January 5, 2012… Thanks to the vision and determination of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s pioneering artists, the adventure that began in 1953 with two productions in a tent is now North America’s premier repertory theatre. In a season celebrating 60 years of theatrical achievement, the Festival presents 14 productions in five venues, featuring Christopher Plummer and one of the finest acting companies in the world.
The box office for this thrilling season, which runs from April 12 to October 28, opens to the public on Saturday, January 7, at 9 a.m., with a special online advance sale starting at noon on Friday, January 6. Purchase tickets before January 31, and save up to 25% on ticket prices.
“2012 will be a great time to visit Stratford. It’s going to be a year of tremendous celebration,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “We wanted our 60th season to represent Stratford in all its glory so we spread our arms wide to encompass as many different genres as we possibly could. Our playbill ranges from the very roots of drama, the tragedy of ancient Greece, to some of the finest playwrights working in Canada today. We are also offering Shakespearean comedy, history and romance, along with a varied musical theatre repertoire, which acknowledges our own era’s great contribution to the western dramatic tradition.”
“To celebrate this landmark season, we are presenting a number of special events and limited-run productions – including a one-man show by Christopher Plummer – around which patrons are going to want to build their Stratford visits,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “We encourage theatregoers to have a look at the calendar and make a commitment to come to Stratford for the 60th season. The early-booking discount is a significant discount; it applies to all shows, all seats, all dates – and it’s offered at a time when the best seats in the house are still available. There’s no better time to book.”
The 2012 season truly features something for everyone. For history lovers, there’s Henry V, The War of 1812 and Wanderlust, a new musical set during the gold rush of the Great North. Lovers of romance will enjoy The Matchmaker, as well as the classic Shakespeare plays Cymbeline and Much Ado About Nothing. Another classic, the Greek tragedy Elektra, comes from the hand of one of Greece’s most avant-garde directors. Lovers of literature will want to see Christopher Plummer’s A Word or Two. For families, there’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, MacHomer and The Pirates of Penzance. A season rich in musicals also features the Broadway favourite 42nd Street.
Those looking for new Canadian work will be thrilled to see three world premières. In addition to Morris Panych and Marek Norman’s Wanderlust, the Festival will present The Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor and Hirsch by Alon Nashman and Paul ThompsoThompson. Fully half of the season’s works are by Canadian playwrights.
Limited runs and special events
A Word or Two, a special 60th season event, written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer, runs for 20 performances from July 25 to August 26. The production is an autobiographical journey through the literature that has stirred Mr. Plummer’s imagination since youth.
MacHomer is also in Stratford for a limited run, from May 2 to May 26. This solo show, created and performed by Rick Miller, is a hilarious mash-up of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and TV’s The Simpsons, suitable for fans of all ages.
Opening on Canada Day for a six-week run is VideoCabaret’s production of The War of 1812, a darkly witty, spectacularly staged production presented to mark the bicentennial of the conflict.
Most Friday evenings will have a new dimension in July and August thanks to Late Night with Lucy, a series of cabarets filled with music and conversation, featuring Lucy Peacock and a variety of special guest artists. The new Studio Theatre Annex, which will also be home to The War of 1812, will be transformed into “the living room” for these intimate late-night get-togethers.
On June 15 the Festival will host a dramatic reading of Bingo. Written in 1973 by British playwright Edward Bond, the play examines an aging Shakespeare torn between his sensibility as an artist and his self-interest as a property owner. The reading will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the playwright.
The Celebrated Writers series presents four authors this season. Stephen Marche, a novelist and journalist who writes a column on culture for Esquire, will speak on themes from his new book, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, on July 14. Richard McCoy, Professor of English at Queen’s University and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, will speak on the subject of Shakespeare’s late romances on July 28. Company members Cynthia Dale and Tom McCamus will read from Michael Ondaatje’s newest novel, The Cat’s Table, with Mr. Ondaatje on hand for the reading and book signing on August 11. Margaret Atwood will round out the series on August 18.
On August 8 the Festival will host It’s a Farce!, an event which will welcome Tappan Wilder, Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor; Ken Ludwig, erstwhile collaborator with Thornton Wilder and acclaimed playwright in his own right; and The Matchmaker cast members for a lively panel discussion on comedy and farce.
The Festival will present an archival exhibition in a new facility across from the Avon Theatre. Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival will be open daily throughout the season at 104 Downie Street. It will feature a recreation of the backstage area of the original Festival tent, unique artifacts, photos, rare footage and new interviews from the Festival Archives, covering every decade of Festival history. Special Exhibition Talks will be held most Saturdays in July and August.
On June 2 at the Studio Theatre, the Festival will present a symposium Interpreting Shakespeare Across Settings and Media, examining how Shakespeare’s work lends itself to a broad range of interpretations and settings.
Master voice and Shakespeare teacher Patsy Rodenburg will return to work with the Festival’s acting company and present a series of special events: a public masterclass on July 18; a workshop for voice teachers, July 20 to 22; and a talk and book signing on July 21.
This season the Shakespeare School will expand to offer a day program for younger students, in Grades 5 to 7 in July and August. One- and two-week residential programs for high-school students are offered in July and August. The Theatre Performance Intensive for students in Grades 11 and 12 will be offered in two three-week sessions, by audition, July 8 to 28 and July 29 to August 18. A March Break Day Camp for 10- to 12-year-olds will be offered March 12 to 16.
In addition, the Festival’s ongoing Beyond the Stage offerings are designed to enhance the theatre experience:
- · Night Music, most Monday evenings in July and August with one performance in June;
- · Table Talk, featuring lunch and a lecture, select dates in July and August;
- · Lobby Talks, on selected weekdays, June through September;
- · Theatre Explorer, a variety of scheduled activities, for adults and children, to enjoy prior to selected performances, selected dates, June through October;
- · Pre-show lectures, most Thursdays in July and Wednesdays in August;
- · Public Library Lectures inToronto (Tuesdays, March 6 to 27),Guelph (Thursdays, March 8 to 22) andHamilton (Wednesday, April 11 to 25);
- · Festival Courses, your chance to learn from the elite team of teaching artists and spoken voice, dialect, text, movement and Alexander Technique coaches who work with the Festival’s acting company.
“The playbill for this milestone season seems to me to embody perfectly the marriage of tradition and innovation that has characterized our Festival since its founding,” says Mr. McAnuff. “It will give our audiences great cause for celebration in 2012.”
“We look forward to sharing this celebration with our loyal audiences – some of whom have been coming since the days of the tent,” says Mr. Cimolino. “And with a playbill offering everything from Shakespeare to new work, classic comedy to family favourites, we hope to welcome record numbers of first-time visitors as well.”
For full details of the season and to order tickets, visit the Stratford Shakespeare Festival online at www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com, or call the box office at 1.800.567.1600.
The Festival’s 2012 season partners are American Express, The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company, Scotiabank Group, Sun Life Financial and Union Gas.
Support for the 2012 season has been provided by the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.