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Monday, 20 October 2014

Festival announces key casting for 2015


October 20, 2014… Casting for the 2015 season of the Stratford Festival is under way with a number of key roles in place.

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is delighted to welcome back: Graham Abbey, Sarah Afful, Matt Alfano, Gabriel Antonacci, Matthew Armet, Maev Beaty, Carla Bennett, Evan Buliung, Jacqueline Burtney, Lally Cadeau, Ben Carlson, Shane Carty, Stephen Cota, Keith Dinicol, Sara Farb, Barbara Fulton, Ryan Gifford, Jonathan Goad, Sean Alexander Hauk, Deborah Hay, Alexandra Herzog, Randy Hughson, Peter Hutt, Robin Hutton, Bonnie Jordan, Krista Leis, Monique Lund, Chad McFadden, Yanna McIntosh, Seana McKenna, Gordon S. Miller, Marcus Nance, Cory O’Brien, Denise Oucharek, Stephen Ouimette, Lucy Peacock, Gord Rand, Glynis Ranney, Jennifer Rider-Shaw, Tom Rooney, Steve Ross, Tyrone Savage, Jason Sermonia, Mike Shara, Ian Simpson, Scott Wentworth, Brigit Wilson, Jonathan Winsby, Geraint Wyn Davies and Joseph Ziegler.

Mr. Cimolino is also pleased to welcome newcomers Alex Black, Alexis Gordon, Alana Hibbert, James Kall, Anita Krause, Ethan Lafleur, Melanie McInenly, Stephanie Rothenberg, Cynthia Smithers and Robin Evan Willis.

“I am excited about the quality of these players,” says Mr. Cimolino. “We have an unparalleled company of actors who have been working together for a number of years. They know one another and the trust is there, which means they can push the boundaries.

“Our audiences find great joy in watching them work together over time in various combinations. For instance, the relationship between Seana McKenna and Geraint Wyn Davies that began with Mary Stuart and grew as the love interest in Mother Courage will continue – with great electricity – in Hamlet and The Physicists next year. As with others in the company, the level of trust between these two extraordinary actors allows for a sense of improvisation, a sense of freedom.

“We also have a number of exceptional people who come and go each year, and this serves to reinvigorate the company, while also providing actors with opportunities to experience new things. Then there are the younger actors, who have been here for a few seasons and are now hitting their stride, and they are joined by even newer faces making their Stratford debuts. If you look at theatre over the years, you see that it is this style of company building that allows you to do significant work.”


Jonathan Goad to play Hamlet in the season opener


Highly regarded for his profoundly emotive performances, Jonathan Goad will take on the role of Hamlet in the 2015 season opener, directed by Mr. Cimolino. The production’s stellar cast also features Seana McKenna as Gertrude and Geraint Wyn Davies as Claudius and the Ghost.

Mr. Goad is well remembered for his impassioned portrayals of such key characters as the Bastard in the 2004 production of King John, Iago in the 2007 production of Othello, Mark Antony in 2009’s Julius Caesar and Hippolytus in Phèdre that same year. This season, he was lauded for his Kent in King Lear, and for his remarkable versatility as he alternated the roles of Titania and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His other Stratford highlights over 12 seasons include Harold Hill in The Music Man, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Angelo in Measure for Measure, Leo Katz in Pentecost, Quarlous in Bartholomew Fair, Frondoso in Fuente Ovejuna, and the title role in Pericles. Mr. Goad has performed at theatres across the country and has worked on numerous films and television series, including the hit CBC show Republic of Doyle, in which he plays Christian Doyle.

The production will also feature longtime Festival favourites Tom Rooney as Polonius and Mike Shara as Laertes.

Stephanie Rothenberg to play Maria with Ben Carlson as
Captain von Trapp


Stephanie Rothenberg, who recently played Rosemary in the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, will make her Stratford debut as Maria in The Sound of Music. Ben Carlson will mark his eighth season with his first role in a Stratford musical, playing Captain von Trapp. The production will be directed and choreographed by Donna Feore.

Ms Rothenberg made her Broadway debut in 2011 in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring opposite Nick Jonas after appearing as a member of the ensemble in the original Broadway cast with Daniel Radcliffe. She followed up her Broadway run by originating roles in four world premières: Young Irene Castle in Castle Walk at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, The Musical at the Denver Center Theater Company, Princess Anne in Roman Holiday at the Guthrie Theater and Princess Clementine in Frog Kiss, The Musical at Virginia Stage Company. Ms Rothenberg grew up in Nashville, TN, recording for country music artists, animated shows and Walt Disney. She recently filmed an episode of Tina Fey’s upcoming show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski.

Mr. Carlson’s musical abilities are a secret to no one. For his recent role in the Canadian Stage production of London Road, he shared in a Dora Mavor Moore Award. In 2011 he played a singing and guitar-playing Feste in Des McAnuff’s rock-and-roll Twelfth Night. This season, in addition to playing the Chaplain in Mother Courage and Her Children, he also played guitar and bass in the production, and he performed a one-man musical about the life of Noël Coward for the Forum. Mr. Carlson brings to the role of Captain von Trapp his considerable skills as a dramatic and comedic actor. His Stratford credits include Octavius Caesar in this season’s Antony and Cleopatra, Burleigh in Mary Stuart, Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Fluellen in Henry V, Alceste in The Misanthrope, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, and the title role in Hamlet, a part he also played at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, winning a Joseph Jefferson Award. 

Ms Rothenberg and Mr. Carlson will be joined by Shane Carty as Max Detweiler, Anita Krause as the Mother Abbess and Robin Evan Willis as Elsa Schraeder.

Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay star as
Petruchio and Katherina


Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay will reunite on the Festival stage as the sparring lovers Petruchio and Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Chris Abraham. Sparks last flew between the pair when they played Benedick and Beatrice in the Festival’s 2012 production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Ms Hay, who this season lit up the stage as Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Dorothea in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur at the Shaw Festival, will return for her sixth Stratford season. She was last seen at the Festival in 2013 as Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers and Emilia in Othello, a part for which she received great critical praise. Her previous Stratford credits include Alice in Henry V, Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, Audrey in As You Like It and Katharine in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Ms Hay’s highly acclaimed Shaw Festival roles also include Eliza Doolittle in the hit production of My Fair Lady, Hesione Hushabye in Heartbreak House and an unforgettable Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday.

Mr. Carlson and Ms Hay will be joined by Sarah Afful as Bianca, Peter Hutt as Baptista, Gordon S. Miller as Biondello, Tom Rooney as Tranio and Mike Shara as Hortensio.

