By Aaron Kropf
As we all know by now, 2012 marks the Diamond 60th Season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In this milestone year of celebration, the Festival brings you three plays that reveal very different facets of Shakespeare’s genius – a comedy, a history and a romance – together with a hilarious comic take on one of his most popular tragedies. Let’s have a quick look at each of the Shakespeare shows on our 2012 playbill, starting with the one that opens first.
MacHomer is Shakespeare with a difference, pairing one of his best-known plays with one of the 20th century’s most recognizable families. Actor and comedian Rick Miller has entertained audiences around the globe with this mashup of Macbeth and – wait for it – The Simpsons. Now, I know many of you are asking: why would the Stratford Shakespeare Festival present a send-up of Shakespeare? Well, for two reasons: first, MacHomer is brilliantly entertaining in its own right, and second, it’s a great way of introducing Shakespeare to new audiences. Younger folks whose only experience of these plays has come from reading them in school will discover the amazing world of Shakespeare in performance – via a popular-culture phenomenon they’re already comfortable with. MacHomer runs at the Studio Theatre early in the season, from May 2 to May 26, with its official opening May 5.
The show featured in this season’s gala opening is Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Christopher Newton (former Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival), this high comedy contains some of Shakespeare’s best-loved characters and some of his most glorious wit. If you haven’t already read the article on Much Ado’s “merry war” of words in our November issue of SceneNotes, be sure to take a look at it here. With a fantastic cast led by real-life husband and wife Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay as Benedick and Beatrice, this is one production you won’t want to miss. Much Ado About Nothing runs at the Festival Theatre from April 26 to October 27, opening May 28.
Next to open is the romance Cymbeline, directed by Stratford Shakespeare Festival General Director Antoni Cimolino. Being produced for only the fourth time in the Festival’s history, this beautifully moving play has a cast that includes Cara Ricketts as Imogen and Geraint Wyn Davies in the title role. Don’t miss your chance to see this rarely performed masterpiece – who knows when the opportunity will come again? Cymbeline plays at the Tom Patterson Theatre from May 10 to September 30, opening May 31.
Finally, to round out our 60th season celebration, we’re presenting the epic drama Henry V – which will open at the Festival Theatre on the anniversary of our very first performance in 1953. This is a play with special significance for Stratford: when we first presented it in 1956 (our last season in the original tent), Christopher Plummer played the title role and the production became a legend in Canadian theatrical history. Aaron Krohn, who won such critical acclaim in 2011 for his performance as Lenny in The Homecoming, will play Henry this time round, in a production directed by our Artistic Director, Des McAnuff. Henry V runs June 24 to September 29, opening July 13. Here’s a video that will tell you a little more about the show:
We hope you’ll join us in 2012: it promises to be a stellar 60th season!