Des McAnuff’s Annual General Meeting Speech

I know that normally on this occasion you expect me to look back over the previous season and make some observations on its artistic highlights.

But when I cast my eye over our recent past, I find myself prompted to reflect in broader terms upon our legacy and our future – and at the risk of repeating some things that Lee has already covered in her remarks, those are the thoughts I’d like to share with you today.

In the last couple of years, we have seen the passing of many dear friends and fellow artists: people with strong past and present ties to this Festival.

Among them, as Lee mentioned, were former Board President Wilf Gregory – who, as a City alderman in 1952, proposed the motion to give Tom Patterson $125 (rather than the $100 Tom had asked for) to go to New York for advice on founding a Shakespeare festival.

There was a epoch-making impulse if ever there was one.

Goldie Semple, Domini Blythe and Peter Donaldson – three outstanding actors, steeped in our artistic tradition – were taken from the world far too soon, with many superb performances still to give.

At this time last year, we were still reeling from the shock of losing Lindsay Thomas, a vibrant young member of our company who should have had a tremendous future ahead of her.

This year, we are stunned by the loss of Gina Wilkinson, who also had a huge contribution still to make to our art; indeed, at the time of her death I had been planning to invite her to direct here.

In July we lost Bruce Birmingham, one of our most ardent supporters in recent history, who made an immense and visionary investment in the future of classical theatre in this country.

Finally, in the last two-and-a-half years we’ve lost three of our former Artistic Directors – Richard Monette, whose tenure was the longest in our history, David William and Michael Langham – as well as Douglas Campbell, a member of our inaugural company in 1953.

Such significant passings remind us that we are at a pivotal point in the life of our Festival: the point at which our founding begins to pass out of living memory. Very few of our pioneers are with us still.

And they remind us too of how precious and yet how evanescent is the legacy of any theatrical institution. That legacy resides in the minds, hearts and spirits of these our actors – and our directors, and designers and other artists, and all our supporters and champions as well. We truly are such stuff as dreams are made on, and when one of us departs, some portion of our legacy too is melted into air, into thin air.

The loss of Michael Langham, our second – and second-longest-serving – Artistic Director, came as a particular blow to me, for he had long been my friend, my mentor and my teacher.

While Tyrone Guthrie deserves recognition as the Festival’s founding Artistic Director, Michael was its true intellectual architect. Among his other qualities, he was a brilliant teacher with a profound gift for articulating the elusive techniques that apply to acting and directing so that they would materialize before a student’s eyes. He could make the invisible temporal.

His techniques for acting Shakespeare sprang from a unifying artistic philosophy: his recognition of the texts not just as dramatic literature but as “living thought.”

Beyond their poetry, these plays stand as the world’s greatest record of how human beings think, and have thought since the dawn of civilization. They embody the wisdom not just of an age but of all time.

Michael came to understand, from his work in the theatre, that only through the experiential process of acting could the plays be appreciated in that light. The thought that they embody can come to life only in a live production.

For those of you who are not yourselves theatre artists, let me take a moment to give you a quick glimpse of what’s involved in turning words on a page into living thought.

It begins with a process I call “sleuthing”: poring over the text with dictionaries and reference books at hand, making sure that every word, and every nuance of every word, is properly understood.

Shakespeare wrote during difficult times. He couldn’t always say outright what he wanted to say; sometimes he coded his meaning in words that are open to multiple layers of interpretation. Work on a production starts with an appreciation of those layers, cracking the codes to which the educated members of Shakespeare’s audience would have held the keys.

As an actor, you have to intimately understand not only your own lines, but the entire text. For example, you have to note any chains of imagery that run through the play, such as the sun and water imagery in Richard II, and understand where your character fits into those chains.

The next part of the process is to personalize the text, to bring emotion to it: to pour your own soul into the language.

And then finally, when you are so comfortable with the text that you can make it experiential, when there is no separation between the thought, the word and the emotion, you go on a journey of discovery and revelation.

If I’ve lost you with that last bit, don’t be dismayed. I said this process was elusive, and my attempt to describe it in words illustrates my real point: that this isn’t something you can learn from books, or from speeches. You learn it – indeed, can conceive of it – only by doing it.

In his twelve years as our Artistic Director, Michael set a stamp on the Festival that it still bears today. Now he is gone, along with so many of the other great figures from our past, and with every passing year, our collective memory of him as a man will fade a little more.