Love’s Labour’s Lost to feature Mike Shara


Mike Shara, who in just six seasons has become one of the Festival’s best-loved performers, will play Berowne in Shakespeare’s vivacious comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by John Caird.

Mr. Shara had a remarkable season this year, giving three indelible performances on the Festival stage: a vicious Cornwall in King Lear, a dreamy Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a scheming Aimwell in The Beaux’ Stratagem, whom he played with marvellous comedic flair. Since joining the company in 2009, he has played such memorable roles as Roderigo in Othello, Aramis in The Three Musketeers, Cornelius Hackl in The Matchmaker, Cloten in Cymbeline and Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac. Mr. Shara is also a veteran of the Shaw Festival and has performed across the country. His television work includes Whatever, Murdoch Mysteries, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Queer as Folk.

The production will also feature Tom Rooney as Holofernes.


Sara Farb to play Anne Frank


After playing two of Shakespeare’s most significant young women – Cordelia and Jessica – rising star Sara Farb will take on one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures: Anne Frank. Lucy Peacock will play her mother, Mrs. Frank, with Joseph Ziegler playing her father, Mr. Frank, in a production directed by Jillian Keiley.

Having made a great impact with her Stratford debut as Jessica in The Merchant of Venice and Doña Estefania in The Three Musketeers, Ms Farb took on two key roles in 2014: Cordelia in King Lear and Cherry in The Beaux’ Stratagem. For her recent portrayal of Natalie in Citadel Theatre and Theatre Calgary’s co-production of Next to Normal, Ms Farb won a Calgary Critics Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She played Adele in The Passion of Adele Hugo at Eastern Front Theatre, and had roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Canadian Stage and The Sisters Rosensweig at Harold Green Jewish Theatre. She will next be seen in Theatre Passe Muraille’s production of R-E-B-E-C-C-A, a unique solo piece that she has written about her younger sister.

The production will also feature Yanna McIntosh as Mrs. Van Daan.

Alexis Gordon and Jonathan Winsby take the leads in
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel


After stealing hearts as Lancelot in 2011’s Camelot and touring to Broadway in Jesus Christ Superstar, Jonathan Winsby returns to play Billy Bigelow in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Firmly by his side will be Alexis Gordon, making her Stratford debut as Julie Jordan. The production will be directed by Susan H. Schulman.

Though he made his Stratford debut in 2006 as Stewpot in South Pacific, Mr. Winsby has spent most of his career at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver, playing such roles as Galahad in Spamalot, Enjolras in Les Misérables, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Chris in Miss Saigon and Paul in Company. Mr. Winsby recently played Captain von Trapp in Gary Griffin’s The Sound of Music in concert at Carnegie Hall.

Ms Gordon was most recently seen in the world première of The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble at Factory Theatre/Obsidian Theatre Company, as well as in the workshop production of Nicole Brook’s Obeah Opera at Nightwood Theatre Company. Other credits include roles in Recurring John and Paradises Lost at SummerWorks Festival, Canada Sings and Godspell at Victoria Petrolia Playhouse, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Driftwood Theatre.

The production will also feature Evan Buliung as the evildoer Jigger Craigin, Sean Alexander Hauk as Enoch Snow, Alana Hibbert as Nettie Fowler and Robin Evan Willis as Carrie Pipperidge.

Lucy Peacock, Joseph Ziegler team up as
Mr. & Mrs. Hardcastle


Together on the Stratford stage for the first time since 2009’s The Trespassers, Lucy Peacock and Joseph Ziegler will play Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle in the hilarious Oliver Goldsmith comedy She Stoops to Conquer, directed by Martha Henry.

Ms Peacock is on a bit of a comic roll at the moment, having played the leads in two delightful productions this season – Judith Bliss in Hay Fever and Mrs. Sullen in The Beaux’ Stratagem. Ms Peacock has long been a shining star at Stratford, with a career studded with remarkable performances, including, most recently, her stirring portrayals of Mary Stuart in the 2013 runaway hit, Elora in the world première of Judith Thompson’s The Thrill and Nana in For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. Her credits also include the colourful Mrs. Munsch in Wanderlust, the leads in Hello, Dolly!, The King and I, and My Fair Lady, and her tour-de-force performance as all of the characters in The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. She has played more than 65 key roles at Stratford and has organized dozens of unforgettable cabarets, in particular the Late Night with Lucy Forum series, in which she performed and showcased the talents of her fellow company members.

Mr. Ziegler was seen most recently in this year’s electrifying production of Twelve Angry Men at Soulpepper Theatre. He has enjoyed a long and varied career in Canadian theatre, television and film. He first joined the Stratford company in 1983 and played many prominent roles over his first five seasons, including Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hotspur in Henry IV Part One, Edgar in King Lear, Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, Claudio in Measure for Measure and Posthumus in Cymbeline. He returned in 2000 to direct Paul Gross in Hamlet and was last seen as Hardy in Morris Panych’s The Trespassers in 2009. Mr. Ziegler, a founding member of Soulpepper Theatre, is the recipient of two Dora Awards.

Maev Beaty will play their daughter, Kate Hardcastle, with Sara Farb as Constance Neville and Tyrone Savage as Hastings.


Seana McKenna, Geraint Wyn Davies and Graham Abbey star in The Physicists


After their electrifying performances in Mother Courage and Her Children, Seana McKenna and Geraint Wyn Davies will light up the stage once more in The Physicists, playing Fräulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd and Johann Wilhelm Möbius. They will be joined by Graham Abbey, playing Herbert Georg Beutler (alias “Newton”). The production will be helmed by award-winning director Miles Potter.

Ms McKenna’s heart-breaking portrayals this season of Mother Courage and of Constance in King John were merely the latest in a string of unforgettable performances that have thrilled theatregoers across the country and in the U.S. During her distinguished career she has played almost all of Shakespeare’s leading ladies, as well as his wife, Anne Hathaway, in the one-woman show Shakespeare’s Will. She has twice played Queen Elizabeth at Stratford, in last year’s hit Mary Stuart and in 2002’s Richard III. Renowned for her scorching portrayals of such tragic figures as Clytemestra, Medea and Phèdre, Ms McKenna is equally adept at comic pursuits, recently winning great praise for her Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit and Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker. She also added some sizzle as La Marquise de Merteuil in 2010’s Dangerous Liaisons. Ms McKenna was recently honoured with two honorary degrees, from the University of Toronto’s Trinity College and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

At once powerfully persuasive and delightfully entertaining, Mr. Wyn Davies is one of the Festival’s most lauded leading men. In addition to his relentlessly charming Cook in Mother Courage, he gave a gripping performance as Mark Antony in this season’s Antony and Cleopatra. He began his Stratford career in 1986, playing the title role in Pericles and Antipholus of Syracuse in The Boys from Syracuse. Since then, his stage career has taken him throughout North America and the U.K. At Stratford, his recent triumphs include Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure and the Earl of Leicester in Mary Stuart. He has also played Stephano in The Tempest and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as the title roles in Julius Caesar and Henry V, and Dylan Thomas in the one-man show Do Not Go Gentle. He has dozens of film and television credits, including key roles in Republic of Doyle, ReGenesis, 24, Slings and Arrows, Airwolf, Forever Knight and American Psycho II.

