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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Chris Jones Hearts Stratford

The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones has written a flattering article about Stratford - it's plays, restaurants and environs. (The ads are annoying, but the article is lovely.)

Ken Glickman at the Lansing State Journal shows the love for Hamlet, Love's Labours' Lost and The Physicists here.

And Jon Kaplan of Now Toronto has posted their review for Possible Worlds.  (To the right and down a bit.)


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Better late than never Reviews

Over to the right and down a bit you'll notice new reviews have been added from The Bay Observer for:
 - Carousel
 - The Physicists
 - The Sound of Music
 - The Diary of Anne Frank
 - She Stoops to Conquer (not clear on the reviewer; it's either Ric Wellwood or John Best) and Now Toronto have also released their reviews of The Last Wife.

Oh, and CBC has an audio article on The Alchemist.

As long as they keep writing them, I'll keep adding them!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

More Reviews for Late Openers

Reviews continue to trickle in for the Stratford Festival's shows ...

Over to the right and down a bit are new reviews for The Alchemist, Love's Labour's Lost, Oedipus Rex and, in the "better late than never" category, Carousel.

(Google does not make it easy to find some of these!)


Monday, 24 August 2015

Due to circumstances...

Due to circumstances beyond my control... regrettable scheduling conflicts... I'm sure you understand... a series of unfortunate events... the situation being what it is... et cetera et cetera and so forth...

A review of Kate Hennig's The Last Wife is not forthcoming on this site.  However other reviews, for what most are calling an excellent show, will continue to be aggregated on your right.  Over there and down a bit. =>


Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Alchemist (Or, the second linguistically challenging play of the week)

L-R: Stephen Ouimette as Subtle, Brigit
Wilson as Dol Common and Jonathan Goad
as Face. Photo by David Hou
The Alchemist, by Ben Johnson
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Designed by Carolyn M. Smith (set and costumes), Steven Hawkins (lights), Thomas Ryder Payne (sound), John Stead (fights)

It is only natural that the Stratford Festival add Ben Johnson to its playbill from time to time.

That Johnson is a contemporary (and sometime critic) of Shakespeare would be reason enough, but Johnson’s plays have a familiar feel for Stratford playgoers; the language and silhouettes are often similar.

Stephen Ouimette as Subtle.
Photo by David Hou
However where Shakespeare’s characters might wear the robes of nobility, the robes worn by Johnson’s characters would have resembled comfy bathrobes to Elizabethan audiences – in other words, Johnson’s characters wore what the audience members themselves would wear. And where Shakespeare’s characters spoke often in lofty poetry, Johnson’s characters spoke like his audience, in earthy prose full of colloquial slang.

Therein lies perhaps the biggest challenge in staging a Johnson play – taking a relatable and funny plot and making it sound relatable to a modern audience.  A reference to “Clim o’ the Cloughs or Claribels” makes as much sense to us as “Superman and Lois Lane” would make to Elizabethans, but you cannot just re-write a Johnson play and substitute modern language (well you can, but it’s a risk that would certainly result in ridicule and scholarly ire).

But that’s why you pay the big bucks at Stratford – to see such a play interpreted and tweaked so well that the story feels as comfortable to us as to that original audience in 1610.

It is clear that director Antoni Cimolino took great pains to adjust the text where extra elucidation was necessary but it is so subtly done it is nearly seamless. His masterful cast does the rest.

L-R: Jonathan Goad (Foreground) as Face, Stephen Oiumette as Subtle,
Wayne Best as Surley and Jamie Mac as Kastril. Photo by David Hou.
Jonathan Goad is back in the type of role Stratford’s audiences love to see him play, a rogue and scoundrel who is sometimes known as General Face, sometimes known as the scurrilous lab assistant Lungs, and is really a gentleman’s butler, named Jeremy. Jeremy’s master has left London fearing an outbreak of plague (really happened at that time), so Jeremy has joined forces with a conman and prostitute and with them is merrily scamming the various clerks, merchants and hypocritical Puritans who cross their paths. Mr. Goad revels in this part as “the roper”, and the audience revels with him.

It comes as a surprise to no one that Face double-crosses his partners in crime, the prostitute Dol Common (“the lure”), played by Brigit Wilson, and “the inside man” Subtle, played by the  chameleon-like Stephen Ouimette. These three actors hold the reigns of the whole play and don’t miss a beat, even when the cons pile up and the marks start crossing paths.