What must never fade, though, is our memory of what he taught: the insight and understanding that he imparted – directly, by working with them – to the hundreds of actors and directors who passed through our halls during his tenure.

This is our artistic legacy, and because it resides in us as individuals it is absolutely crucial to our future that we hand it on in turn to every new generation of actors that comes to Stratford – all the while adding to it with discoveries of our own.

That is why we have the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre. That is why we launched the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, to share the hard-won discoveries of the past with the emerging directors of today and tomorrow, and to ensure that what we have learned will not be lost even to the unborn souls of the future.

What’s past, as Antonio says in The Tempest, is prologue. And what I have said so far about the legacy we have inherited invites the question: What will be our legacy to the future? What, beyond a balanced budget, do we aim to leave behind?

And those questions, I think, really boil down to this: What are we really here to do?

My answer to that lies in a line of Tyrone Guthrie’s that I’ve quoted before: “Theatre is the oldest social, moral and political platform in the world.”

Let me adduce an example from my own experience. In November 1986, I was invited to join a delegation of theatre artists to the Soviet Union. The weekend we arrived, a congress was being held in Moscow, attended by representatives of all 650 state theatres from across the fifteen Soviet republics.

Its aim was to form a new creative union to wrest control from our hosts at the Ministry of Culture and make theatre in the U.S.S.R. a force for change.

Our Russian colleagues told us that their Writers’ Union had attempted something similar in the 1950s but had failed because it was too easy to suppress a movement whose members embodied their dissent in something as visibly incriminating as words on paper.

But while it’s easy to arrest an individual for writing or holding a controversial manuscript, it’s a bit harder to arrest an entire company of actors. And it’s harder still to arrest a large audience.

Also, the evidence vanishes with the end of the performance; being found attending a theatre isn’t quite like being found with a printed manifesto or a Molotov cocktail.

And yet the very ephemerality of a theatrical performance can make it a weapon far more powerful than either. A book can be seized and burned, but the “living thought” of theatre – ideas conveyed in searingly vivid metaphors that are experienced by an audience not just intellectually but emotionally and viscerally as well, and that then disappear into the ether – cannot so easily be destroyed.

A theatrical performance is an insubstantial pageant faded, that leaves not a wrack behind – nothing, that is, but a profound and potent stirring of hearts and minds.

It was from that and subsequent trips to the U.S.S.R. over the next five years, and from work I did with a theatre company there, that I truly learned the import of Guthrie’s words.

I saw theatre being used as a force for the democratization of socialism. I saw for the first time the extent of its potential as a social and political forum. And there is no doubt in my mind that the liberalization of the state theatres that began in Moscow that weekend in 1986 led directly to the fall of communism.

Here in Stratford, the stakes may not seem quite so high. We’re not struggling under the oppressive yoke of dictatorship – despite what Michael Ignatieff might say about Stephen Harper. But that doesn’t mean that public debate isn’t fundamental to our freedom; on the contrary, it is the essential prerequisite for a liberal – with a small “l” – state like Canada.

A great theatre like ours must be a crucible of ideas. We must seek to enlarge people’s fields of vision, invite them to consider alternatives to received thinking, help them to see beyond the surface of the human experience and into its essence, and to imagine how, with sufficient imagination and passion, that experience might be transformed.

Without a vision of our theatre as a place of debate and a force for change – the vision that Guthrie articulated and that Langham developed the artistic techniques to achieve – then we risk becoming merely a tourist trap, nothing more than a purveyor of elegantly entertaining costume drama.

In order to be that crucible of ideas, we must first of all present the classics that are central to our mandate in ways that fire our imaginations, startle us with their immediacy, strike at the core of our own experiences.

We have long known how to do this – but now that we are approaching our sixtieth year and have lost so much of our direct connection to the spirit of our pioneers, we must make sure we do not forget and lose our way. Hence, as I said, the importance I attach to the Conservatory and the Langham Workshop.

Hence too my insistence on devoting to our productions of Shakespeare plays the same kinds of resources we traditionally reserved for our musicals. Shakespeare is our greatest source of living thought; it is vital that we attract audiences to these works by exciting them with every aspect of our art, including its production values.

The success of that strategy was evident, by the way, in the enthusiastic critical and audience response to our Shakespearean productions last season.

The second thing we must do to affirm our role as a forum for ideas and public debate is to foster the creation and development of new plays that spring directly from our own contemporary experience.