Over the course of his 16 seasons at the Festival, Mr. Abbey has given audiences a long string of captivating performances, most recently including his richly drawn portrayals of Philip the Bastard in King John and Count Johan Oxenstierna in Christina, The Girl King this season. Other memorable highlights of his Stratford career include Iago in Othello, Posthumus in Cymbeline, Aigisthos in Elektra, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, as well as Henry V, Macbeth, Romeo and Henry VIII.  His extensive television career includes the series lead, Gray Jackson, in The Border, as well as recurring roles in Degrassi, Murdoch Mysteries, Covert Affairs and Republic of Doyle. Mr. Abbey is currently working on The Breath of Kings, a dramatic adaptation of four Shakespeare plays – Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V – developed by him in collaboration with Daniel Brooks and John Murrell through the Stratford Festival Laboratory.

The production will also feature Randy Hughson as Richard Voss.

Evan Buliung to play Pericles


Beloved for his heart-rending and richly drawn characterizations, Evan Buliung will play the title role in Shakespeare’s sweeping drama The Adventures of Pericles, directed by Scott Wentworth.

Mr. Buliung had an outstanding season this year, giving incredibly nuanced performances as Edgar in King Lear and the alternating roles of Titania and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with a delightful comic turn as Count Bellair in The Beaux’ Stratagem. In his nine Stratford seasons, Mr. Buliung’s highlights include an acclaimed portrayal of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Roger in The Little Years, Mac in King of Thieves, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. His credits elsewhere include Dumptsy in Idiot’s Delight and Jamie in Long Day’s Journey into Night at Soulpepper Theatre, Macduff in Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare, and numerous leading roles at the Shaw Festival. Mr. Buliung also originated the role of Khashoggi in We Will Rock You in Toronto and Aragorn in the world première of The Lord of the Rings, for which he earned a Dora Award nomination.

The production will also feature Deborah Hay as Thaisa, Marina and Antiochus’s Daughter, and Brigit Wilson as the Bawd. 

Gord Rand to play Oedipus


Gord Rand will return for his second Stratford season to play King Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, directed by Daniel Brooks. Yanna McIntosh, hot off her powerful performance as Cleopatra in this season’s Antony and Cleopatra, will play Jocasta.

Mr. Rand spent this season at the Shaw Festival playing Leonard Charteris in The Philanderer and Charles Bentham in Juno and the Paycock. An actor and writer, he has performed on stages across North America including the National Arts Centre, The Vancouver Playhouse, Tarragon Theatre, Theatre Calgary and Canadian Stage. He is well-remembered for his performance as Uri, a naked Ukranian plutonium dealer, in The Innocent Eye Test at Mirvish, for which he received a Dora Award. He recently toured with the Edinburgh Festival winner Goodness, playing Edinburgh, New York and Vancouver, and just returned from Rwanda. His film and television credits include Republic of Doyle, Lost Girl, Maps to the Stars, Covert Affairs, The Listener, Saving Hope, Flashpoint and Death Comes to Town with Kids in the Hall. Mr. Rand made his Stratford debut in 2002, playing Owen Barclay in Shadows during the Studio Theatre’s inaugural season.

Ms McIntosh will celebrate her 10th Stratford season in 2015. Before heating up the stage in Antony and Cleopatra, she was last seen in the company in 2012, with key roles in two of the season’s most highly lauded productions, playing the Queen in Cymbeline and a powerful and highly original Elektra. Other highlights of her Stratford career include Queen Elizabeth in Richard III, Grace in The Little Years, Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Helen in The Trojan Woman, Mme. Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons and Lady Macbeth. Ms McIntosh is a Dora and Gemini Award-winning actor, whose Toronto credits include Condoleeza Rice in Stuff Happens and the title roles in Mary Stuart, Hedda Gabler and Belle. She was recently nominated for the Christopher Plummer Fellowship Award of Excellence.

Jonathan Goad, Stephen Ouimette and
Scott Wentworth team up in The Alchemist


Three true Festival favourites will team up in Mr. Cimolino’s production of Ben Jonson’s satirical comedy The Alchemist: Jonathan Goad as Face, Stephen Ouimette as Subtle, and Scott Wentworth as Epicure Mammon.

Mr. Ouimette will make a late-season return to the Festival after reprising his role in the widely acclaimed production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in early 2015. Mr. Ouimette gave audiences a Fool for the memory books in this season’s King Lear, and inspired great jubilation as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In a career filled with unforgettable performances, Mr. Ouimette has played Lucio in Measure for Measure, Estragon in Waiting for Godot, Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, Sam in The Homecoming, Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest and Touchstone in As You Like It, as well as the title roles in Hamlet, King John, Amadeus and Richard III. In addition to his work in Iceman, Mr. Ouimette is remembered in Chicago for his leading performances in The Taming of the Shrew and Troilus and Cressida. He starred alongside Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley in La Bête in London’s West End and on Broadway. He is a celebrated director as well as an actor and has been the recipient of Gemini, Dora and Sterling awards.   

This season, Mr. Wentworth played a most memorable Gloucester in King Lear, a suave Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a slovenly Squire Sullen in The Beaux’ Stratagem. His 2013 season was even more remarkable as he wowed audiences in three unforgettable leading roles: Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. In a career that spans 20 seasons at Stratford, he has played Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Hubert in King John, Iago in Othello, Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi and Sky Masterson twice in Guys and Dolls, as well as the title roles in Macbeth, Richard III and Henry IV Part 1. He is a Tony-nominated actor, a director and playwright whose work has been celebrated on Broadway, in London’s West End, on television, and in films and theatres across North America. As previously announced, Mr. Wentworth will also take the helm of next season’s The Adventures of Pericles.

The production will also feature Randy Hughson as Tribulation and Brigit Wilson as Dol Common.


Lead casting for Possible Worlds still to come


Gordon S. Miller will return for his ninth Stratford season to play Williams.

