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Monday, 20 January 2014

Stratford Festival dedicates productions to the memory of Jean-Louis Roux, Suzanne Turnbull and Jack Merigold


January 20, 2014… In the past few months, Canadian theatre has lost some champions, each of whom made a vital contribution to their discipline. The Stratford Festival will commemorate the lives of three of these people, who had close ties to Stratford, through a series of dedications in the 2014 season.

King Lear dedicated to Jean-Louis Roux

King Lear will be dedicated to actor and director Jean-Louis Roux.

“Jean-Louis Roux was a pioneer, creating companies, leading institutions and promoting the critical importance of the arts in our society,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who will direct the production. “He was a valued member of the Stratford company over many years as an actor as well as a director. I last worked with him at the Festival Theatre along with Colm Feore in Coriolanus. Therefore it is with affection that we dedicate this season’s production of King Lear to Jean-Louis, who was ‘every inch a king.’”

M. Roux turned to acting when he was three years into medical school. He worked and trained in France and on his return to Montreal founded Le Théâtre du Nouveau Monde with a group including Jean Gascon, who would later become Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival. M. Roux served as Secretary General of TNM from 1952 to 1963 and then as Artistic Director from 1966 to 1982. He was involved in the creation of the National Theatre School, where he was Director General from 1982 to 1987. He was a member of the Canadian Senate, Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, Chairman of the Canada Council and a Companion of the Order of Canada.

He was a member of the Stratford Festival company for six seasons between 1956 and 2006, playing Orleans in the famous bilingual Stratford Festival-TNM co-production of Henry V in 1956 and Burgundy in the re-mount of that production in 1966. In addition to playing the First Roman Senator in Coriolanus in 2006, he also played Don Louis in Don Juan, another Stratford Festival-TNM co-production, which was performed in both French and English. The previous year, he directed The Measure of Love, sharing a lifetime of theatre experience with then-new playwright Nicolas Billon, winner of the 2013 Governor General’s Award for Drama.

King John dedicated to Suzanne Turnbull

King John will be dedicated to acting coach Suzanne Turnbull.

“Suzy Turnbull was an acting coach who had a special gift in developing talent,” says Mr. Cimolino. “She worked in theatres and schools across Canada. Her intelligence, compassion and love for acting made her a great force for good in our art form. Along with Michael Mawson and Richard Monette, Suzy was a driving force in the creation of our Birmingham Conservatory. Suzy’s last production at Stratford was Titus Andronicus at the Tom Patterson Theatre. We dedicate our production of King John in that theatre to her memory.”

A multi-talented theatre artist, Ms Turnbull was a beloved member of the Festival’s coaching staff for many years. She was also the dramaturge for Titus Andronicus in 2011 and The Two Gentlemen of Verona in 2010, as well as the assistant director of The Taming of the Shrew in 2008. Her warmth, generosity and intelligence made her a great resource for the Festival company.

Suzie also worked as an acting coach at major training institutions across Canada, including Western University and the University of Windsor, and she herself had a BFA from the University of Alberta. She was a founding member of the NDWT Company, director of education at Kaleidoscope Theatre in Victoria, and a member of the Kam Theatre cooperative in Thunder Bay.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream dedicated to Jack Merigold

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be dedicated to stage manager Jack Merigold.

“Jack Merigold was a multi-talented man of the theatre,” says Mr. Cimolino. “He worked as an actor and director but made his greatest contribution as a stage manager. His work in the early years at Stratford with Tyrone Guthrie and Michael Langham brought discipline as well as joy to our creative process. Over many years, his boundless energy and puck-like spirit enlivened our theatres. It is no surprise that he played Puck in a production that toured Ontario early in his career. Therefore it is a great pleasure to dedicate our Festival Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Jack.”

Mr. Merigold was hired as an assistant stage manager by Tyrone Guthrie for the Festival’s inaugural season in 1953. He soon became Dr. Guthrie’s stage manager and their working relationship stretched beyond Stratford to include 12 productions in New York and four in London.

Mr. Merigold was with the Festival for 16 seasons between 1953 and 1976, in a variety of roles. He was the production stage manager for the Avon Theatre and for opera, and later served as the purchasing agent. He was the assistant to the director on 1960’s HMS Pinafore and 1961’s The Pirates of Penzance, a production in which he also appeared as an actor. In 1974 he directed This Is the Rill Speaking at the Third Stage (now the Tom Patterson Theatre). His acting career included a recurring role on CBC TV’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and appearances on the Wayne and Shuster TV specials.

King Lear opens on May 26, King John opens on May 28, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on May 31.


Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Shakespeare Theatre Association international conference
starts next week at the Stratford Festival

January 15, 2014… As Shakespeare lovers everywhere prepare to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of the world’s greatest dramatist, members of the Shakespeare Theatre Association gather at the Stratford Festival for their annual conference.

“We are extremely proud to have this prestigious gathering in Stratford during this year of celebration,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who will deliver the keynote address. “We’ll be joined by theatre professionals from all over this continent and beyond. It’s wonderful to be reminded of the extent and variety of work being undertaken by companies that specialize in Shakespeare. We’re looking forward immensely to this gathering of friends, old and new.”

STA conferences have been a valuable resource to Stratford Festival staff from various departments for almost 25 years.

“Having attended two previous STA conferences, hosted by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney, “I know how illuminating and inspiring it can be to share this time with our counterparts at other theatres: fellow artists and staff who share our love of Shakespeare and our passion for bringing his plays to the stage and into people’s lives.”

The theme for this year’s conference, which runs from January 22 to 25 and will be attended by 120 delegates, is “Speak the Speech: The Power of Words.” It will focus on what Shakespeare’s words mean to us today, how they can best be brought alive for new generations, and how their enduring power still shapes and enriches our lives.

