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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Mary Stuart extended for a fourth time


August 23, 2013… The Stratford Festival is extending Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino’s production of Mary Stuart for an unprecedented fourth time.

The production, described as “electrifyingly entertaining and intellectually exciting” by the Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian and “edge-of-your-seat suspenseful” by The Globe and Mail’s J. Kelly Nestruck, features Seana McKenna as Elizabeth I and Lucy Peacock as Mary Stuart, with Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

Mary Stuart is striking for the clarity of its storytelling, the constant intensity of its dramatic stakes and, especially, for the evenhanded excellence of Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna in the leading roles,” says Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. “This is one for the memory books, with two remarkable actresses at the peak of their powers,” says Postmedia’s Jamie Portman.

With the run entirely sold out despite three previous extensions, the Festival is delighted to offer eager theatre-goers four more opportunities to see the smash hit of the season.

Tickets for the following performances will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on Tuesday, August 27, and to the general public on Wednesday, August, 28:

·         Wednesday, October 16, at 2 p.m.
·         Thursday, October 17, at 8 p.m.
·         Friday, October 18, at 8 p.m.
·         Saturday, October 19, at 8 p.m.

The play, by Friedrich Schiller, newly adapted by Peter Oswald, follows a period in the life of Mary Stuart, when the former Queen of Scots has been imprisoned in England because her very existence poses a political and personal risk to her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth I. As Elizabeth hesitates over decreeing her rival’s fate, Mary pleads for a face-to-face meeting, and we see how religion can become a tool in the hands of cynical politicians who are willing to sacrifice lives in the supposed interests of the state.

The final performance of The Forum event Dear Mary, Dear Elizabeth will be held on August 31 at 11 a.m. in the Studio Theatre. It features Ms McKenna and Ms Peacock reading the letters of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, introduced and contextualized by Dr. Ted McGee.

Mary Stuart is co-sponsored by PwC. Production support for Mary Stuart is generously provided by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, Dr. M.L. Myers and the late Dr. W.P. Hayman, Alice & Tim Thornton and Diana Tremain. Support for the 2013 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season continues until October 20, featuring Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommy,Blithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for GodotTaking ShakespeareThe Thrill and more than 150 events at The Forum. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Stratford Festival OFFICIALLY unveils 2014 season

Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge

August 20, 2013… Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is delighted to announce the 2014 season, in which, through the prism of a dozen plays, the Stratford Festival will explore the theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge.

“What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary places,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Extreme stakes lead to great drama.”

“These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poverty, age, sexuality. In today’s fast-paced global community, we are becoming ever more acutely aware of the consequences of such pressures. The issues behind them are interesting in themselves, but what they do to the human mind – to us – is ultimately the most fascinating thing. When the pressures of life become great enough, our minds give way to other realities. The result is often heartbreakingly tragic, but can also be a trigger for comedy.”

The season coincides with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, and to mark that occasion, Mr. Cimolino has programmed five Shakespeare productions, including two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that revolves around the madness of young love.

“For the first time in our history, we will examine a Shakespeare play in two different productions within the same season,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The first will be directed by one of Canada’s most exciting young directors, Chris Abraham; the second by one of the most highly regarded, internationally acclaimed directors of Shakespeare, Peter Sellars: two very different approaches to Shakespeare’s text.”

The season will also feature King Lear; Antony and Cleopatra; King John; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Mother Courage; Hay Fever; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Christina, The Girl King; and the musicals Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha.

“I’m very excited about the creative teams who’ll be working on this season with me,” says Mr.
Cimolino. “In addition to Chris and Peter, our lineup of directors includes the great Martha Henry and others whose work has captivated Festival audiences in recent seasons: Donna Feore, Tim Carroll and Gary Griffin. I’m also looking forward tremendously to the Stratford debuts of artistic leaders from other major Canadian cultural institutions – Jillian Keiley from the National Arts Centre, Alisa Palmer from the National Theatre School and Vanessa Porteous from Alberta Theatre Projects – as well as Robert McQueen, whose work in opera and musical theatre has been acclaimed internationally.”
King Lear | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Antoni Cimolino | Festival Theatre
The season will open at the Festival Theatre with the Shakespearean masterpiece King Lear, directed by Antoni Cimolino, whose sold-out production of Mary Stuart has been the runaway hit of 2013.

King Lear is the ultimate example of a mind pushed to the edge. When the aging king decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, requiring each in turn to publicly profess how much she loves him, he sets in motion a train of events that will rob him of his home, his status and his sanity – everything except the honest love and loyalty of his youngest daughter, Cordelia. Meanwhile, the Earl of Gloucester is falsely persuaded by his illegitimate son, Edmund, that his other son, Edgar, is conspiring against him. Both these fathers pay for their misjudgements by being driven to the very limits of human endurance.

King Lear speaks to the simple, naked humanity shared by everyone from a monarch to the poorest of the poor,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It’s from that essential humanity, not the trappings of wealth or power, that we claim our right to exist. After Lear loses everything, he finds that he is no longer who he thought he was. This loss is a liberation. In his subsequent madness he sees his own folly, awakens to empathy and discovers his soul.”

Like Mary Stuart this season, Mr. Cimolino’s 2012 production of Cymbeline caught the public’s imagination, and was twice extended to meet demand for tickets. His production of The Merchant of Venice opened last week to unanimous acclaim. Mr. Cimolino’s other Shakespeare credits at Stratford include Coriolanus with Colm Feore and Martha Henry in 2006, As You Like  It with Graham Abbey, Stephen Ouimette and Sara Topham in 2005, King John with Peter Donaldson and Stephen Ouimette in 2004, Love’s Labour’s Lost with Graham Abbey and Brian Bedford in 2003 and Twelfth Night with Domini Blythe, Peter Donaldson and William Hutt in 2001.

Crazy for You | Music by George Gershwin | Lyrics by Ira Gershwin | Book by Ken Ludwig
| Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore | Festival Theatre

Never before produced by the Festival, Crazy for You will be directed and choreographed at the Festival Theatre by Donna Feore, the force behind a growing list of hit musicals at the Festival, including one of this season’s hottest tickets, Fiddler on the Roof, as well as 2012’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 2007’s Oklahoma! and 2006’s Oliver!