Jonathan Goad as 'Lungs' and Scott Wentworth
as Epicure Mammon. Photo by David Hou.
Ok, they might have missed one beat – I am almost certain that Scott Wentworth caused two of them to nearly crack up when he appeared as the gargantuan Epicure Mammon. Mr. Wentworth went on the chew not only the scenery in this (literally) larger-than life role, but the text and audience as well – that is one actor who knows how to use an aside. As for the other marks (or victims) they include a slew of memorable performances: Steve Ross’s earnestly naïve Able (poor guy, your heart goes out to him); Wayne Best again showing off some comic chops as the skeptical Surly; and Jessica B. Hill as Dame Pliant – who may not have much to say but makes up for it in feisty, flouncy action. Just to name a few.

Oh, just go buy a ticket to The Alchemist and enjoy the ride through 1610 London already; it is thoroughly hilarious... and that is no con.

The Alchemist continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until October 3rd.

Heartfelt Love's Labour's Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost, by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Caird
Designed by Patrick Clark (set & costumes), Michael Walton (lights), Peter McBoyle (sound), Josh Schmidt (compositions)

L-R: Andrew Robinson as Longaville, Mike Shara
as Berowne, Sanjay Talwar as King Ferdinand, and
Thomas Olajide as Dumaine. Photo by David Hou.

There is a reason Love’s Labour’s Lost is not staged more often; of all Shakespeare’s plays it probably takes the most work to thoroughly enjoy.

This is because most of the comedy comes not from the plot (four men take three-year vow of monastic life in order to study; vow immediately tested upon arrival of four beautiful ladies) but from its very intricate wordplay; wordplay that is refined in Shakespeare's later plays such as Much Ado About Nothing.

Arguably only those who have studied the text well will get the most out of the mischief and meaning contained therein. For fans of rhetoric – the good stuff, not the cheap imitation employed by modern politicians – Love’s Labour’s Lost is pure gold. The problem is that most people in its audiences won’t have had time for such study before seeing it.

The good news is that director John Caird has done his utmost to clarify the text. Of the three Love’s Labour’s Lost produced at Stratford in the past fifteen years, it is by far the clearest.  He has truly capable cast to thank for this, too.

L-R: Sara Afful as Rosaline, Ruby Joy
as the Princess, John Kirkpatrick as
Boyet. Photo by David Hou.
Leading the way are Ruby Joy as the Princess of France and Mike Shara as Berowne. The Princess and Berowne are not in love with each other, but the two actors playing them certainly convey a love of the play’s language. Ms. Joy is magnetic as the Princess; there is a weight to her performance that helps anchor those around her. Mr. Shara plumbs emotional depths not necessarily associated with the rakish Berowne, depths that make the lovers’ final parting – and the men’s promised penances - more meaningful as a result.

Juan Chioran as Don Armado and Josue Laboucane
as Costard. Photo by David Hou.
Ms. Joy and Mr. Shara are ably assisted by Juan Chioran as the love-struck, aged Spaniard Don Armado; Mr. Chioran creates a character who is utterly charming and full of wonder, and keeps him from being quite foolish, as Armado has often been portrayed. Similarly Tom Rooney takes the pedantic character Holofornes and turns him into a mercurial (and somewhat lecherous) linguistic nit-picker. Mr. Rooney is perhaps one of only two actors currently at Stratford who could take the cumbersome lines of Holoforenes’ and rattle them with such a concise flair that they sound almost normal (the other is busy taming a shrew this season).

Brad Rudy as Dull (foreground), Brian Tree as
Nathaniel and Tom Rooney as Holofernes.
Photo by David Hou.
The story is further clarified with some sweetly melancholic music from Josh Schmidt, and illustrated by Patrick Clark’s beautiful, crumbling garden set and sumptuous cavalier-like costumes, making this production a feast for the eyes as well as the ears and heart.

"Jack hath not his Jill," Berowne laments at plays end, but that our hearts go out to the separating lovers is a testament to the love that has gone into creating this production.

Love's Labour's Lost continues in repertory at the Festival Theatre until Oct. 9th.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Still more news, articles and reviews

If I may direct your attention to the columns on your right, a bevy of new reviews and articles have been added for:

       - The Sound of Music
       - The Taming of the Shrew  - including an excellent interview from the Globe and Mail with Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay
       - The Last Wife (audio article)
       - Love's Labour's Lost
       - Oedipus Rex (audio article)

They keep comin'; I keep addin' 'em.

