

CJCS News of Stratford reported today that the Shakespeare Shakespeare Festival's Carolyn M. Smith (above, left) is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious $15,000 Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award in Costume Design. The award is given annually to professional Canadian costume designers in Ontario in mid-career to further enrich their careers through research and travel. Smith has been working as a set and costume designer throughout Canada for over 20 years, the last 12 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. For the 2010 season at Stratford she has designed the costumes for Peter Pan (right: costume sketch for Captain Hook). 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Last Hitchhiker's Guide on May 17th

The last Hitchhiker's Guide to the Festival for this season is coming up on Monday, May 17th and will feature the lovely but strangely under-performed The Winter's Tale.  2pm in the auditorium at the Stratford Public Library; admission is $1 to cover handouts, all are welcome!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Hitchhiker's Guide Today

Today at 2pm at the Stratford Public Library we'll be discussing The Two Gentlemen of Verona - it's dubious plot, shady characters, doubtful speeches and so much more!  2pm in the auditorium on the 3rd floor; $1 admission for the materials.

Next week: The boy who wouldn't grow up: Peter Pan.

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