Set in the 1930s, Crazy for You is the story of Bobby Child, the scion of a wealthy banking family, whose dream in life is to be a Broadway dancer. Sent by his mother to foreclose on a struggling theatre, he faces a dilemma when he falls in love with a local girl whose affections he will lose if he carries out his mother’s commission. His solution: put on a show and pay off the theatre’s mortgage.

This high-energy romantic comedy – replete with mistaken identities, plot twists and stunning dance numbers – is packed with beloved Gershwin songs, including “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Crazy for You presents a joyous view of love and madness,” says Mr. Cimolino. “But the story is secondary to the powerful force of the Gershwins’ music. The bedrock of their work is the music of the Russian and Ukrainian steppes, which led the brothers to write brilliant, entertaining, lively music, with an energy and madness of its own. It is the music of adversity now finding itself in the new world, in what should be the land of milk and honey.”

Next year, Ms Feore will celebrate her 20th season with the Festival. To her musical credits, Ms Feore adds the choreography of more than 20 productions here, as well as the direction of the captivating production of Cyrano de Bergerac in 2009. Ms Feore’s other credits include directing The Very, Very Best of Broadway with Martin Short and Marvin Hamlisch; the Canadian Stage productions of Rock ’n’ Roll and It’s a Wonderful Life; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Lecture on the Weather and A Soldier’s Tale with F. Murray Abraham; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart: A Life in Letters. Her film credits include Politics Is Cruel, Mean Girls, Eloise, Martin and Lewis, Stormy Weather and the opera films Romeo and Juliette and Don Giovanni Unmasked.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Chris Abraham | Festival Theatre | #sfDream

Chris Abraham, hot off his spell-binding production of Othello, will direct his first Shakespeare on the Festival Stage, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This delightful Shakespearean comedy of unrequited desire is imbued with the same life force that permeates Crazy for You. The madness of love runs riot as Hermia flees to the woods with her lover, Lysander, to escape her father’s command that she marry Demetrius. Demetrius follows, pursued by Helena, whose love he spurns. Their romantic problems intensify when the fairy world intervenes.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream explores the madness of young love – intemperate, powerful, blind, rash,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It is Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. This young love, however, exists in a male-dominated world where parents want to control their children’s natural desires, causing a series of metamorphoses. Even the natural world revolts at man’s determination to subvert these desires, putting the climate in disarray.”

Mr. Abraham, who is Artistic Director of Crow’s Theatre in Toronto, will mark his fifth season at Stratford, where he has quickly established himself as a director of note with stellar productions of The Matchmaker, The Little Years and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again to his credit. He has won numerous awards in his career, including a Dora for The Little Years, which he directed at Tarragon after its Stratford run. He also has received Doras for Eternal Hydra and Easy Lenny Lazmon, and a Gemini for I, Claudia, and was the recipient of the Siminovitch Protégé Award in 2002. His other credits include Someone Else, Seeds and BOXHEAD at Crow’s Theatre; The Patient Hour at Tarragon; Blue/Orange at Canadian Stage; Antigone and The Lesson at Soulpepper; and Hedda Gabler, The Glass Menagerie and SaltWater Moon at the Saidye Bronfman Centre.

The Beaux’ Stratagem | By George Farquhar | Directed by Antoni Cimolino | Festival Theatre | #sfStratagem

Opening later in the season at the Festival Theatre is George Farquhar’s brilliant Restoration comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, directed by Antoni Cimolino. It is the first Restoration comedy produced in Stratford since The Country Wife in 1995.

Written in 1707, The Beaux’ Stratagem follows the madly comic antics of two impoverished rakes, who, disguising their identities, arrive in the town of Lichfield seeking to restore their fortunes by wooing wealthy women. As the two connive to relieve ladies of their wealth, they must contend with a suspicious local innkeeper and his band of highwaymen, and with an acquaintance privy to their true identity.

“In The Beaux’ Stratagem, the necessity of coping with the realities of marriage and personal finance give way to a romp,” says Mr. Cimolino. “One of the last of the Restoration comedies, it was written by the amazing George Farquhar, who himself was dying and hoped the play would finance his family after his death. It is very funny and I look forward enormously to directing it.”

Hay Fever | By Noël Coward | Directed by Alisa Palmer | Avon Theatre | #sfHayFever

Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director of the National Theatre School English Section, makes her Festival debut at the Avon Theatre as the director of Noël Coward’s celebrated comedy Hay Fever.

As stylish as it is intoxicatingly absurd, Hay Fever introduces audiences to the Bliss family: a retired actress mother, novelist father and two children, all prone to their own outrageous eccentricities. The family’s self-absorbed antics astound and ultimately exasperate the various guests that each of them has invited to their country house for the weekend. Driven to distraction by a comic maelstrom of rousing fights, fevered flirtations and histrionic role-playing, the guests eventually flee, leaving the Blisses happily playing and bickering amongst themselves.

“This is one of the great opportunities for energetic comedy within the theme of madness,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Theatre is about taking ordinary situations and pushing them to the extreme – and what could be more delightful than experiencing this through the lives of a theatre family? These people pretend to have an interest in conventional living, in entertaining at their country property. But as we can see by the end, they really are in a world all their own. It’s as if they lived only on the stage – sheer madness!”

Ms Palmer is currently collaborating with Ann-Marie MacDonald and Torquil Campbell on a Festival commission to develop a musical reflection on Hamlet. An internationally awardwinning director, playwright and producer, Ms Palmer has worked in a range of genres, including classics, contemporary plays, creation projects, musicals and operas. A former Artistic Director of Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre and long-time director at the Shaw Festival, Ms. Palmer has directed across Canada, winning seven Dora Awards for her work, as well as two Chalmers Awards for her plays i.d. and A Play About the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. Her Shaw credits include Pal Joey, The Philanderer, The Women, Belle Moral: A Natural History, Sunday in the Park with George and Diana of Dobson’s. Her other credits include The Children’s Republic and East of Berlin at Tarragon, Cloud 9 for Mirvish Productions, the acclaimed Top Girls at Soulpepper, and Mrs. Warren’s Profession and The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Man of La Mancha | Music by Mitch Leigh | Lyrics by Joe Darion | Book by Dale Wasserman | Directed by Robert McQueen | Choreographed by Marc Kimelman | Avon Theatre| #sfLaMancha

Robert McQueen, whose work in musical theatre and opera has been recognized both nationally and internationally, will make his Stratford debut at the helm of Man of La Mancha, to be staged at the Avon Theatre.