Next up: a review for Love's Labour's Lost.


Monday, 27 July 2015

Robin Phillips 1942 - 2015

A memorial service to honour Robin Phillips will be held on Tuesday, August 11, at St. James Anglican Church in Stratford. The service will begin at 6pm.

News stories and tributes are rolling in for the former artistic director of the Stratford Festival:

(NEW) Martin Morrow, Special to the Globe and Mail:  Canadian stage greats have actor, director Robin Phillips to thank  

(NEW) The Telegraph (UK): Robin Phillips' Obituary

Michael Coveney, The Guardian (UK): Robin Phillips' Obituary

Bruce Weber, New York Times: Robin Phillips 

Richard Ouzounian, The Toronto Star

Stratford Festival Press Release

Remembering Robin Phillips - Robert Cushman, National Post

Rest in Peace Robin - Robert Reid, Reid Between the Lines

CTV News

Kate Sieniuc, Globe and Mail

Stratford Beacon Herald

CBC News

Canadian Press

The Doctor Who News Page

In Memoriam - Jon Kaplan, Now Magazine

And check out this wee mini-doc featuring Mr. Phillips from the National Film Board.

MEDIA RELEASE: Festival mourns the death of Robin Phillips

July 26, 2015… The Stratford Festival is in mourning today for Robin Phillips, who served as its artistic director for six seasons. Besides bringing to the Festival such celebrities as Maggie Smith and Peter Ustinov, as well as one of its most beloved long-time stars, Brian Bedford, Mr. Phillips galvanized the company – and enthralled audiences – with his own extraordinary talent and energy. His tenure, which lasted from 1975 to 1980, is still fondly remembered by many as a “golden age.”

“Robin Phillips was inspirational,” said current Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Like so many people at the Stratford Festival, I was profoundly influenced by him. He seemed to make the impossible not only achievable but beautiful. His productions were crystal clear, emotionally honest and elegant in their simplicity. Every movement, sound or visual element was carefully considered, and yet they had a sense of freedom and vibrant life not often experienced in the theatre.

“Robin was a brilliant artistic director ‎who raised the standards of acting and physical production at the Stratford Festival. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for his care, leadership and generosity to all.”

Born in Haslemere in Surrey, England, on February 28, 1942, Mr. Phillips made his professional stage debut in 1959 at the Bristol Old Vic, where he had trained as an actor. In 1962, he joined the inaugural company of the Chichester Festival Theatre, under the artistic directorship of Laurence Olivier, and in 1965 he became an assistant director with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His 1970 production of Roland Miller’s Heloise and Abelard was a hit both in London and on Broadway, and in 1973 he became artistic director of the Company Theatre in Greenwich.

Appointed in 1974 to succeed Jean Gascon as artistic leader of the Stratford Festival, Mr. Phillips presented his first season in 1975. It included his highly acclaimed production of Measure for Measure with Brian Bedford – then a newcomer to the company – as Angelo and a Third Stage production of The Importance of Being Earnest (remounted at the Avon Theatre in 1976 and 1979) with William Hutt as Lady Bracknell.

In that first season too, with his productions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Comedy of Errors, he brought Shakespeare into the Avon Theatre repertoire for the first time in the Festival’s history.

His second season included his production of Hamlet, in which Richard Monette and Nicholas Pennell alternated in the title role, and a Three Sisters directed by John Hirsch, starring Marti Maraden, Martha Henry and Maggie Smith. In 1977, Mr. Phillips cast Ms Smith and Mr. Bedford opposite each other in his production of Ferenc Molnár’s The Guardsman; the following season, he teamed them again in Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Peter Ustinov joined the company in 1979 to play the title role in King Lear, a production that was revived in 1980.

During his tenure, Mr. Philips significantly increased the number of productions each season and enhanced the Festival’s international profile. He also introduced key innovations, making the balcony on the Festival Theatre stage removable in order to dramatically increase the flexibility of the playing area, and founding the Young Company to provide the Festival’s artists with opportunities to enhance their skills.

After completing his tenure, Mr. Phillips went on to direct many acclaimed productions in Canada, the United States and his native England, and also directed the 1983 feature film The Wars, based on the novel by Timothy Findley. He served as artistic director of the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, for its 1983–84 season, and returned to Stratford in 1986 to direct that season’s Cymbeline at the Festival Theatre. He then served a two-year term as Director of the Young Company and directed several more Festival productions, culminating with Shakespeare’s King John in 1993.