Maev Beaty to play Kate in The Last Wife


Maev Beaty, who fast won a place as a leading player this season with her highly lauded portrayal of Goneril in King Lear, will play Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, in the world première of Kate Hennig’s new play, The Last Wife, directed by Alan Dilworth.

Ms Beaty, a stalwart of Toronto theatre, also gave a striking performance as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A theatre-maker, actor, writer and voice artist, Ms Beaty is noted for such Toronto credits as Passion Play at Outside the March Theatre Company/Convergence Theatre/Sheep No Wool, La Ronde and Parfumerie at Soulpepper, Civility at Necessary Angel, and Outside the March’s Terminus, which won the SummerWorks Jury Prize and was later presented as part of the inaugural Off-Mirvish season at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Ms Beaty has garnered seven Dora nominations, winning the award for her work in The Penelopiad. She is Co-Artistic Director of Sheep No Wool and an Artistic Associate of Groundwater Productions and Outside the March.
The production will also feature Sara Farb as Mary and Joseph Ziegler as Henry.

Casting continues for the 2015 season.

Tickets for the 2015 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on Sunday, November 16, 2014, and to the general public on Friday, January 2, 2015.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra
by William Shakespeare
Director: Gary Griffin
Designers: Charlotte Dean (set / costumes), Michael Walton (lighting), Peter McBoyle (sound)

L-R: Jennifer Mogbock as Iras, Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra,
Sophia Walker as Charmian. Photo: David Hou
The names of Antony and Cleopatra are as familiar to the world as those of Romeo and Juliet - even to those who shun or shudder at the name of 'Shakespeare' know these famous duos and that they met tragic fates. But whereas the younger couple may blame the stars that crossed them, the middle-aged Antony and Cleopatra really only have themselves to blame, thus the play itself defies such easy definition as a mere tragedy.

The play is notoriously challenging to stage - the story shifts setting from Rome to Egypt to battles at sea and back again in a matter of heart-beats, and without engaging the modern technology of video scrim-screens, the frequent change of locale can be tricky for directors to convey clearly to the audience.

Director Gary Griffin starts well in this regard, using the elongated thrust of the Tom Patterson stage for Egypt, complete with an enormous, hieroglyphic-covered plinth (designed by Charlotte Dean) which becomes a stage upon a stage for the dramatic queen Cleopatra. When the scene first changes to Rome we find two of the three triumvirate on the balcony, literally looking down their noses at Antony's behaviour. Very nice. Alas, that is the only clear indication of locale-change - except for Michael Walton's lighting, bright and cold for Rome; warm and rich for Egypt, even when the queen is dying.

The other problem with this particular play is that the two main characters are so very unlikable. On the surface they both seem selfish, indulgent, inconsiderate... and yet, this is a very western, very Roman way of looking at them. 

Geraint Wyn Davies as Antony.
Photo: David Hou
Foreground: Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra.
Background: Ijeoma Emesowum as attendant, 

Jennifer Mogbock as Iras.
Photo: David Hou

Taken from an Egyptian perspective, Cleopatra and Antony's revelry in each other is perfectly natural - natural being the key word. The Egyptian culture, even during Cleopatra's reign, was still very much preoccupied with the old gods: simply put, on earth Antony and Cleopatra are Osiris and Isis, the union of whom ensured the prosperity of the land by bringing forth the waters of the river Nile to flood its banks and make the land fertile. Even if you look at this in a political light, Cleopatra's union with one of the triumvirate of the world's largest empire would of course be beneficial for the land she rules. 

This perspective is exactly what Gary Griffin and his wonderful cast bring out in his production, which is the best version of this problematic play I have yet seen. (And that includes one by the RSC with Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter.)

In two very powerful performances, Yanna McIntosh and Geraint Wyn Davies convey incredible depth of feeling these two leaders have for each other. They flirt, embrace, laugh, play, scold, rail, scream, insult each other... all with great energy and heart - but the way their Antony and Cleopatra find their way back to each other after each unforgivable act is extraordinarily beautiful to witness.

Yanna McIntosh as Cleopatra, Geraint Wyn Davies
as Antony. Photo: David Hou
But there is so much more in this production to enjoy. We have seen Tom McCamus play cynics before, but not like this. A deep thrum from the sound team underlines nearly everything Enobarbus says, adding extra weight to the character's observations. In truth, Mr. McCamus really does not need such an emotional aid, but it serves a nice contrast between the lowly, honest soldier and the mighty but duplicitous Caesar, played with great intensity by Ben Carlson. Mr. Carlson gives us not just a "full-fortun'd Caesar" but very much a self-made ruler, coldly confident that he can manipulate all in his path to his wishes.

L-R: Sean Arbuckle as Mecenas, Ben Carlson as Octavius
Caesar, Peter Hutt as Agrippa. Photo: David Hou

In much smaller roles, Sophia Walker, Jennifer Mogbock and Antoine Yared give us more examples of easy Egyptian sensuality as a very cheeky Charmian, loyal Iras and arch Mardian (respectively), while Daniel Briere and Carmen Grant provide striking contrasts as the upright and uptight but loyal-to-a-fault Eros and Octavia.

If there is one fault in the production it is that it suffers from the same sort of problem that plagues Christina, The Girl King, and The Beaux' Strategem: due to some fragmented story-telling, the first "half" seems interminably long, while the second "half" flies by. Unfortunately in this case it is the director, not the text itself, that fails the production in this regard.

That being said, this is an excellent version of a seldom-performed play that should not be missed - which most people seem to have figured out, because it has proven so popular at the box office that extra shows had to be added to supply the demand.

Antony and Cleopatra continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 28.

2015 Season in a Nutshell

Casting will be added as it becomes announced. For more details on the season, click here

Festival Theatre

  • Hamlet | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Antoni Cimolino#sfHamlet
  • The Sound of Music | Music by Richard Rodgers | Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II | Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse  |  Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp |  Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore |  #sfSoundofMusic
  • The Taming of the Shrew | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Chris Abraham |  #sfShrew
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost | By William Shakespeare | Directed by John Caird  | #sfLabours

Avon Theatre

  • She Stoops to Conquer | By Oliver Goldsmith | Directed by Martha Henry#sfConquer
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel |  Music by Richard Rodgers | Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II  |  Based on Ferenc Molnar’s Play “Liliom” | As adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer | Original Dances by Agnes de Mille | Directed by Susan H. Schulman #sfCarousel
  • Schulich Children’s Plays presents The Diary of Anne Frank By Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman | Directed by Jillian Keiley #sfAnneFrank

Tom Patterson Theatre
  • Oedipus Rex | By Sophocles | Directed by Daniel Brooks#sfOedipus
  • Pericles | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Scott Wentworth#sfPericles
  • The Physicists | By Friedrich Dürrenmatt | Directed by Miles Potter#sfPhysicists
  • The Alchemist | By Ben Jonson | Directed by Antoni Cimolino#sfAlchemist 

Studio Theatre

  • Possible Worlds | By John Mighton | Directed by Mitchell Cushman#sfPossible
  • The Last Wife | By Kate Hennig | Directed by Alan Dilworth#sfLastWife

Tickets for the 2015 season will go on sale for members on Nov. 16; sales to the general public begin January 2, 2015.