Featuring the timeless anthem “The Impossible Dream,” Man of La Mancha follows the saga of the aging Miguel de Cervantes, playwright, poet and tax collector, who finds himself in a dungeon in Seville awaiting trial by the Inquisition for an offence against the Church. When his fellow prisoners try to confiscate his few possessions, including the uncompleted manuscript of his most famous work, the novel Don Quixote, Cervantes defends his masterpiece by proposing that he present it to them as a play. To this end, Cervantes and his manservant transform themselves into Don Quixote and his fiercely loyal servant, Sancho Panza, recruiting prisoners to take on the roles of other characters. What follows is the stirring tale of the mad Quixote and his obsessive quest to attain the impossible dream. It is the lunatic who sees most clearly in Man of La Mancha, as in King Lear.

Man of La Mancha is a beautiful contrast to Crazy for You,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The source material, Don Quixote, is from the Spanish Golden Age, and you can see that period’s theatrical influence on Shakespeare in the Romance plays. Man of La Mancha takes that source material and puts it through the lens of American musical theatre. It depicts a pure, chaste, romantic and mature love – love that elevates the beloved. It is an extraordinary musical because of the story and the characters. Despite dark content, it manages to be inspiring, making us question what is actually the saner choice: to live in filth and despair, or to pursue the romantic ideal.”

Mr. McQueen directed Caroline, or Change, the Acting Up Stage musical that took Toronto by storm in 2012. His recent work includes the direction and dramaturgy of the new musical theatre piece Where Elephants Weep, at the Cambodian Living Arts centre in Phnom Pehn, The Light in the Piazza and Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio, for Pacific Opera in Victoria. In 2009 he directed a Tokyo-based creative team and acting company in a Japanese-language production of Carousel at the Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo. For the Vancouver Opera he served as director and dramaturge for The Magic Flute. The project, for which he also adapted the libretto, was a collaboration with a 15-member creative team of Canadian aboriginal and non-native visual artists and theatremakers. His other work includes directing La Bohème for the Canadian Opera Company and serving as associate director of the Broadway and national touring productions of Mamma Mia, as well as the direction of the Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires productions.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass | Adapted by James Reaney | Directed by Jillian Keiley | Avon Theatre |#sfAlice

Twenty years after its Stratford première, the Festival is pleased to present Lewis Carroll’s wildly inventive fantasy Alice Through the Looking-Glass, in an adaptation commissioned by the Festival from nationally renowned playwright and poet James Reaney, a native son of Stratford. So popular was the 1994 production that it was re-mounted in 1996 to the great delight of audiences of all ages.

Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, will bring her remarkable creative vision to the piece, to be staged at the Avon Theatre and produced in association with the National Arts Centre.

“The underlying material for Alice Through the Looking-Glass is, of course, iconic and examines a fantasy world filled with some of the greatest and most familiar nonsense verse,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The characters – the Walrus and the Carpenter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty and the Jabberwock – are the inhabitants of the farthest reaches of a child’s imagination.”

Deciding to explore the alternative world she sees inside her living-room mirror, Alice finds a place that in some aspects resembles her home yet differs from it in ways as delightful as they are surreal.

Ms Keiley won the 2004 Siminovitch Prize for her “startlingly original and radically imaginative” directing style, making her an ideal candidate to take on the sublime nonsense of both Lewis Carroll and James Reaney. She is also the recipient of the Canada Council’s John Hirsch Award. Her credits include Tempting Providence, which she created in collaboration with playwright Robert Chafe, and which, over a 10-year run, toured across Canada and abroad, as did Afterimage. She and Mr. Chafe, the co-founders of Newfoundland’s Artistic Fraud, also collaborated on Oil and Water, at Factory Theatre. Ms Keiley made a big splash with her first project as Artistic Director of the NAC, Metamorphoses, a play by Mary Zimmerman, which reimagines 10 classical myths. Set around a giant swimming pool, this theatrical event allowed audiences to experience the consequences of humanity’s deepest desires. Ms Keiley’s Stratford
connection dates back to 2008, when she was selected as a participant in the International Master Directors Summit.

Mother Courage | By Bertolt Brecht | Directed by Martha Henry | Tom Patterson Theatre |#sfCourage

Considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century – and perhaps the greatest anti-war play of all time – Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage will be directed by one of the Festival’s most celebrated artists, Martha Henry, returning for a remarkable 40th season with the Stratford Festival in 2014. Ms Henry’s contributions to the Festival include the direction of numerous critically acclaimed productions, including this season’s Measure for Measure, 2009’s Three Sisters, 2007’s Of Mice and Men and 2002’s Elizabeth Rex.

Mother Courage was written in 1939 as a response to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Set in 17th century Europe and spanning 12 years, the story follows Mother Courage as she struggles to make a living and to protect her three children during the Thirty Years’ War. By the end of the play, having lost everyone she loves and almost everything she owns, she has truly been driven to the edge – yet somehow she finds the will to carry on.

Mother Courage presents a world in which the madness of war becomes not only day-to-day but something that the people can’t live without,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It represents profit. It represents the new normal. In that respect it is like our world today. As the characters cynically take advantage of the opportunities for commercial gain that the war provides, they lose anything of real worth, including their souls. They lose their children, they lose their freedom, they lose their self-respect and eventually they lose their lives.”

A Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ms. Henry boasts a career without parallel in this country. Her work opposite the great William Hutt was truly the stuff of dreams, beginning with her portrayal of Miranda to his Prospero and also including Mary to his James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Her Shakespearean roles include Titania, Lady Macduff, Helena, Luciana, Cressida, Viola, the Countess of Rossillion, Cymbeline’s Queen, Lady Anne, Queen Eleanor, Cordelia, Goneril, Rosaline, the Princess of France, Thaisa, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Isabella, Beatrice, Paulina and Volumnia. As Director of the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory, Ms Henry is training a whole new generation of classical actors.

King John | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Tim Carroll | Tom Patterson Theatre | #sfKingJohn

King John, the story of a monarch trying desperately to maintain his grip on power, will be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre in a production directed by Tim Carroll.