Hence the priority I have placed on our own Canadian playwrights here at the Festival. Hence my establishment of the playwrights’ retreat, the residencies, the commissioning, development and premièring of new work.

In my vision of this Festival, the classical and the contemporary sustain each other, infuse each other with their energies and insights. Both have equal currency in the modern world; both speak to us with equal clarity here and now, in the eternal present.

Your support, and that of your fellow Members, plays a crucial role in enabling me and my colleagues to fulfil that vision, and to build a legacy of our own. I thank all of you here for the faith you show in us, and I promise in return to do everything in my power to ensure that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival we are creating today will be regarded sixty years hence as even richer and more glorious than the one we have inherited.

This year, having lost so many friends, we have been grievously reminded that none of us lives for ever. An institution, however, can live and flourish for as long as we want it to – provided we do not fall prey to habit and complacency, provided we constantly refresh our understanding of the vision on which it was founded, the ideas on which it thrives.

Your continued support makes it possible for us to forge ahead in our artistic exploration without losing sight of our founding purpose: to present productions of our greatest plays that are second to none anywhere else on the globe.

By supporting us in that journey, you hold open the door to a future – long after we ourselves have passed from existence – in which yet unborn Artistic Directors of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival will be able to stand on this stage and speak proudly, as I do today, to Members of the greatest theatre in the world.

Thank you.

 

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Opening Week

It was a triumphant opening week for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and everyone here is delighted with the success of the season so far – and eagerly looking forward to all the openings still ahead.

For the gala season opening night on Monday, June 7, we held a live video feed from the red carpet at the Festival Theatre entrance. The webcast was hosted by Stratford favourite Bruce Dow (who is back this season in The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona). It was a great opportunity to meet Festival actors and other artists, and also some of the many people who work behind the scenes. We’ve put together a little montage of people Bruce spoke to:

After everyone was ushered to their seats and we sang the national anthem, the productions of opening week got underway.

Monday night the audience was treated to a wonderful production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Set in the 1920s, it has a fabulous cast and an irresistibly tuneful score to accompany the many songs that Shakespeare incorporated into the play. Tuesday, the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, dazzled us in a bold and colourful interpretation by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle.

The middle of the week brought us a rarely produced Shakespeare drama, The Winter’s Tale. Beautifully staged in the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre, it had a warm reception from both patrons and critics. Thursday, the Festival rocked out with Evita at the Avon theatre – the first rock opera Stratford has ever staged.

Friday’s opening show, the revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, was a real treat for music lovers – and then, to round off the week, patrons were whisked off with Wendy, Michael and John to the Never Land in J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. The obvious excitement of the younger theatregoers (and the not-so young ones too) was a clear sign that the week had come to a suitably thrilling conclusion.

But opening week is just the beginning of the excitement here at Stratford: there’s lots more to come. Next to open, for instance, is a production that many newspapers – and even National Geographic – are calling the must-see event of the summer. That’s The Tempest, with the internationally renowned Christopher Plummer in the role of Prospero.

We look forward to seeing you before the season’s up at the end of October.

The Winter’s Tale ~ Dress Rehearsal

From left: Yanna McIntosh as Hermione, Seana McKenna as Paulina and Ben Carlson as Leontes. Photo by: Andrew Eccles

The Winter’s Tale

by William Shakespeare

May 27 to September 25 – Opens June 9

Do you remember the last time you sat around the campfire and told stories?  Tales you’ve heard so often that they’re like old friends – yet you still enjoy hearing them every time?  Shakespeare would have been familiar with a few stories told by the fire on those cold English winter nights.  Perhaps it was in the spirit of these winter tales that he wrote The Winter’s Tale, now playing at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

If you’re not familiar with The Winter’s Tale, don’t be alarmed – it’s not produced very often. In fact, this is only the fourth time we’ve done it at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.  To help you with the story, here’s a short presentation I found online.

Like The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale was written toward the end of Shakespeare’s career and displays his artistry at its most mature.  Effortlessly exploring the full range of human emotion, it’s a story of love, betrayal, deceit and – most important of all – reconciliation.

Seeing this particular production, you cannot help but be in awe of the amazing cast director Marti Maraden has at her disposal.  It includes Ben Carlson, Ian Lake, Cara Ricketts, Yanna McIntosh, Seana McKenna, Tom Rooney and Mike Shara, to name just a few.  Each of these actors is amazing in his or her own right; together, they’re simply magical.  In each case, their strengths have been drawn out by Maraden, who has interacted with this script a number of times over her career as an actor and director.  She weaves this winter’s tale masterfully.