Stratford Festival announces 2015 A Season of Discovery: That Eureka Moment

August 25, 2014… 
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino announces a season of Discovery for 2015 with 13 plays exploring eureka moments, whether they be scientific discoveries, creative accomplishments, the dawning of a deeper understanding of human nature or the epiphanies of self-knowledge. These themes, as they are reflected in art, science and our personal lives, will be further explored through more than 150 events at the Stratford Festival Forum. The 2015 season will also see a number of creative artists pursuing new work through the Stratford Festival Laboratory, Mr. Cimolino’s centre for creative research and development, including adaptations of an early Urdu novel and a children’s story, as well as a new approach to four of Shakespeare’s history plays. 

“Eureka moments take many different forms,” says Mr. Cimolino. “When a creative spark is ignited, when we gain a sudden flash of insight into our own natures, when a scientific discovery requires us to revise our model of reality: those are just a few instances of how a leap in comprehension can change our lives.

“Such moments are critical to human progress: from ancient times to the present day, they’ve enabled us to push back the horizons of our understanding, to enlarge our world, to increase our knowledge of ourselves. But at the same time, they often come at a cost – sometimes a terrible one.

“In planning the 2015 season, I wanted to explore the implications of those moments of discovery, whether personal, scientific or social. I wanted to look at the promises they hold out, the risks they entail, the truths they tell us about ourselves, and how they may affect the delicate balance between individual freedom and collective responsibility.” 

The plays in the 2015 season range from the classics – Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost and The Adventures of Pericles; Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer; Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist; and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex – to two modern works – Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists and The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman – and two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals – The Sound of Music and Carousel – through to two contemporary Canadian plays – John Mighton’s Possible Worlds and The Last Wife, a new play written by Kate Hennig.

“The 2015 playbill takes us right from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, one of the great original stories about self-discovery and its cost, through to a brand new play, The Last Wife, where one woman discovers that political power is ephemeral, and that perceived notions of the roles of men and women are not easily changed.”
Festival Theatre to feature Hamlet, The Sound of Music,
The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Antoni Cimolino directs the season opener, Hamlet

Hamlet | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Mr. Cimolino will direct the 2015 season opener at the Festival Theatre: Hamlet, the most renowned and celebrated of all Shakespearean tragedies. He describes it as “the great story about understanding yourself and the world and coming to a state of readiness to face the ‘undiscovered country’ of death.”

Hamlet centres on the brooding Prince of Denmark, who is both in mourning for his father and deeply disturbed by the speedy remarriage of his mother, Gertrude, to Claudius, her deceased husband’s brother, whom Hamlet believes murdered his father.

“Hamlet appeals to me in part because it dramatizes a problem the world has always faced,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Hamlet is a scholar who believes in the arts and their potential to bring about a better world. But people like him, whose primary motivation is to strive for civilization, don’t know how to begin to deal with people whose desires focus solely on power, sex or money.

“As result, all of Hamlet’s sensitivity and capacity for self-examination leads only to doubt and inaction. When eventually he is driven to act on his father’s demand for revenge, he unwittingly perpetuates the very system he was setting out to change.”

Mr. Cimolino, whose riveting production of King Lear is a brilliant highlight of the 2014 season, has a string of passionate and moving productions to his credit, including last season’s sold-out production of Mary Stuart and 2012’s Cymbeline, both of which were extended multiple times to meet the demand for tickets, and this season’s The Beaux’ Stratagem. Mr. Cimolino’s other Shakespeare credits at Stratford include The Merchant of Venice with Scott Wentworth and Tom McCamus in 2013; 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.

Donna Feore takes the helm of The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music | Music by Richard Rodgers | Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore

Fresh from her triumph with this season’s smash hit Crazy for You, acclaimed director and choreographer Donna Feore returns for her 21st Festival season with the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music.

The family favourite tells the story of Maria Rainer, a high-spirited postulant at Austria’s Nonnberg Abbey. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Maria is sent by her Mother Abbess to act as governess to the seven children of naval captain and widower Georg von Trapp, so that she may discover if she truly has a religious vocation. Maria’s love of music, and of life, soon endears her to the children and eventually, despite his initial resistance, to their father. But two circumstances cause them to look into their hearts and rethink their destinies: Maria’s growing feelings of love for her already engaged employer, and the Captain’s unconcealed detestation of the Nazi regime that is occupying his homeland.

“Like many of the titles on the 2015 playbill, The Sound of Music is about people discovering their own capacity for love, what love really means to them,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Maria starts out believing that her love must be reserved for God, but then realizes that secular love is no less vital to her. Meanwhile, the Captain discovers how to show his love for his children, and realizes the value of family within a community.”

Ms Feore has been the force behind a growing list of hit musicals at the Festival, including last season’s acclaimed production of Fiddler on the Roof, as well as You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Oklahoma! and Oliver! Other recent credits also include 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 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.

Chris Abraham to direct The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Chris Abraham

Siminovitch Prize-winning director Chris Abraham returns for his sixth season to take the helm of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, hot off his gloriously uplifting production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Taming of the Shrew is one of a number of plays in the 2015 season that investigate women’s roles within troubling, even violent, relationships, and invite us to examine more closely the sometimes paradoxical dynamics of those relationships.”

Katherina, or Kate, the “shrew” of the title, has a reputation for ill temper that so far has discouraged any potential suitors – and until a match for her can be found, her father will not countenance any proposals to her sister, Bianca. But then Petruchio, looking for a wealthy wife, decides to take up the challenge of wooing Kate. The ensuing contest of wills leads to a conclusion that has fuelled much controversy in modern times.