King John looks at a mind driven by the dangerous combination of ambition and insecurity,” says Mr. Cimolino. “John commits horrible acts to secure a position he rightly holds. There is a wonderful range of characters in this play who navigate, with varying degrees of success, the pressures of politics, ambition, legitimacy and loss. From Hubert the mercenary, asked to commit an atrocity, to Constance, who wishes she were mad to escape the pain of her child’s murder, it is the Bastard (a very different bastard from Edmund in King Lear) who comes through the play with the most honour and integrity.”

Tim Carroll, who this season gave audiences the opportunity to see a Romeo and Juliet as Shakespeare might have presented it at the Globe Theatre, will transport audiences to the Blackfriars Theatre in a candlelit production of King John. Mr. Carroll, former Associate Director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, directed a sold-out production of Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance, which transferred from the Globe to London’s West End, garnering four Olivier nominations this year, and which will open on Broadway in the fall. Mr. Carroll is one of the world’s most respected directors of Shakespeare. His Globe credits also include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Tempest and The Golden Ass. For the RSC he directed The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His international credits include Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, The Duchess of Malfi and Victory for the Barka Theatre in Budapest; All’s Well That Ends Well for the National Theatre in Craiova, Romania; Amadeus for the National Theatre in Portugal; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Sydney Opera House. He is a founding member of The Factory, in London, for which he directed three theatre experiments: Hamlet, The
Seagull and The Odyssey. Mr. Carroll made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan in 2010.

Antony and Cleopatra | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Gary Griffin | Tom Patterson Theatre

Gary Griffin, Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, will return for a fifth season to direct Antony and Cleopatra at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

The play, produced just four times before at Stratford, follows the relationship of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with Mark Antony, who, having defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, is now one of the three rulers of the Roman republic. Criticized for neglecting his political and military responsibilities – and his wife in Rome – as he dallies in Alexandria with Cleopatra, Antony attempts to break free of Cleopatra’s spell, and returns to Rome to help crush an incipient rebellion. Once there, his wife having died, he agrees to a political marriage, enraging Cleopatra. But Antony cannot long endure his separation from the bewitching Egyptian queen: when war breaks out, he abandons his new wife and returns to Egypt, a choice that leads to his own and Cleopatra’s tragic ends.

Antony and Cleopatra examines older love and the pressures of being madly in love when you know better,” says Mr. Cimolino. “This play has some of the most incredibly lyrical and intense love poetry ever written, along with beautiful observations on life that speak to us today, in a world where second and third marriages have never been more common.”

Mr. Griffin has a string of hit productions to his credit at Stratford, including 42nd Street, Camelot, Evita and West Side Story. He won an Olivier Award for outstanding musical for his production of Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse in London. On Broadway, he was the director of Oprah Winfrey’s production of The Color Purple and of The Apple Tree. His Off-Broadway credits include Music in the Air, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pardon My English and The New Moon for City Center Encores!, Saved at Playwrights Horizons; and Beautiful Thing at the Cherry Lane. He has won numerous awards for his work at Chicago Shakespeare, where his credits include Amadeus, Passion, A Flea in Her Ear, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Pacific Overtures.

Christina, The Girl King | By Michel Marc Bouchard | Translated by Linda Gaboriau | Directed by Vanessa Porteous | Studio Theatre |#sfChristina

The Festival is delighted to present Linda Gaboriau’s translation of Michel Marc Bouchard’s Christina, The Girl King. Written by one of Quebec’s most celebrated playwrights, the play will make its English-language première at the Studio Theatre, directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of Alberta Theatre Projects.

Commissioned as a translation by the Festival in 2010, the play is the story of Christina of Sweden, an extraordinarily modern character who was born just 10 years after Shakespeare’s death. Hers is a story of bringing sanity to an insane world. The enigmatic ruler showed a passion for philosophy, literature and the arts but her lifestyle and refusal to marry proved sources of great concern at court. Rather than bow to pressure to conform to the expectations of others, the 26-year-old queen abdicates in order to be free to pursue her own aspirations. Is this an act of madness? Or is Christina’s the story of a modern woman born out of her time – one whom the 17th century simply couldn’t contain?

“Michel Marc Bouchard has such a great gift for helping us understand the situation of the person who does not fit in,” says Mr. Cimolino. “In Christina, The Girl King, he has beautifully brought to life the story of a historical figure who had the courage to step outside of the society that attempted to bind her in. As the daughter of a Protestant warrior king – himself one of the driving forces of the Thirty Years’ War depicted in Mother Courage – she was expected to get married, have children and adhere to the spartan values of the Swedish nation as it was then. Instead she introduced foreign, and then radical scientific and philosophical ideas, and strained to remain unmarried and independent.

“Bouchard examines the pressures inherent in her sexual and personal self-discovery in a highly compelling play. The pressures in her life push her to the edge. Rather than give over to madness, which would be the only outcome of staying on as queen, she leaves her throne and her country, moving to Rome where she is free to live outside of marriage as a patron of the arts.”Ms Porteous makes her Festival debut with this production.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream | By William Shakespeare | A Chamber Play Directed by Peter Sellars | Studio Theatre#sfChamber

Peter Sellars, renowned for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces, comes to the Festival for the first time to stage his reimagined version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a cast of four actors playing all of the roles, this staging will offer an intensely focused approach to Shakespeare’s examination of the role-playing, mercurial mood swings, delusional fantasy, deep hurt, and forgiveness and release at the heart of human relationships.

“What is extraordinary about Stratford is not that we do 12 plays in one year, but that we do them all at the same time, giving theatre-goers an opportunity to experience one play in light of another. Next season, for the first time ever, we will offer a chance for audiences to experience the same title in two very different productions, along with further opportunities for exploration in The Forum,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“I look forward to welcoming Peter to the Stratford Festival,” he adds. “I have greatly enjoyed his work in opera and Shakespeare for its beauty, vulnerability and intelligence. When Peter spoke to me about his ideas for Dream, I sensed an opportunity to create not only an exploration but a celebration of this great play.”

Mr. Sellars has worked with an extraordinary range of creative artists over the past three decades. His landmark staging of Sophocles’ Ajax, set at the Pentagon, was invited to tour Europe and ignited his international career. Other noteworthy theatre projects include a 1994 staging of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice set in southern California with a cast of black, white, Latino and Asian-American actors; a production of Euripides’ The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience; and, in 2009, Othello, inspired by and set in the America of newly elected President Barack Obama. Desdemona, Sellars’s recent collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traore, has been performed in Vienna, Brussels, Paris, Berkeley, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and Naples, and was presented in London as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Tickets for the 2014 season of the Stratford Festival go on sale to Members on November 11, 2013, and to the general public on January 4, 2014, with a special advance sale on Facebook beginning January 2.