John Pennoyer’s simple yet exquisite design transports you to the two worlds of the play – Sicily and Bohemia – and shows you the huge contrast between them.  Sicilia is very courtly in its design: it’s an orderly world with a traditional elegance.  Bohemia, on the other hand, is a land of bright vibrant colours, as seen in the clothing of the somewhat quirky characters who inhabit it.  Pennoyer is in his 25th season at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and many of us have come to adore his work.  The Winter’s Tale is sure to delight his fans.

This is a chance to catch a rarely produced masterpiece with an amazing cast and a great artistic team, all brought together under the direction of Marti Maraden.  The Winter’s Tale runs in rep from May 27 through September 25.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Camillo………………………………………………………………………. Sean Arbuckle

Second Lady………………………………………………………………. Dalal Badr

A Gaoler/First Gentleman………………………………………………. Skye Brandon

Leontes………………………………………………………………………. Ben Carlson

Polixenes……………………………………………………………………. Dan Chameroy

First Officer………………………………………………………………… Victor Dolhai

A Mariner/Paulina’s Steward/Third Gentleman…………………… Victor Ertmanis

Cleomenes………………………………………………………………….. Xuan Fraser

Dorcas ………………………………………………………………………. Alana Hawley

Antigonus/Time……………………………………………………………. Randy Hughson

Florizel……………………………………………………………………….. Ian Lake

First Lord…………………………………………………………………… Roy Lewis

Mamillius……………………………………………………………………. Luke McCarroll

Hermione……………………………………………………………………. Yanna McIntosh

Paulina……………………………………………………………………….. Seana McKenna

Emilia…………………………………………………………………………. Ginette Mohr

Second Officer/Second Gentleman………………………………….. Paul Nolan

Dion………………………………………………………………………….. Christopher Prentice

Second Lord……………………………………………………………….. Jonathan Purdon

Perdita……………………………………………………………………….. Cara Ricketts

Autolycus……………………………………………………………………. Tom Rooney

Mopsa……………………………………………………………………….. Andrea Runge

Young Shepherd………………………………………………………….. Mike Shara

Archidamus/Old Shepherd…………………………………………….. Brian Tree

Young Shepherdess……………………………………………………… Abigail Winter-Culliford

Artistic Credits

Director……………………………………………………………………… Marti Maraden

Designer…………………………………………………………………….. John Pennoyer

Lighting Designer………………………………………………………….. Louise Guinand

Sound Designer……………………………………………………………. Todd Charlton

Composer…………………………………………………………………… Marc Desormeaux

Movement………………………………………………………………….. Shona Morris

Stunt Coordinator………………………………………………………… Simon Fon

Aerial Effects………………………………………………………………. Sven Johansson

Assistant Director…………………………………………………………. Thomas Morgan Jones

Assistant Designer………………………………………………………… Devon Bhim

Assistant Lighting Designer…………………………………………….. Michael Franzmann

Fight Captain………………………………………………………………. Xuan Fraser

Movement Captain……………………………………………………….. Victor Dolhai

Stage Manager…………………………………………………………….. Ann Stuart

Assistant Stage Manager……………………………………………….. Corinne Richards

Assistant Stage Manager……………………………………………….. Melissa Rood

Apprentice Stage Manager…………………………………………….. Katherine Arcus

Production Assistant……………………………………………………… Emilie Aubin

Production Stage Manager…………………………………………….. Julie Miles

Production Stage Manager…………………………………………….. Marylu Moyer

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris ~ Preview Performance

Jacques Brel thumbnail Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Brent Carver as Brent Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
Production conception, English lyrics and additional material by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman
Based on Jacques Brel’s lyrics and commentary
Music by Jacques Brel

May 14 to September 25 ~ Opening June 11

I recently attended the second preview of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Having enjoyed the music of Jacques Brel for many years, I was thrilled to find this show on our playbill for the 2010 season and was really excited at the prospect of seeing it.