From 1990 to 1995, he was Director General of the Citadel Theatre, during which time his production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love toured Canada and the U.S. His production of the musical Jekyll & Hyde opened on Broadway in 1997, and the following year he directed the two inaugural productions of the newly formed Soulpepper company in Toronto. His West End productions included Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Jessica Lange, in 2000 and Ghosts in 2001.

His last Stratford season was in 2013, when he rehearsed Twelfth Night with participants in the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre.

Among other honours, Mr. Phillips received an honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1983, the Order of Canada in 2005 and a Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. An exhibition of photographs documenting his work at Stratford, entitled “Robin Phillips Directs: A Visual Record,” is currently on display in the Festival Archives. Mr. Phillips participated in the compiling of the exhibition, and visited it in June. It is open to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Festival extends its deepest condolences to Mr. Phillips’s partner, Jo Mandel.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Stratford's Video Links

The Stratford Festival has turned up the heat when it comes to its video clips. Check some of them out.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Possible Worlds is Passable

Kristin Pellerin as Joyce and Cyrus Lane as George. Photo by David Hou

PossibleWorlds, by John Mighton
Directed by Mitchell Cushman
Designed by Anahita Dehbonehie (set), Dana Osborne (costumes), Kimberly Purtell (lights), Nick Bottomly (projections), Christopher Stanton (sound), John Stead (fights)

Possible Worlds is a play by a mathematician about a lot of intellectual concepts – imagination, consciousness, neuroscience and quantum mechanics, just to maim a few.  Director Mitchell Cushman’s staging of these concepts is much cleverer than his source material – he is determined that his audience will follow Mighton’s disjointed story by making every action painstakingly deliberate, leaving no room subtlety. He and his cast make the play watchable, but leave the audience without that sense of discovery the Festival was keen to promote this season.

The story boils down to this (spoilers): George is murdered by a scientist who keeps his brain alive in a jar, trying to tap his consciousness. His brain imagines several different lifetimes with variations of the same woman as two police officers try to solve his murder.

Michael Spencer-Davis as Berkley.  Photo by David Hou
The set looks simpler than it is – literally under water - and hides all manner of nooks for extra props which appear as if my magic. Magic illusions are employed by the cast; disappearing lights, materializing golf balls, gravity-defying liquid. Liquid falls from cubes suspended in the air, glowing blue and red, made of scrim. Scrims are backlit to represent the morgue, the full moon, an alien landscape, a cherished loved one.  For a play ostensibly about imagination, Mr. Cushman’s production leaves nothing to the imagination at all.

It is very, very clever, and very necessary for this play. And it has a very good cast. Cyrus Lane – last seen as Lucentio in Taming of the Shrew – plays the many lives of George with an energy that turns from exhilarated to anguish as (presumably) the caged brain begins to die and his “lives” become more and more fragmented.  Krystin Pellerin – last seen in television’s The Republic of Doyle - has a very natural grace on stage, even while slogging through a dense play and, for the most part, drenched. One can sincerely hope she will be returning to Stratford’s stages in coming years.
Gordon S. Miller as Williams. Photo by David Hou

Sarah Orenstein has a trifecta of parts, all played to perfection; as the UFO-obsessed caretaker she draws a picture of a paranoid schizophrenic; she plays the smart businesswoman as a class act with possible cougarish tendencies, and as the neurologist (and murderer) Penfield, well, let’s just say that I’d bet on Ms. Orenstein’s Penfield if she went toe-to-toe with this season’s other mad scientist - Fräulein Doktor von Zahnd in the Physicists.

Sarah Orenstein as Penfield. Photo by David Hou
As the baffled and wary policemen Berkley and Williams, Michael Spencer Davis and Gordon S. Miller are good foils for one another. Mr. Davis gives Berkely an acerbic edge that floats over the head of the loyal but naïve Williams as he is played by Mr. Miller; this gives way to mild surprise when it is Williams who ultimately, and somewhat prosaically, solves the murder.

So. Good cast, clever direction and some heady (pun intended) notions. But Possible Worlds also contains regular dramatic concepts too – humour, mystery, romance… It may be better for audiences to dwell on these tenets of storytelling and not worry too very much about the rest.

Possible Worlds continues in repertory at the Studio Theatre until September 19.

Cyrus Lane as George.  Photo by David Hou

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Reviews just keep coming...

Over to the right and down a bit you'll see a new review has been posted from Capital Critics' Circle member Jamie Portman for Taming of the Shrew.