Monday, 19 August 2013

More Unofficial reports on the 2014 season from the Toronto Star

The Toronto Star is now reporting - again ahead of any official announcement from the Stratford Festival - that the 2014 season will not bring Hamlet to the stage, but instead productions of Shakespeare's King John, and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as Mother Courage and Her Children, by Berthold Brecht. Full story here

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Cimolino knocks it out of the park with a brave Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino, designed by Douglas Paraschuk

It is not often a production comes along with a vision so complete - every nuance perfect, every character given a finished arc, every debatable point given a plausible finish - to either the bitter or sweet end - that the overall effect from a story-telling point of view is that of a masterpiece. It presents a dilemma for the reviewer as, when viewing any work of genius, it is difficult to know where to begin.

So let us begin with the person holding the brush, Antoni Cimolino, who decided to set his Merchant of Venice in 1936 Italy, within reachable memory for many parents and grandparents. It is just before Italy introduced Race Laws restricting Jews (and other races) who had, up until then, been especially integrated into Italian society, even leaders of the country. This is also right before the outbreak of World War II, when millions of Jews (and other races) were, at one extreme expelled from their homes and countries, and at the other extreme, rounded up by the millions and placed in concentration camps where most faced certain death. As such, the Holocaust casts a pall over this production in a very obvious and deliberate way, and Mr. Cimolino refuses to gloss over the anti-Semitism of that unstable era, using subtext and his actors' incredible talents to convey so much of what goes unsaid.

Mr. Cimolino also consulted with Dr. Darren Marks, the same man who helped the company of Fiddler on the Roof achieve the authenticity of a Russian shtetl, to similarly provide the company of Merchant with historical context. Dr. Marks notes that "What distinguishes the Italian story from what happened in other Nazi-controlled areas is the rapidity of ascent of intolerance, as few European Jewish populations had been so integrated into their national culture." Mr. Cimolino uses this, and his own belief that people are "taught to hate and fear", to examine a group of complex characters who all betray prejudices in one way or another.

For instance. The production opens in a crowded palazzo, people sipping espresso, three children playing soccer and Tubal, a Hassidic Jew, begins to play with them (they are Italians, after all). He is confronted by a group of "Black Shirts" - Fascists - who had been handing out pamphlets (note that Bassanio scoffs at the one he is pressed to take), but Tubal winks at the children and they merrily wave him goodbye.

Later, one of those children is wearing a Fascist uniform.

Jonathan Goad as Gratiano, Anand Rajaram as Salerio, Tyrone Savage as Lorenzo
and Steven Sutcliffe as Solanio. Photo by David Hou.
Onto the stage springs Jonathan Goad as Gratiano, clowning around, trying to get the melancholy Antonio (Tom McCamus) to laugh. All jokes and smiles, he later reads a newspaper emblazoned with news of Mussolini, and soon thereafter makes a vulgar reference to Jessica (Sarah Farb). He progresses to minor vandalism even after Lorenzo (Tyrone Savage) staunchly defends Jessica to him, and further along in the play, Gratiano is the most malicious of Shylock's taunters in the courtroom. As an actor Mr. Goad can turn on a dime from playing charming to vicious, so he is a perfect choice to play Gratiano in this production, used here to illustrate that "rapid ascension of intolerance" so prevalent in the era.
Scott Wentworth as Shylock.
Photo by David Hou.
In this production Shylock is still the villain but is driven to be not because he is mercenary or hates the Christians.  Belying the text that their house is a "hell" and he is a "devil", Shylock is, as envisioned by Mr. Cimolino and played by Scott Wentworth, anything but. He is clean-shaven, wears a kippah but with Italian business attire, and does not make observance to his home's mezzuzah (at first), so to this Shylock his Jewishness is secondary to his being an Italian businessman. Above all however, he is a doting - if overprotective - father, who sings tenderly to his daughter Jessica before embracing her as he goes to supper; a father who carries her portrait with him after she elopes with Lorenzo, referring to her as "his gold" he will never see again. Shylock's villainous behaviour in the courtroom scene is therefore given greater cause in this production, in that his hatred is born out of love for his daughter, but it cannot be excused, any more than the vitriolic hatred of him by the others.

This is best illustrated by Tubal, played by Robert King. As the only other Jew - the one who is obviously so - in the scene, one only needs to watch Tubal's reactions as his friend presses his case to see that Shylock's behaviour is sickening to more than the Christians and Fascists in the scene. He rolls his eyes at Shylock's first words ("Yeah, I've heard that before, he doesn't mean it though"), agrees with Portia's words about mercy, stares down Gratiano's first outburst, and finally confronts Shylock with a look of silent anger and disgust before leaving him to face his fate alone. That such a minor role can convey such importance in a production is completely satisfying for an audience member.
Centre: Michelle Giroux as Portia. Photo by David Hou.
Never has there been a more empathetic Portia than Michelle Giroux. Ms. Giroux gives Portia more humanity than any other character, from addressing Shylock by name instead of "Jew" (a judicious edit by Mr. Cimolino), to politely concealing her dread of her foppish Spanish suitor (Antoine Yared), and illustrating a disdain of the growing Fascist movement by mocking her Hitler-ish German suitor. Even her most blatantly racist line (regarding the Prince of Morocco's failed bid to win her hand "May all of his complexion choose me so") is changed from a light-hearted jest to a commentary about thoughtless discrimination, as her companion Nerissa (Sophia Walker) is herself black in this production. Ms. Walker's look of hurt and Ms. Giroux's face-palming touch of apology speak volumes in a second. Even though at her home in Belmont seems largely untouched by the Fascist movement, this Portia recognizes its threat - dressed as Balthazar the lawyer a Black Shirt offers his hand in thanks, and you can see her weigh her conscience against the possible outcome if "he" refuses. Most of all, Ms. Giroux and Mr. Wentworth create a connection in the courtroom scene between Portia and Shylock that affects both characters, preparing the arc that ends the entire play - that of Portia sadly giving Jessica her father's kippah, and Jessica exchanging a long look with Antonio, as the first air raid sirens begin to blare over Belmont.