Mr. Abraham has quickly established himself as a director of note with stellar Stratford productions of Othello, The Matchmaker, The Little Years and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again to his credit. He is a multi-award winning theatre and film director, dramaturge and teacher who has worked with Canada’s foremost artists and theatres including Canadian Stage Company, Tarragon Theatre, Segal Centre and the Globe Theatre. Since 2007, he has been the Artistic Director of Crow’s Theatre, for which he has directed numerous productions including the Dora Award-winning productions of Eternal Hydra and Easy Lenny, as well as Boxhead, The Country and Kristen Thomson’s award-winning hit I, Claudia, for which he also directed the film adaptation and won a Gemini Award.

John Caird makes his Stratford debut with Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost | By William Shakespeare | Directed by John Caird

Tony and Olivier Award-winning director John Caird makes his Stratford debut in 2015 as director of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

“This most beautiful of Shakespeare’s plays shows us the difference between book-learning and lessons of the heart,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It’s about four young men who put the pursuit of knowledge on a pedestal, only to find that intellectual inquiry is only part of the journey they need to take in order to know themselves, to know others and to know the true meaning – and the true cost – of love.”

The play revolves around a decision by the young King of Navarre and his friends to renounce the company of women and devote themselves to contemplative study. Unfortunately their decision is made  just as the Princess of France and her three lovely companions arrive on court business. Life and love have some lessons in store for them all, as the characters discover that it takes more than high spirits and witty words to win a woman’s heart.

Though Mr. Caird is a Canadian, his illustrious career has taken place almost entirely outside of this country. As a director and writer, he has worked in theatre, opera and musical theatre with such esteemed actors as Judi Dench, Daniel Day Lewis, Ian McKellen and Ben Kingsley. His hit production of Nicholas Nickleby, co-directed with Trevor Nunn in 1980 at the Royal Shakespeare Company, set a record for the most Olivier Awards won by a show. He and Mr. Nunn also co-directed the original production of the international sensation Les Misérables. He is an Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a regular guest director at the National Theatre and Principal Guest Director of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. His recent credits include Hjalmar Söderberg’s Gertrud at the Royal Dramatic Theatre; his musical Daddy Long Legs at Theatre Crié in Japan, which also toured across North America; Puccini’s La Bohème at both the San Francisco Opera and Canadian Opera Company in Toronto; and Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest at Dramaten in Stockholm. Mr. Caird’s book Theatre Craft, an encyclopedic companion for the professional director, was published in 2010.

Avon Theatre to feature She Stoops to Conquer, Carousel,
The Diary of Anne Frank

Martha Henry at the helm of She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops to Conquer | By Oliver Goldsmith | Directed by Martha Henry

Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy of manners She Stoops to Conquer will be directed by Martha Henry, whose Stratford successes include this season’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children, as well as Measure for Measure, Three Sisters, Of Mice and Men, Elizabeth Rex and many others.

In this delightful and extremely funny comedy, a wealthy countryman, Mr. Hardcastle, arranges for his daughter Kate to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. But confusion runs riot when a trick played by Kate’s half-brother causes Marlow to mistake the home of his potential father-in-law for an inn. Further complications are caused by the fact that Marlow becomes nervous and tongue-tied around upper-class women. Realizing she will have to “stoop to conquer,” Kate poses as a maid in order to put him at his ease and help him connect with his own heart – and hers.

“Like her namesake in The Taming of the Shrew, Kate in She Stoops to Conquer has to find a way to achieve her heart’s desire by apparently changing her status. And by assuming the role that enables her to reach Marlow, she will ultimately help him to get beyond the personality quirk that has limited his ability to relate to others. She realizes that, in human relationships, barriers can’t always be overcome by confrontation. Sometimes you have to get yourself out of the way in order to attain what you want,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“Kate leads Marlow – and us, the audience – to the vital realization that lies at the heart of the play: that humanity is more important than class. This is a wonderful play about the discovery of our common humanity.”

The recipient of this year’s Legacy Award and one of Canada’s most celebrated artists, Martha Henry returns for her 41st season to direct She Stoops to Conquer. A Companion of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario and the recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ms Henry boasts a career without parallel in this country. Her relationship with the Festival spans six decades, including the direction of numerous critically acclaimed productions. She has also performed in almost 70 productions at Stratford, playing nearly every female leading role in Shakespeare’s canon. She was most recently seen in this season’s The Beaux’ Stratagem and last year’s Taking Shakespeare, playing a role that was written expressly for her by playwright John Murrell. Ms Henry has also served as the Director of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre since 2007.

Susan H. Schulman returns to direct Carousel

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel
Music by Richard Rodgers | Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on Ferenc Molnar’s Play “Liliom” | As adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer
Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
Directed by Susan H. Schulman

Last seen at Stratford in 2008 as the director of the critically acclaimed The Music Man, Susan H. Schulman returns to the Festival at the helm of the Tony Award-winning musical Carousel.

Against the backdrop of a sun-drenched New England summer, a pair of star-crossed lovers, carnival barker Billy Bigelow and millworker Julie Jordan, discover the power of love to transcend turmoil and even time itself in a show graced by what is arguably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most luscious score, filled with soaring melodies and unforgettable lyrics.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “If I Loved You” and “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” are merely the shiniest gems in a classical Broadway musical that has resonated with audiences for 70 years.

“Rodgers and Hammerstein considered Carousel their greatest achievement,” says Mr. Cimolino, “and Time magazine named it the best musical of the 20th century. It is a beautiful story of love and forgiveness, which I know Susan will direct with grace and flair.”

Ms Schulman has a long string of hits at Stratford, including Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, The King and I, Hello, Dolly! and To Kill a Mockingbird. Her Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning musical The Secret Garden as well as its highly successful national tour, the revival of Sweeney Todd at the Circle in the Square, the revival of The Sound of Music and Little Women, the musical as well as its national tour. Ms Schulman received a Drama Desk nomination for Best Director for her direction of the highly acclaimed Violet, which also won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. She has directed for regional theatres throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia, and most recently directed a new musical in Denmark. Ms Schulman heads the Graduate Program in Directing at Penn State University.

Jillian Keiley returns to direct The Diary of Anne Frank

Schulich Children’s Plays presents
The Diary of Anne Frank
By Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Directed by Jillian Keiley

Jillian Keiley, who gave us a madly inventive production of Alice Through the Looking-Glass this season, will bring her remarkable creative vision to The Diary of Anne Frank, a beloved play about the indomitability of the human spirit.

There are few who do not know the harrowing but inspiring story of Anne Frank and the journal in which she documented her experience of hiding from the Nazis in an attic in Amsterdam for more than two years. Her diary reveals a young woman’s journey of self-discovery in a life cruelly cut short when she and her family were found and sent to die in concentration camps.