Also Robert Reid, the recently retired reviewer from the KW Record, gives a thorough overview of the Stratford Festival Season so far on his new blog, Reid Between The Lines. Mr. Reid also writes about the Drayton and Blyth Festivals, among other artistic pursuits.


Monday, 20 July 2015

Oedipus Rex (review): Great theatre but not great storytelling

Gord Rand as Oedipus, with members of the cast (background).
Photo by David Hou
Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles
Translation by Stephen Berg and Diskin Clay
Directed by Daniel Brooks
Designed by Camellia Koo (set), Victoria Wallace (costumes), Michael Walton (light), Alexander MacSween (sound composition), John Stead (fights)

Oedipus Rex is the kind of play one remembers vaguely from high school and from various pop-culture references to an "Oedipal complex". It is not Shakespearean tragedy, the kind where the hero has an epiphany before he inevitably dies in a state of grace, but the kind of tragedy where the audience knows the hero is doomed right from the beginning - a sort of slow, Schadenfreude march to a bitter and brutal end.  Not, what you'd call, a fun night of theatre.

Yet this play, this story, has survived over two thousand years for some reason; and director Daniel Brooks believes it is to show us the difference between what we believe about ourselves, and what is true. In this he mostly succeeds, largely with the help of a very fine translation that retains all of the pathos yet includes much wit.

(L-R) Gord Rand as Oedipus, Kevin Bundy as Messenger
and Nigel Bennett as Shepherd. Photo by David Hou  
Gord Rand plays Oedipus as a man who completely believes in his own self-worth. He is the king, he is a smart king, a good king, and he will not let anyone tell him otherwise. Events conspire to prove him otherwise, and Mr. Rand shows us what happens to a man mentally when stripped of this belief, this identity. That the stripping is physical as well as emotional will certainly cause discomfort in some audience members, but it is in no way gratuitous, serving to perfectly emphasize this theme. More discomfort is likely to come from the truly grotesque makeup of Oedipus' gouged eyes; they are unflinchingly realistic. Mr. Rand gives a raw, uncompromising performance that completely embraces this belief-truth dichotomy.

There is much to praise in this production but much that is puzzling. Hand-sanitizer and face-masks signify the plague that rocks the city, yet the townspeople (chorus) are permitted within the plastic screening that presumably isolates the palace, and these modern hygienic practises are at odds with the characters' belief that the plague has a divine cause. A blood-red clad priestess begins the play swinging a fog machine – the modern-day equivalent of purifying incense, one would presume – until real incense is brought out later and burned on stage. The inconsistency is jarring.

Deidre Gillard-Rowlings as Chorus Leader
with members of the cast (background).
Photo by David Hou
Something to praise is Nigel Bennett channelling Terence Stamp in drag as the blind seer Teiresias. Clever, because one of the myths surrounding this ancient Greek character was that he was transformed by Hera into a woman for some transgression or other (the ancient gods being quite fickle); this won't be well-known to most audiences but will make the curious go looking for a reason for the transvestite appearance. The production also has Teiresias using human echolocation to get around which makes for one eerie-assed and effective entrance.

Something to puzzle is the opportunism of the Shepherd, played by Kevin Bundy. Mr. Bundy plays him like a decent enough chap, eager to be of use to the King. That he actually helps put the final nail in the King's coffin is something to be pitied for the man - so why turn him into a petty thief, robbing victims of the plague? (Or were they simply citizens overcome with grief? It was hard to say.)

Gord Rand as Oedipus and Yanna McIntosh as Jocasta. Photo by David Hou
Something to praise is DeidreGillard-Rowlings as the impassioned Chorus leader; something that puzzles is the frequent use of microphones and shouting that actually reduces the power and meaning of these speeches. Something to praise is the ever-powerful Yanna McIntosh as Jocasta; something that puzzles is the Eastern European accent Lally Cadeau brings to the role of the Servant which is discordant to the rest of the play.

Christopher Morris as Kreon and Gord Rand as Oedipus,
with members of the cast (background). 
 Photo by David Hou
Something to definitely praise is Chris Morris playing Kreon. Mr. Morris is a forceful presence, playing the king's brother-in-law like a more patient Macbeth: also believing in his self-worth but willing to bide his time until the current King falls (or plummets) from grace. And when that happens, Mr. Morris turns the loyal, compassionate Kreon into a politician with edge, driving the cursed King/prince from the court in an almost savage way, forcing him to face the truth.

