November 1, 2012… Antoni Cimolino officially becomes Artistic Director today, beginning his mission to establish the Festival as an unrivalled theatrical, intellectual and emotional retreat. As part of this mission, the theatre company is returning to the name Stratford Festival and unveiling a new logo.
“‘Stratford Festival’ is the name that we have used for most of our 60 years,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It is simple and direct, it resonates with people and it carries our legacy of quality and success. The name connects powerfully with audiences and allows us to best convey the breadth and depth of the seasons we are planning to present.
“We have discussed this idea for some time and it has broad support amongst artists and staff, as well as members of the Board, who agreed this was the right time to make the change. When I spoke to Des McAnuff about my decision, he gave his complete and enthusiastic support.”
Inspired by the Festival’s founding principles, Mr. Cimolino will focus his tenure on establishing the Festival as a place to become immersed in the theatre experience.
“Tyrone Guthrie, our first Artistic Director, conceived of the Festival as a place removed from a major metropolis where you could lay aside for a moment the demands of daily life and give yourself time to enjoy, to think and to feel – and then go home refreshed, restored and inspired.”
Mr. Cimolino has planned the 2013 season around a cluster of themes, especially the drama of communities – communities in conflict – and the role of the outsider in those communities. “I was drawn to examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity with people we have identified as the ‘other,’ how we find healing. Because that’s what these plays are all about: bringing people together.”
These thematic strands run through a playbill that offers a rich variety of dramatic experiences, starting with Shakespeare and balancing intimate pieces with productions of greater scope, comedy with tragedy, ancient with modern.
“Most of our patrons come to Stratford to see more than one production,” says Mr. Cimolino. “By offering works that complement each other, we’re giving our audiences a fuller opportunity to reflect on ideas that touch our lives at the deepest levels.”
Central to Mr. Cimolino’s vision for the Festival is the introduction of The Forum, a wide-ranging series of events that invite audiences to enjoy theatre in a deeper and more dynamic way, using the work they see on stage to spark ideas, raise questions and open the door to good-hearted and open-minded debate.
“Stratford is a storehouse of brilliant material, presented by great artists working under the best conditions,” he says. “People come here from all over the world to immerse themselves in these stories and to reflect on what they tell us about our lives. Our patrons love it when we provide context, insight, illumination – anything that enriches and enlarges upon their enjoyment of the work we do on stage.”
The Forum has been created to meet that ever-growing demand for enrichment and to achieve Mr. Cimolino’s larger aim of placing the Festival firmly at the centre of society.
Encompassing panels, chats, debates and other interactive discussions, as well as keynote speakers, dramatic readings, concerts and other presentations, The Forum will be offered continuously throughout the season, with each month from June through September featuring a supercharged “Forum Foray” week that will have a particularly high concentration of events.
“The ancient Greeks used theatre as an imaginative arena for exploring ideas, issues and possibilities that were of profound importance to their society,” he says. “I believe the Festival plays that same role for us today.”
Beginning with a press release next month, Forum events and participants will be announced as they are confirmed. Details will be available on the Festival website, www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Tickets for the 2013 season go on sale to Members on November 11 and to the general public on January 5. The playbill features Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Othello, Fiddler on the Roof, The Three Musketeers, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, and two new Canadian plays, The Thrill by Judith Thompson, and Taking Shakespeare, by John Murrell.