“Both The Diary of Anne Frank and The Sound of Music draw on real-life stories – one tragic, the other triumphant – from the very darkest period of our modern age,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It was a time when we made the terrible discovery that the utmost evil could take root even in the very heart of civilization. By taking us into the heart and mind of just one young woman among the millions of people who died during that awful time, Anne Frank’s story will forever stand as one of our most harrowing reminders of the human cost entailed when societies succumb to hatred, bigotry and warped ideologies.”

Ms Keiley’s Stratford connection dates back to 2008, when she was selected as a participant in the International Master Directors Summit. This December she will take Alice Through the Looking-Glass to the National Arts Centre, where she is Artistic Director of English Theatre. She received the Siminovitch Prize in 2004 for her “startlingly original and radically imaginative” directing style. Her credits include Tempting Providence, which she created in collaboration with playwright Robert Chafe and which enjoyed a decade-long run across the country and abroad. Ms Keiley also made a big splash with her first project as Artistic Director of the NAC, Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, a theatrical event set in and around a swimming pool.

Tom Patterson Theatre to feature Oedipus Rex, Pericles,
The Physicists and The Alchemist

Daniel Brooks makes Stratford debut with Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex | By Sophocles | Directed by Daniel Brooks

Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex will be staged at the Tom Patterson Theatre and directed by Daniel Brooks, whose innovative and influential work has earned him acclaim across Canada and beyond.

“As a cutting-edge director and playwright, as well as an actor and teacher, Daniel has long been one of our country’s foremost theatre creators,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I am delighted to welcome him to the Festival.” 

Filled with cryptic prophesies, Oedipus Rex presents numerous moments of creative inspiration, all leading to tragic consequences. King Oedipus, seeking a remedy for the terrible curse that has befallen Thebes, sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to seek the advice of the god Apollo. Creon informs Oedipus that the curse will be lifted if the murderer of the former king, Laius, slain many years ago at a crossroads, is found and brought to justice. Oedipus dedicates himself to the discovery and prosecution of Laius’s killer, an enterprise that leads to his own ruin.

Mr. Brooks, the recipient of the inaugural Siminovitch Prize, for which he was hailed as one of the brightest lights in Canadian theatre, is well known for his collaborations with Daniel MacIvor. Together, they created a series of solo shows including House, Here Lies Henry, Monster and Cul-de-sac. As Artistic Director of Necessary Angel Theatre Company for 10 years, his work included Bigger Than Jesus with Rick Miller, John Mighton’s Half Life and a stage version with music of Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero. His more recent credits include David Mamet’s Race for Canadian Stage, The Drowsy Chaperone at the Winter Garden, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at Soulpepper, and Wallace Shawn’s The Designated Mourner at the Tarragon Theatre. He has been recognized with eight Dora Award nominations, winning three times.

Scott Wentworth steps into director’s chair for Pericles

Pericles | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Scott Wentworth

As in Oedipus Rex, the action of Pericles hinges on a riddle, the solution to which sends the title character on a journey of Homeric proportions, involving a long separation and culminating in a joyous reunion. This production will be directed by Scott Wentworth.

“Both these plays involve the discovery of similar dark and deeply disturbing secrets,” says Mr. Cimolino “In Oedipus Rex, that revelation marks the culmination of the play, prompting a tragic conclusion. In Pericles, the discovery comes at the beginning, initiating a flight from danger and an ensuing life story that after much tribulation will end happily.”

Scott Wentworth will mark his 21st season with this return to the director’s chair. Mr. Wentworth is a Tony-nominated actor, as well as a director and playwright whose work has been celebrated on Broadway, in London’s West End, on television, and in films and theatres across North America. He began his directing career at the Indiana Repertory Theatre and made his Stratford directorial debut in 2001 with Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. His other directorial credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Hilberry Theatre and Macbeth at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, which he co-directed with Robin Phillips, as well as a number of productions for The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, including The Winter’s Tale, Henry V, The School for Scandal, As You Like It and Enter The Guardsman. He will return to New Jersey this December to direct Much Ado About Nothing. A longtime Festival favourite, Mr. Wentworth  recently played Gloucester in King Lear, Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Squire Sullen in The Beaux’ Stratagem, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

Miles Potter takes on The Physicists
The Physicists | By Friedrich Dürrenmatt | Directed by Miles Potter

Director Miles Potter will return to the Festival for his 13th season in 2015, directing Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s provocative and darkly comic satire The Physicists.

The Alchemist and The Physicists are two darker plays in the season about how human knowledge can be subverted and applied to all sorts of negative things, so that the eureka moment can become fodder for the worst aspects of humanity,” says Mr. Cimolino.

Herbert Georg Beutler (who believes that he is Sir Isaac Newton), Ernst Heinrich Ernesti (who believes he is Albert Einstein) and Johann Wilhelm Möbius (who believes that he is regularly visited by the biblical King Solomon) are all patients at Les Cerisiers sanatorium, an idyllic home for the mentally ill. “Einstein” is under investigation by the police after the second murder of a nurse in three months, the first having been committed by “Newton.” When yet another murder takes place, it emerges that none of these three men are quite what they seem. This brilliant, funny and thought-provoking play deals with questions of scientific ethics and humanity’s ability to handle its intellectual responsibilities.

Mr. Potter has directed nine productions for the Festival, including last season’s The Three Musketeers, as well as Medea and Orpheus Descending, both of which were later presented by Mirvish Productions in Toronto. Mr. Potter has worked at virtually every major venue in the country over the past 30 years, such as Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach, Soulpepper, Theatre Calgary, Citadel Theatre and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He has worked on many new scripts, including this summer’s world première of Stag and Doe at the Blyth Festival and the première production and national tour of Michael Healy’s The Drawer Boy.

Antoni Cimolino to direct Jonson’s The Alchemist

The Alchemist | By Ben Jonson | Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Opening later in the season at the Tom Patterson Theatre is Ben Jonson’s satirical comedy The Alchemist directed by Antoni Cimolino, who brought a deft hand to the North American première of Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair in 2009, one of that season’s most in-demand productions.

Written by one of Shakespeare’s greatest contemporaries, this is the story of three con artists – Face, Subtle and Dol Common – who set up shop in the house of Face’s temporarily absent master, Lovewit. With Subtle posing as a doctor learned in alchemy, they prey on a steady stream of gullible victims, including the sensualist Sir Epicure Mammon and the Puritan zealots Tribulation and Ananias, duping them with pseudo-scientific jargon and the irresistible promise that they are on the verge of discovering how to turn base metals into gold. Through a combination of quick changes and even quicker wits, the three tricksters manage to evade discovery – until everything is turned on its head by Lovewit’s unexpected return.