Sophia Walker (background) as Nerissa, Michelle Giroux as Portia
and Scott Wentworth as Shylock. Photo by David Hou.
 It would be easy to go on for another thousand words about the nuances that are brought out in the storytelling and by every actor (Tom McCamus, Tyrone Savage, Sarah Farb, Tyrell Crews, Ron Pederson... and everyone else, here's to you all), the designs, the soundscapes and attention to property detail that all make this production of Merchant of Venice the most powerful Shakespeare I've seen at Stratford in a good long time. Mr. Cimolino dared to ask and to challenge the big questions, and it does him credit. This production will do exactly what good theatre should do - inspire discussion, reflection and examination of one's own self. It has been said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."* 

Congratulations, company of Merchant of Venice, for not doing nothing. If any production of this season deserves to travel to Broadway, it is yours.

The Merchant of Venice continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until October 18th.

*attributed to Edmund Burke

Martha does Meta in Taking Shakespeare

Taking Shakespeare, by John Murrell
Directed by Diana LeBlanc, designed by Michael Gianfrancesco

Martha Henry as Prof and Luke Humphrey as Murph.
Photo by V. Tony Hauser.
The story: College student Murph is not making the expectations of his mother, the Dean of Humanities of the university. She sends him to a professor that she had and liked, in hopes that she will help him discover some direction - and they connect over Prof's favourite play, Othello. But little do either realize that this forced bond is also Prof's last chance to find direction - and by play's end one of them will have a direction imposed on them that they did not expect.

Taking Shakespeare is an ok play. It is not Shakespeare, and what it has to say about Shakespeare and Othello and Othello's characters has been said before. Like any story* about a student finding his way by connecting to an inspiring teacher, this play is tender, but thankfully in this case not saccharine. It is witty - though conversely through Murph's dim-wittedness and Prof's exasperation - but not brilliant. It follows a familiar pattern in that the characters connect, form an unlikely bond, learn from each other and then, as in any good story, the inspiring teacher or mentor is forced to leave so the mentee can find his or her own way.

Therefore what makes this production really worth seeing are the performances by its two actors.
Martha Henry as Prof. Photo by V. Tony Hauser.
Prof is none other than Martha Henry, and Othello is "her play". This is a bit of meta-theatre, Ms. Henry having portrayed Othello's Desdemona to great acclaim one of the previous six Festival productions (as well as every other major female role in Shakespeare). Added to the fact she is an instructor in the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training, it is no wonder then, that her lines ring with truth whether she is speaking from Taking Shakespeare or from Othello, whether the line drips with irony, bubbles with humour or aches with hurt. 

Also delightfully meta in an art-imitating-life kind of way, is the fact that Luke Humphrey, playing Murph, was Ms. Henry's student in the Conservatory. Thankfully it appears Mr. Humphrey does not share Murph's inability to grasp his work - he is a very natural actor, quite charismatic in drawing both laughs and empathy from an audience, and he and his former teacher show a respect for each other as they play shadows of themselves. Even though the role of Prof was written with Ms. Henry in mind, it must be a wonderfully surreal challenge for these actors to successfully perform this play without any hint of self-consciousness, but they do. 

Luke Humphrey as Murph. Photo by V. Tony Hauser.
Taking Shakespeare and Mary Stuart are proof for the Stratford Festival that a mandate of Shakespeare and historical drama is serving them well - both plays have been extended to meet the demand for tickets, however Taking Shakespeare ends its run on September 27th, and the Studio Theatre only has 260 seats, so get them now.

*Mona Lisa Smile, Dead Poet's Society, To Sir With Love, Good-bye Mr. Chips... insert favourite cinematic teacher-inspires student film here.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Othello: Starring... The Set

Othello, by William Shakespeare
Directed by Chris Abraham
Designed by Julie Fox, Michael Walton (lighting), ThomasRyder Payne (sound)

The Story: In secret and against her father's wishes, the young and beautiful Venetian Desdemona marries Othello, a military general and Moor. At once at odds with society for their match, the couple also falls prey to Othello's ensign Iago, who swears to and plots a revenge so complete that it will lead to more deaths than that of his leader.
Bethany Jilliard as Desdemona and Dion Johnstone as Othello.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
This is a fine production of Othello, a difficult play that is riddled with contradictions. But. The director, Chris Abraham, could have chosen to highlight a race issue which would have been apt for the Elizabethan setting as the word "Moor" in Elizabethan times was as insulting as the "N" word is in modern times. He could have created a religious conflict between a Muslim Othello and the Christian Venetian society, which would have resonance today. He could have forged a link to PTSD in conveying military career men who cannot cope with domestic civility. He did none of these things nor anything else to deliver a gut-punch to the audience.

Well, he did one thing. He hired Julie Fox as his designer, who created a set that looked deceptively simple - at first. Two walls, a raked square of a stage set at a diamond angle, basked in blood-red paint and light. Simple. Until the diamond turns on edge or in full-circle and the walls open and close to reveal empty space or stairs, becoming a courtyard, a stable, a bridge, a chapel, a Doge's palace... and falls of fabric turn the space into a tent, a bedchamber, a picture frame, a ship tossed in a stormy sea.  Combined with the Caravaggio-like lighting of Michael Walton, the Japanese Puzzle-Box set nearly recreates a thrust-stage on a proscenium, but it competes with the actors for the audience's attention - it is brilliant and fantastic and bizarrely gorgeous and perhaps a tad too much so. And although it is used in innovative moments of staging, when one finds oneself watching the set morph instead of listening to the end of a soliloquy, or looking for the designer during the show's curtain call, it is probably not the best thing for the production as a whole.

Graham Abbey as Iago and Dion Johnstone as Othello.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
The lead actors may not command that particular stage, but none of them are exactly slouches, and each one has moments of pure power. Dion Johnstone, adopting an exotic accent to add to Othello's "otherness", conveys both the charmer and the general equally well; he and Bethany Jilliard (as Desdemona) seem truly a team in the earliest parts of the play, as do he and Graham Abbey (as Iago) later on when Othello chooses to believe his soldier over his wife - even though we know one is a viper and one is being duped, the tableau set at the end of the first half would suggest an action-hero buddy movie. But in fact, Mr. Abbey's Iago underestimates this Othello's physical power as he is literally thrown to the floor and pinned - just as Mr. Johnstone's Othello is no match for this Iago's egomaniacal brain.

