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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).

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