“I love Ben Jonson,” says Mr. Cimolino. “He is such a great complement to Shakespeare. Where Shakespeare is enigmatic, Jonson is definite. Where Shakespeare is about our deep inner natures within the universe, Jonson is about the roles we play in the world. There is an element of character to Jonson that is very different from Shakespeare. And yet, Shakespeare was Jonson’s mentor and Jonson is the reason why we have Shakespeare’s Folio. As writers they represent two sides of the same coin.”

Studio Theatre to feature Possible Worlds, The Last Wife

Mitchell Cushman directs his first Stratford play, Possible Worlds

Possible Worlds | By John Mighton | Directed by Mitchell Cushman

Mitchell Cushman, who has just completed two years in the Festival’s Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, will make his Stratford directorial debut with John Mighton’s philosophical whodunit Possible Worlds at the Studio Theatre.

This Governor General’s Award-winning play revolves around the mysterious death of George Barber, whose body is found with its brain missing. Two detectives set out to uncover the truth behind his grisly death, in a plot that explores alternate dimensions and brings into question the very notion of reality.

“Just as Hamlet is about embracing and reconciling the ultimate mystery of death, Possible Worlds is about the mystery of living and the fact that life too is that ‘undiscovered country’ forever shrouded by mystery and infinite possibilities,” says Mr. Cimolino.

Mr. Cushman has served as assistant director to Mr. Cimolino on the Stratford productions of The Beaux’ Stratagem and The Merchant of Venice. Awarded last year’s Siminovitch Protégé Award by Chris Abraham, Mr. Cushman has distinguished himself as one of the fastest-rising directors in Canada today. Recent credits include the Dora Award-winning Mr. Marmalade and Terminus, which earned him the Toronto Critics’ Award for best director when it was remounted by Mirvish Productions in 2013. He serves as Co-Artistic Director of Outside the March Theatre Company and was recently named Crow’s Theatre’s first Associate Artistic Director.

New work by Kate Hennig to be directed by Alan Dilworth

The Last Wife | By Kate Hennig | Directed by Alan Dilworth

The Last Wife, a startlingly contemporary play about Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII, written by Kate Hennig, will have its world première at the Studio Theatre in 2015, directed by Alan Dilworth.

“Kate Hennig has created a truly astonishing portrayal of Katherine Parr in a play that speaks to us in a very real way today,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I have watched this script develop through its various workshops at Stratford and it is a shining example of the exploratory work we are doing with classical subject matter. I wanted to include The Last Wife in this season about discovery because of the important things it has to say about the education of women.”

This exciting new work focuses on a dying husband, a steamy affair, and a compelled marriage full of personal violence that offers an irresistible climb to absolute authority. Does Katherine risk her safety to gain power? Does she love the man she should love or the man she must love? And what happens to her children when she loses it all?

After spending this season at the Shaw Festival as Clara Soppitt in When We Are Married and Bodey in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Kate Hennig returns for her fifth Festival season. Ms Hennig is well remembered as Golde in last season’s highly acclaimed production of Fiddler on the Roof as well as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Previously, she played the dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, in Billy Elliott: The Musical on Broadway and then in Toronto, winning a Dora Award and a Toronto Theatre Critics Award. Her recent credits include Emma Goldman in the Shaw Festival hit, Ragtime and Señora Carrar in Rifles for Praxis Theatre, as well as the wildly popular première of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Arts Centre. In addition to The Last Wife, Ms Hennig is a burgeoning playwright, with two other completed full-length plays: The Eleventh David and Waterworks.

Mr. Dilworth makes his Festival directorial debut with The Last Wife. He is a past participant of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, serving as Assistant Director of Elektra and The Little Years. His body of work is known for its stage imagery and theatrical minimalism, earning him numerous awards including the inaugural Christopher Plummer Fellowship Award of Excellence for his work with classical text. Recent credits include Passion Play at Outside the March, La Ronde at Soulpepper, Crash at Theatre-Passe Muraille, as well as The Unforgetting and If We Were Birds, both of which won the SummerWorks Theatre Festival jury prize for Oustanding Production. Mr. Dilworth is the co-artistic director of Sheep No Wool.

Work in the Laboratory includes
projects under development by Sunil Kuruvilla,
Ken Cameron, Graham Abbey, Daniel Brooks, John Murrell

Created as a crucible for artistic invention, the Laboratory has a broad mandate, which includes investigating stories from other cultures, exploring the classics in new ways and creating new work in a variety of genres. There are roughly 15 projects in active development at the moment, including the following: 

Sunil Kuruvilla is working on an adaptation of Umrao Jaan Ada, the 1899 Urdu novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. Thought to be the first Urdu novel, Umrao Jaan Ada is the story of a woman of the same name who was abducted as a young girl and forced into prostitution. Umrao ultimately escapes and becomes a poet. The novel is her own story as told to a fellow poet at the end of her life. 

“The position of women in modern-day India has been very much in the news. Umrao Jaan Ada gives us a historical look at a woman who rose from the most trying of circumstances to become a successful and independent force in her world,” says Mr. Cimolino.

The Breath of Kings is a dramatic adaptation of four Shakespeare plays – Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V – conceived by Graham Abbey and developed by him in collaboration with Daniel Brooks and John Murrell. The production, which is designed to be presented over two performances, brings together four of Shakespeare’s plays to investigate questions about the nature of good government: questions that have endured from the era of the divine right of kings to the modern political age.

The Breath of Kings takes a four-part Shakespearean epic and distills it into a thrilling two-part drama that delves into timeless questions of the relationship between individuals and the structures of power,” says Mr. Cimolino.

Playwright Ken Cameron is working on an adaptation of Cue for Treason, a children’s novel by Geoffrey Trease, written in the 1940s and taught in Canadian schools for many years. Set in Elizabethan times, the story follows a girl and boy who are being pursued by the law and who, through a series of lucky accidents, join Shakespeare’s company.

“Young people often give theatre its most vibrant and enthusiastic audiences, yet there is a surprising dearth of repertoire created specifically with them in mind. I’m thrilled that we are developing a script that brings Shakespeare’s world to life for today’s young audiences,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“These projects represent only three of the many ways in which we are using the Lab to push back our boundaries,” he adds. “A dozen other works are now in development, and 2015 will also see a number of workshops giving our company members a range of opportunities for exploration with each other and with visiting artists.”

The 2015 Stratford Festival Forum will be announced at a later date.

Tickets for the 2015 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on Sunday, November 16, 2014, and to the general public on Friday, January 2, 2015.

The 2014 season continues through October 25, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 200 events in The Forum.

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