I believe this is a good production of a very fine translation, but the truth is, it could have been even greater.  Oedipus Rex continues in repertory at the Tom Patterson Theatre until September 18th.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The reviews keep coming...

In the side bars for each show (right) a number of new reviews from John Monaghan of the Detroit Free Press  have been aggregated for:
 - Taming of the Shrew
 - The Sound of Music
 - The Physicists

The Freep also recommends seeing:
 - Hamlet
 - She Stoops to Conquer
 - Oedipus Rex (opening July 16)
 - Possible Worlds (opening July 15)
 - Love's Labour's Lost (opening August 14)

Reviews are added as they become available.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

2016 Season - Full Announcement

Festival marks Shakespeare 400 with new exploration of Henriad history cycle and North American première of Shakespeare in Love 

2016 season and Forum explore ‘After the Victory’ 

July 1, 2015… With the world marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in 2016, Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino has planned a number of exciting projects in honour of the occasion. Breath of Kings, a specially commissioned twopart exploration of Shakespeare’s four-play Henriad history cycle, conceived and adapted by Graham Abbey, will have its world première, directed by Weyni Mengesha and Mitchell Cushman in collaboration with Mr. Abbey, at a reconfigured Tom Patterson Theatre. Shakespeare in Love, staged to great acclaim in the West End, will have its North American première, directed by Declan Donnellan. The Festival Theatre will be home to two great Shakespeares, the beloved comedy As You Like It, directed by Jillian Keiley, and Macbeth, directed by Mr. Cimolino. 

The Festival’s 2016 season will explore the theme After the Victory. “We recently marked 100 years since the start of the ‘war to end all wars,’” says Mr. Cimolino, “and 70 years since the even more catastrophic war that followed it. And yet despite these so-called victories for civilization, our world remains mired in brutal conflict. 

“Our 2016 season will look at victories of all kinds – military, personal, spiritual, moral – and explore what we mean by victory – over others, over adversity, over our own complex and imperfect human nature.” 

The playbill reaches beyond Shakespeare with a number of firsts and world premières. Donna Feore will direct and choreograph A Chorus Line, reconceiving the landmark musical for the Festival’s iconic thrust stage. Bunny, Hannah Moscovitch’s newest work, commissioned by the Stratford Festival, will have its world première, directed by Vanessa Porteous. Carey Perloff will direct the world première of the Festival-commissioned new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman by Paul Walsh. And Keira Loughran will direct a newly commissioned translation of Olivier Kemeid’s adaptation of The Aeneid, by Maureen Labonté

The season will also feature the outrageous comedy The Hypochondriac, an adaptation of Molière’s La Malade Imaginaire by Richard Bean, directed by Antoni Cimolino; Stephen Sondheim’s haunting musical A Little Night Music, directed by Gary Griffin; the beloved C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, dramatized by Adrian Mitchell and directed by Tim Carroll; and Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, directed by Martha Henry

“As Shakespeare constantly reminds us, victory and loss are inextricably entwined,” says Mr. Cimolino. “One of the very first lines in Macbeth, ‘When the battle’s lost and won,’ implies not only that someone has to lose in order for someone else to win, but also that every victor pays some kind of price. Macbeth gains the crown – but at terrible cost, both to others and to himself.

“The opposite can be true as well. In As You Like It, Duke Senior’s loss is also his gain: deposed and exiled from his court, he’s living a spiritually richer life in the ‘golden world’ of the Forest of Arden. And Shakespeare’s histories are all about the vicissitudes of fortune: the rise and fall of power seekers. Our two Breath of Kings plays, distilled from some of the greatest of those histories, tell sweeping stories of uprising and betrayal, of one victor inevitably supplanted by another. 

“That same duality of victory and loss informs many other works on our 2016 playbill. In The Aeneid, for example, the devastation of Troy leads to a triumphant new beginning: the founding of Rome. All My Sons is a very direct examination of the human cost of profiting from war. And A Chorus Line shows us the emotional cost that can attend even the most benign of victories: winning a place in a Broadway show.” 

The Stratford Festival Forum will explore issues related to the theme After the Victory through more than 200 events, highlights of which will be announced at a later date. Creative exploration through the Festival’s Laboratory, which was launched in 2013 by Mr. Cimolino, has fostered the development of four projects in the 2016 season: Breath of Kings, Bunny, The Aeneid, and John Gabriel Borkman. Sixteen other works are currently in development. 