Deborah Hay as Emilia and Bethany Jilliard as Desdemona.
Photo by Michael Cooper.
The casting of the four leads is perfectly balanced, to tell the truth.  Ms. Jilliard's Desdemona looks as beautiful and as fragile as a porcelain doll, but it is with intelligence and dignity and that she argues her points, and with spirit as she fights for her life in a truly appalling death scene (kudos to fight director John Stead, it was horrifically realistic - I was not the only audience member to look away). She conveys true tenderness to Othello, and an obedience that modern women may find hard to accept.

Her handmaiden Emilia is played by Deborah Hay. An enigmatic character, since Emilia both loves her mistress and conceals vitally important information from her, Ms. Hay shows a somewhat modest and rueful Emilia, slightly afraid of her husband, Iago. It is as she realizes her husband is the root of the evil that Ms. Hay unleashes Emilia's very righteous rage, giving full, burning voice to the injustice and murderous plot the audience has witnessed all along.

Fine as they are, however, neither they nor the others in the company can command that marvelous set, and this creates a strange - yet interesting - dichotomy for the viewer.  It may not deliver the impact of a more modern interpretation, but Chris Abraham's production tells the story clearly with a strong leading team of actors, and that (plus that set!) means it should be on your list to see this summer.

Othello continues in repertory until October 19th at the Avon Theatre. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Review: Unapologetically Raw - The Thrill

Directed by Dean Gabourie, Designed by Eo Sharp

The story: Wheelchair-bound since birth, Human Rights lawyer Elora is furious when her alma mater invites "the devil" to speak at an event - Julian, a man who advocates a parent's right to choose to terminate the life of a child who is diagnosed with catastrophic illness. Her care-giver Francis insists she calm down, but in protest Elora nearly runs him over in her motorized chair during his speech, and is astounded when he arrives on her doorstep with an apology. More astounding is that not only is he instantly besotted with her, she also finds herself attracted to him, and together they form a plan to help get "her people" out of institutions and into their own homes to lead lives as rich as hers. However, Elora's body is beginning to deteriorate around her, and Julian is facing a similar crisis in the breakdown of his mother's mental acuity. Faced with two sides of an emotionally-charged issue, each one must make the hardest decisions of their lives.

The Thrill is a new play by multiple-award-winning Judith Thompson, arguably Canada's greatest living playwright, commissioned by the Stratford Festival. In her program notes, Ms. Thompson reveals that the character of Elora is based on a real person, Harriet McBryde Johnson, inspired by an article the lawyer had written for the New York Times Magazine called Unspeakable Conversations.  That is the crux of the play, exploring a set of related issues that every last one of us in Ontario under the AODA is likely to face at one point in our lives or another, whether dealing with an aging parent, a disabled relative, a patient, or a customer we serve. To take extraordinary measures or not? To institutionalize or not to institutionalize? To euthanize or not to euthanize? Those are some of the questions.

Now, Ms. Thompson makes no apologies for creating a piece of theatre that brings such questions into the harsh light of day, but neither are these questions answered. In fact it is a (very nearly tragic) irony that the two protagonists become convinced of the others' point of view, leaving the audience full of questions, debates and perhaps an uncomfortable glimpse of what is coming in our own lives. This, I would argue, is her point. One thing The Thrill will do is give audience members absolutely no excuse to ever make judgements again about what anyone with a disability can or cannot do, in or out of a wheelchair. Because anyone who is able-bodied truly does not know. One may have an inkling after seeing The Thrill, but that is all.  
Lucy Peacock as Elora and Nigel Bennett as Julian.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Lucy Peacock deserves a medal for her performance as Elora. For two and a half hours she hunches herself into a motorized chair that gives her lower body an atrophied appearance, with arms and hands that sometimes work and are sometimes "dead birds". For an able-bodied actress, this is an incredibly physical task; knowing Ms. Peacock is able-bodied brings new poignancy to Elora's words that anyone can become disabled, though birth or by accident. An actress who continually challenges herself with such roles (remember The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead?), Ms Peacock imbues Elora with a feistiness and dignity without the bitterness or saccharine of a Hallmark television special, and yet shows Elora's vulnerability exceptionally well, especially in her scenes with Robert Persichini as Francis, her care-giver. (We can forgive the occasional lapse out of a Southern accent - that is not what the play is about.)

Mr. Persichini allows Francis to be the play's chorus for the most part - Elora's sounding board, someone who knows her better than she knows herself, and as Mr. Persichini plays him, the audience instinctively trusts what he has to say. Mr. Persichini does convey some of a care-givers weariness, but the way the role is written and the way he is played, Francis is the best kind of care companion - not only compassionate and kind, but someone who wants the best for Elora's emotional well-being too - she is his family. And unlike Elora and Julian, he never waivers in his decisions.  

The Irish author Julian is played by Nigel Bennett who does so with a consistent sense of wonder and almost innocence, despite having two ailing women in his life. Julian is sort of bemused that his book about the suffering of his youngest sister has garnered him world-renown and a seat at McGill University; he is smitten with Elora and never questions his feelings for her, but he is ultimately no match for her resolve and resilience. His biggest dilemma is in the form of his ageing mother Hannah - played by Patricia Collins - who is physically able but whose mind is slowly unhinging. One scene has him forcing her out of bed and into a dress to get her outside - the of the encounter leaves both of them feeling ashamed and violated, and it is to the credit of both Mr. Bennett and Ms. Collins (and John Stead, the stunt coordinator) that this powerful scene becomes neither violent nor apologetic. As Hannah Ms. Collins is both sharp and sweet,  and can revel in some of the best deadpan-delivered comic bits of the play.

"Enjoyed" is not how I would describe my experience in seeing The Thrill. It is a play about complex characters in difficult circumstances that is impeccably performed, just be prepared to discuss it - at length - afterward.

The Thrill continues in repertory at the Studio Theatre until September 22 - and FYI, it is nearly sold out.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

2014 Season Leaked?

The Toronto Star is reporting, ahead of any official announcement, that the Stratford Festival's 2014 season will revolve around the theme of madness, with productions of King Lear, Hamlet, the musical Crazy for You, Man of La Mancha and Alice Through the Looking Glass all on the bill, as well as the afore-leaked twin versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Full story here.