Sessions will explore various topics, including:
·         Cross-gender and non-traditional casting.
·         Stage to Screen.
·         Shakespeare’s use of rhyme and prose at different periods of his career.
·         How the Affordable Care Act will affect the way in which U.S. theatres create art.
·         Shakespeare and accessibility.
·         Balancing creativity with restrictions such as time, union regulations and resources.
·         Original Practices.
·         Festival-University partnerships.
·         Romancing the Board.
·         Education and social media.

The conference will also feature a much-anticipated session with members of the cast and creative team of Slings and Arrows.

In the three days immediately preceding the conference, the Festival will host an education practicum. This component gives education staff from STA member theatres an opportunity to train intensively with their colleagues from around the world. It will feature sessions on such topics as:
·         The journey from engagement to comprehension to empowerment.
·         Shakespeare in the classroom.
·         Physical theatre.
·         Hip Hop Shakespeare.
·         Voice.
·         Clowning.
·         Original Practices.
·         Directing Shakespeare.

Since its founding in 1991, the Shakespeare Theatre Association has held its annual conference at member theatres across North America, as well as in the U.K. It was last held in Canada in 2005. The Stratford Festival hosted the event once before, in 1996.



Thursday, 2 January 2014

Kudos from the media for Wentworth, Cimolino

End-of-year wrap-ups from Canada's entertainment media had kind words for the 2013 Stratford Festival season:

"Actor Scott Wentworth was already working a full schedule at last year's Stratford Festival when the call came to do more.
He was giving a wonderful lead performance as Tevye, in the festival's hit production of the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, and was also playing Capulet in Romeo and Juliet.But in late June, when Wentworth was already dealing with a heavy workload, the festival had an emergency. Veteran actor Brian Bedford, who had been set to play Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, had to withdraw for health reasons. With rehearsals already underway, who could the festival find on such short notice?
Artistic director Antoni Cimolino turned to Wentworth, long one of the most dependable members of the Stratford company and an artist versatile enough to move easily between Shakespeare and musical theatre. To tackle Shylock when he was already involved in two major productions was daunting. Wentworth said later there were times when he was so exhausted that he would sleep on his dressingroom floor between performances. But he learned his lines in time, and a superb characterization of Shylock was clearly taking shape during the rehearsal period. So when Merchant finally opened in August, Wentworth had another achievement on his hands. He had also scored an acting first - portraying two of theatre's seminal Jewish characters in repertory in the same season, often on the same day.
The past season also marked Wentworth's triumphant return to the festival stage after an extended absence during the regime of previous artistic director Des McAnuff. It was so good to have him back." - Jamie Portman

"Despite some admittedly low moments (Wherefore art thou, Romeo?), this was a glorious season at the Stratford Festival. And the best part? It was mostly all nutritious steak with little empty sizzle. Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino’sMary Stuart led the way, a show that could stand proudly on any stage around the world. Donna Feore’s Fiddler on the Roof gave a heart and soul back to Stratford musicals and Jennifer Tarver’s Waiting for Godot united four fine actors with one of the world’s great plays. Scott Wentworth gets the Most Valuable Player award for not only playing a richly textured Tevye in Fiddler, but leaping into the breach when Brian Bedford became too ill to play Shylock in Cimolino’s flawed but thoughtful The Merchant of Venice. Oh yes, Des McAnuff revived his 1993 production of Tommy, adding lots of bells and whistles. That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball." - Richard Ouzounian

" 'Tis the season to lazily start articles with “tis the season” and make lists. I’m not immune to either of these impulses. Here is a list of my 10 favourite productions of 2013 drawn strictly from my theatregoing in Canada (mostly in Toronto, it is true), with one New York show that had a strong Canadian contingent thrown in. You can still catch six of them somewhere if you’re willing to fork out for plane fare. Now, in no particular order: Mary Stuart Written by Friedrich Schiller. Directed by Antoni Cimolino. Schiller thriller. Good work, new Stratford Festival boss. Read my review." - J Kelly Nestruck

" FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Stratford Festival)Fiddler on the Roof is such a classic American musical, that most avid theatre-goers have seen a production of it at some point in their lives.Regardless of how many times they had already seen it, everyone this writer has spoken to who had the opportunity to catch Stratford Festival's production this past 2013 season, has commented that it was the best they had ever seen. Scott Wentworth's heartwarming, and heartbreaking performance as Tevye was lauded as a must-see at the festival, and said performance became even more fascinating when Wentworth ended up taking over the role of Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Portraying two of the most famous Jewish characters in literature...sometimes on the same day, Mr. Wentworth's brilliance alone was enough of a reason to see this show. There were many more reasons however. In this production, directed by Donna Feore, the entire cast brought the village of Anatevka to life, and brought a beautiful sense of community to every performance at the Festival Theatre. Then there was the dancing....spectacular is the only word that comes to mind. Some of Canada's top dancers were in this ensemble, and they brought the house down every night!

Mary Stuart (Stratford Festival)Directed by Stratford Festival Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino; Mary Stuart explored the complex relationship between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Mary Stuart--the former queen of Scotland-and, and in the eyes of some, a more rightful heir to the English throne. The play was originally written by Friedrich Schiller and this production was based on the adaptation written by Peter Oswald. This play, performed in Stratford's Tom Patterson Theatre, was gripping from start to finish, and its popularity caused the festival to extend its run on three separate occasions, making it the runaway hit of the season. Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna shone as the feuding cousins in a production that was filled with intrigue and excitement, and provided a social commentary that it many ways is still very relevant in the world today." - Lauren Gienow

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