Tom Patterson Theatre will offer theatre-in-the-round in 2016 

For the 2016 season, the Tom Patterson Theatre will be temporarily reconfigured to offer a theatre-in-the-round experience. 

“With this reconfiguration of the Tom Patterson Theatre, the Stratford Festival will provide our audience with the unique ability to experience theatre in our own revolutionary thrust stage, in a traditional proscenium and now in the round,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I felt that the plays in our 2016 TPT season would especially benefit from the kind of dramatic crucible that an audience creates when in the round.” 


By William Shakespeare 
Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Antoni Cimolino’s recent Shakespeare productions have been greatly celebrated. Now he takes on Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, Macbeth, in which murderous ambition meets the dark forces of destiny as the original political power couple conspire to seize the throne of Scotland. Remembering Mr. Cimolino’s successes with Jonathan Goad’s Hamlet, Colm Feore’s King Lear, Scott Wentworth’s Shylock and Geraint Wyn Davies’s Cymbeline, everyone is wondering who will play the Macbeths. 

A Chorus Line 
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett 
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante 
Music by Marvin Hamlisch 
Lyrics by Edward Kleban 
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore 

This 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical changed the course of Broadway with a run that lasted 15 years. It features such unforgettable numbers as “What I Did for Love,” “At the Ballet,” “Dance Ten Looks Three” and the spectacular finale, “One (Singular Sensation).” Canada’s top director-choreographer, Donna Feore, reimagines this legendary musical for the Festival Theatre, a not-to-be-missed theatrical event. Ms Feore’s stellar work at Stratford includes a string of hit musicals, most recently The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and Crazy for You. 

As You Like It 
By William Shakespeare 
Directed by Jillian Keiley 

Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre, English Theatre, the director behind the Stratford Festival’s inspired productions of Alice Through the Looking-Glass and The Diary of Anne Frank, directs her first Shakespeare on the Festival stage: As You Like It, a beloved comedy filled with music and mirth. Ms Keiley will set this glorious tale of mistaken identity in her home province, infusing it with traditional Newfoundland song and dance. 

The Hypochondriac 
By Molière 
In a new version by Richard Bean 
From a literal translation by Chris Campbell 
Directed by Antoni Cimolino 

Antoni Cimolino, whose directorial vision has given Stratford audiences a string of memorable classics, including Mary Stuart, The Beaux’ Stratagem and The Grapes of Wrath – as well as the soon-to-be-seen production of The Alchemist – will direct The Hypochondriac. Adapted by Richard Bean from Molière’s La Malade Imaginaire, The Hypochondriac is a fresh take on an outrageous comedy about an egotist who is obsessed with his supposed maladies and falls prey to every quack doctor in Paris. 


Schulich Children’s Plays Presents: 
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 
By C.S. Lewis 
Dramatized by Adrian Mitchell 
Directed by Tim Carroll 

Tim Carroll, who entertained countless families with his magical Stratford production of Peter Pan, takes on another family play, the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Never before produced at Stratford, this inspirational tale follows four children who fulfill their destiny in the mythical land of Narnia with the help of the wise lion Aslan. Mr. Carroll, who also directed King John for the Festival, was celebrated for his recent productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night on Broadway. 

A Little Night Music 
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim 
Book by Hugh Wheeler 
Suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman 
Directed by Gary Griffin Gary 

Griffin returns to the musical that shot him to prominence, A Little Night Music, arguably Stephen Sondheim’s greatest achievement. Featuring the show-stopping ballad “Send in the Clowns,” one of Broadway’s top hits, this ravishing musical delves into the lives of mismatched lovers as they try to balance their passions with their commitments. Mr. Griffin has a sterling Stratford pedigree, directing such hit musicals as West Side Story, Evita, Camelot and 42nd Street. 

Shakespeare In Love 
Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard 
Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall 
Directed by Declan Donnellan 
North American Première 
By special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions 

Directed by four-time Olivier Award winner Declan Donnellan, the West End hit romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love will have its North American première at the Stratford Festival. In this imagined biography, young Will Shakespeare, tormented by writer’s block and in desperate need of a new hit, finds inspiration in the guise of passionate noblewoman Viola, who moves him to write the greatest love story of all time. Art mirrors life – and vice versa – as love blossoms for the Bard amid a hilarious riot of chaos, confusion and backstage theatrics. 