Mary Stuart extended for third time

Six performances in October added in response to sold-out run

[Press Release] July 23, 2013… With every performance virtually sold out, the Stratford Festival’s production of Mary Stuart, directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, is being extended for a third time this season. Already one of the most highly attended productions in the Festival’s history, Mary Stuart will now run for an additional two weeks in October.

“It gives me immense pleasure to see a work by an 18th-century German playwright capture the public’s imagination in such a big way,” says Mr. Cimolino. “This play has so much to say about our world today and it’s great to see audiences recognize and connect to that.”

The following additional performances of Mary Stuart will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, and to the general public at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24:

 Wednesday, October 2, at 2 p.m.
 Thursday, October 3, at 2 p.m.
 Saturday, October 5, at 8 p.m.
 Wednesday, October 9, at 2 p.m.
 Thursday, October 10, at 8 p.m.
 Friday, October 11, at 8 p.m.

“In my 22 years with the Festival, I have never seen a show consistently sell out to this extent,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “Mary Stuart tickets have been in demand since advance ticket sales began. In March we added two performances to the schedule. Then last month we added an additional week of performances for all three productions at the Tom Patterson Theatre – Mary Stuart, Measure for Measure and Waiting for Godot. Now we’re at it again!

“This compelling production of Mary Stuart features two of Canada’s finest actors, Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock, and is directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who was at the helm of last season’s Cymbeline and 2009’s Bartholomew Fair – two other rarely produced works that thrilled audiences and played to near capacity houses.” Mary Stuart features Seana McKenna as Elizabeth I and Lucy Peacock as Mary Stuart, with Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

It also features James Blendick as Amias Paulet, Patricia Collins as Hanna Kennedy, Peter Hutt as Aubespine, Ian Lake as Mortimer, E.B. Smith as Bellievre and Brian Tree as Melvil, with Nigel Bennett as the Sheriff, Brad Hodder as O’Kelly, Josue Laboucane as the Page, Robert Persichini as the Earl of Kent, Christopher Prentice as Drury and Dylan Trowbridge as William Davison.

Production support for Mary Stuart is generously provided by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, Dr. M.L. Myers & the late Dr. W.P. Hayman, Alice & Tim Thornton and Diana Tremain. The production co-sponsor is PwC. Support for the 2013 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof, The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello,Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

To purchase tickets for Mary Stuart and all of the 2013 season productions, call the box office at
1.800.567.1600 or visit


William Shatner to receive Legacy Award

Stratford honours the outstanding contribution of one of its most famous company members

August 6, 2013 The Stratford Festival is delighted to announce that William Shatner will be the 2013 recipient of its Legacy Award.
William Shatner
“I am proud and happy to be a Canadian and proud and happy to receive this Canadian award,” said Mr. Shatner upon learning of the honour. “I guess I am just proud and happy.”
Mr. Shatner’s vast career and enormous contribution to the Festival in its founding years will be honoured at a gala at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel on Monday, October 21.
“As a screen and television actor, William Shatner has had a legendary career,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “He is known around the world for his iconic portrayal ofStar Trek’s Captain Kirk, and for a host of other leading roles, including T.J. Hooker andBoston Legal’s Denny Crane. But many people may not realize that he has also won acclaim as a classical actor. One of my favourite pieces of Stratford lore is the story of William Shatner going on as the understudy for Christopher Plummer’s Henry V in 1956. He became an overnight sensation. In fact, Chris later reflected: ‘I knew then that he was going to be a star.’
“It gives us great pleasure to pay tribute to William Shatner and his legacy at the Stratford Festival. We look forward to creating a tribute worthy of his illustrious career.”
Mr. Shatner was a member of the Stratford Festival company for three years, beginning in its second season, 1954, when he played Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, the Young Lord in Measure for Measure and a member of the chorus in the acclaimed production ofOedipus Rex. In 1955, he played Lucius to Lorne Greene’s Brutus in Julius Caesar, Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, and reprised his role in Oedipus Rex. In 1956, the year he famously understudied Mr. Plummer, Mr. Shatner played Gloucester in Henry Vand Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He then toured to Broadway, playing Usumcasane in the Festival’s production of Tamburlaine the Great.
Mr. Shatner’s impressive television career was already underway when he joined the Festival company. His credits include such TV classics as Howdy DoodySpace CommandAlfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight Zone77 Sunset StripThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The DefendersDr. KildareGunsmokeMission ImpossibleMarcus Welby, MDIronsideMork and Mindy and, of course, Star Trek, in which, as Captain James T. Kirk, he rocketed to fame, starring in more than 100 episodes and seven feature films, one of which he also directed. Mr. Shatner played the title role inT.J. Hooker before hosting television’s first reality-based series, Rescue 911.
In addition to having his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Mr. Shatner won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his portrayal of Denny Crane in the hit TV series Boston Legal and a second Emmy for The Practice. He has toured extensively – and continues to do so – with his one-man show, Shatner’s World, which is now set to air on TMN and Movie Central on October 27 at 8:30 p.m.
Mr. Shatner was last in Stratford in 2009 for a screening of the documentary Gonzo Balletat the Avon Theatre as part of DocFest. The film profiled the Milwaukee Ballet’s performance of Common People, a dance presentation set to the music of Mr. Shatner’s critically acclaimed album Has Been. His newest musical project is a space-inspired album called Seeking Major Tom, which features a number of heavy metal covers as well as songs by U2, Frank Sinatra, Queen and Pink Floyd. His new album, Ponder the Mystery, will be released in October.
Mr. Shatner is also the author of nearly 30 best-sellers, both fiction and non-fiction, and of a comic book series. A longtime dedicated breeder of American Quarter Horses, Mr. Shatner founded the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, which is held annually in support of Los Angeles-based children’s charities.
Tables for the Stratford Festival’s Legacy Award presentation to William Shatner are now available at two levels: Silver ($25,000) and Bronze ($15,000). To reserve, contact the Festival’s Director of Advancement, Rachel Smith-Spencer, at 519.271.4040, ext. 2402.
The Stratford Festival’s Legacy Award committee is chaired by Barry AvrichBrian Cooper and Beth Kronfeld.
Last year the award was presented to Dame Maggie Smith, who was a Festival company member for four seasons between 1976 and 1980. The first recipient, in 2011, was Christopher Plummer, a member of the company for 12 seasons, beginning in 1956.
The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommyBlithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.

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