Breath of Kings 
By William Shakespeare 
Conceived and adapted by Graham Abbey 
Directed by Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha with Graham Abbey 
World Première: A Stratford Festival Commission 

Breath of Kings is a sweeping epic, developed in the Festival’s Laboratory by Graham Abbey, with participation from Daniel Brooks, John Murrell and professors Jane Freeman and Randall Martin. It follows the lives, battles and deaths of kings Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. This distillation of Shakespeare’s history plays, to be performed in two self-contained parts, results in a remarkable, accessible, streamlined story of generations of English royal families, wars and nation-building history. Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha, two of the most exciting young operatives in Canadian theatre, will direct in collaboration with Mr. Abbey. Mr. Cushman, who recently won a Dora for his work on Brantwood 1920-2020, is directing this season’s Possible Worlds and served as assistant director on The Merchant of Venice and The Beaux’ Stratagem. Ms Mengesha, whose Toronto hits include ’da kink in my hair, A Raisin in the Sun, and Kim’s Convenience, directed a captivating production of Hosanna in 2011. Mr. Abbey, a one of the country’s top classical actors and Artistic Director of Toronto’s Groundling Theatre Co., is assistant director of this season’s The Alchemist, and is also playing Newton in The Physicists. 

  • Rebellion: Richard II and Henry IV Part 1 A nation is plunged into turmoil by the overthrow of King Richard II. Distilled from Shakespeare’s history plays, this deeply human drama raises a fundamental question: what gives a monarch the right to rule? 
  • Redemption: Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V A new king, Henry IV, is on the throne – but is his reign legitimate? And what is to become of his wayward son and heir? A fast-paced distillation of Shakespeare’s great dramas of kingship – and the ordinary lives monarchs hold in their sway. 

All My Sons 
By Arthur Miller 
Directed by Martha Henry 

Based on a true story, this modern classic paints a gripping portrait of a family living in denial – until the emergence of a dark secret unravels their American dream. This production is directed by the doyenne of Canadian theatre, Martha Henry, whose recent Stratford directorial successes include She Stoops to Conquer, Mother Courage and Her Children, Of Mice and Men and Three Sisters.

John Gabriel Borkman 
By Henrik Ibsen 
Translated from the Norwegian by Paul Walsh 
Directed by Carey Perloff 
World Première Translation: A Stratford Festival Commission 

The celebrated director Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, returns to Stratford to direct Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman, in a new translation commissioned by the Festival from Paul Walsh. This dark comedy tells the tragic story of a disgraced banker who refuses to accept responsibility for his greed, causing his family to tear itself apart. Ms Perloff was last in Stratford in 2009, directing a devastating production of Phèdre, which later moved on to San Francisco’s ACT. 


By Hannah Moscovitch 
Director: Vanessa Porteous 
World Première: A Stratford Festival Commission 

Bunny is an evocative examination of post-feminist sexuality and desire by one of Canada’s most successful young playwrights, Hannah Moscovitch. It tells the story of Sorrell, a young woman who wants to be normal and good, but whose unusual parents, unusual relationships and perhaps not-so-unusual needs put her in conflict with what the world expects from a young woman. This remarkable new play, commissioned by the Festival, will be directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of Alberta Theatre Projects, whose sizzling production of the world première of Christina, The Girl King was a must-see at Stratford in 2014. 

The Aeneid 
By Olivier Kemeid 
Translated by Maureen Labonté 
Directed by Keira Loughran 
World Première Translation: A Stratford Festival Commission 

Director Keira Loughran brings this innovative staging of the legendary tale of Aeneas to the Studio Theatre from the Stratford Festival Laboratory, where it was conceived in 2014. Playwright Olivier Kemeid merges the story of his immigrant grandfather struggling to make his way to Canada with the epic journey of the Trojan hero as he escapes his ruined city and embarks on the adventures that lead him to become the founder of Rome. This world-première English-language translation by Maureen Labonté is an interdisciplinary epic, integrating text with physical theatre and Arabian music. Ms Loughran is the Associate Producer of the Festival’s Forum and Laboratory. Last season she directed an inspired production of Titus Andronicus for Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park. 

Tickets for the 2016 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on November, 15, 2015 and to the general public on January 8, 2016.  For more information, visit

The 2015 season continues until November 1, featuring Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Adventures of Pericles, The Sound of Music, Carousel, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Physicists, Possible Worlds, She Stoops to Conquer, Oedipus Rex, The Alchemist and The Last Wife. Visit or call 1.800.567.1600 for more information. 


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