Jacques Brel is different from the other musicals you’ll see at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season. It’s best described as a musical revue, which means that it’s purely a compilation of songs, without an overall story linking them all together. This is a bit of a milestone for the Festival: although we’ve presented musical revues before, we haven’t done so since the 1970s, and even then they were usually programmed as ancillary events, with only a few performances. Jacques Brel, though, is a full-blown part of the playbill – and the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre is the perfect setting for a cabaret-style show like this.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter whose songs tell stories not just of love but of the whole human experience. He first won renown – and a prestigious award – while he was living in Paris, and he went on to become an international star. The way his music speaks to the soul has influenced many other artists, including Leonard Cohen and David Bowie.

When you enter the Tom Patterson Theatre, you’re transported to a cabaret space that feels like it’s been abandoned for years and filled with the spirits of a bygone era. Those spirits, as if by magic, are made flesh in the performers – Jewelle Blackman, Brent Carver, Mike Nadajewski and Nathalie Nadon (the singers), along with Laura Burton, Anna Atkinson, George Meanwell and Luc Michaud (the orchestra) – from the moment they ritualistically enter the performing space.

By turns haunting and humorous but always beautiful, each of the songs tells an individual story, sometimes played out on stage and sometimes left for the audience to imagine. For this production, the Festival’s Director of Music, Rick Fox, has re-orchestrated the songs to give them more of the cabaret flavour they had when Brel originally performed them. Here are just some of the wonderful numbers you’ll hear: “Timid Frieda,” “Le Moribond” (which some of you may know from its English-language version, “Seasons in the Sun”), “Amsterdam” (once covered by David Bowie), “The Bulls” and “Carousel.”

When I saw this show, it was a cool gray day in Stratford – but when I came out, I felt like I was in Paris in the spring. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening, so be sure to catch it. Jacques Brel runs till September 25 at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

Dress Rehearsal ~ As You Like It

As You Like It From left: Brent Carver as Jaques, Ben Carlson as Touchstone, Cara Ricketts as Celia, Paul Nolan as Orlando and Andrea Runge as Rosalind Photo by: Andrew Eccles

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare

April 30 to October 31 – Opens June 7

Last week the company was invited to the dress rehearsal of As You Like It, and I must say it was a real treat to have the opportunity to watch this show. Having grown up in Stratford, I have watched a number of productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the first of which was a production of As You Like It – which for me, like many others, was a life-changing experience.

Walking into the Festival Theatre is an experience itself, and I am in awe every time I enter that theatre. So when I went in to watch the 2010 production of As You Like It, directed by our Artistic Director, Des McAnuff, I thought I knew what I was going to see. But even so, I didn’t expect it to be quite so gorgeous. This production is set in the 1920s, a beautiful period with stunning clothing and eye-popping surrealist art.

As You Like It takes place in two different realms. The first is that of the court, where a coup has just taken place. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother, Duke Frederick, and banished from the court. Frederick then also banishes his niece Rosalind, who decides the best thing to do is disguise herself as a man before she enters the Forest of Arden (which is of course the second realm). To make a long story short, Rosalind and Orlando (who was smitten with her even before they entered the forest) fall in love, as do three other couples. In the end they all get married, and all is restored.

One aspect of this show that really stands out is its music. The Festival has had a number of composers write music for past productions of As You Like It, the last time being in 2005, when the Barenaked Ladies supplied the score. This time we have a descendant of Duke Ellington as the composer of the songs ¬– and what wonderful music he has created! Other music for this production was created by Michael Roth who was musical director on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. The tunes have a twenties feel to them and make you want to Charleston along with the cast. Once the songs started, I didn’t want them to stop.

The cast is as talented as the design is beautiful. Several members are from this season’s Conservatory class, including two favourites from last season: Paul Nolan (who played Tony in West Side Story) and Andrea Runge (Cecily from The Importance of Being Earnest). Playing beside them is a fine mix of others who have delighted us before at Stratford, including Ben Carlson and Brian Tree and the return of Brent Carver.

As You Like It runs from April 30 through October 31, opening June 7.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

First Forest Lord………………………………………………………………… Sean Arbuckle
Phoebe………………………………………………………………………………….. Dalal Badr
First Page……………………………………………………………………… Jewelle Blackman
Dennis………………………………………………………………………………. Skye Brandon
Touchstone…………………………………………………………………………… Ben Carlson
Jaques………………………………………………………………………………… Brent Carver
Charles / William…………………………………………………………………… Dan Chameroy
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Victor Dolhai
Oliver Martext……………………………………………………………………… Victor Ertmanis
Le Beau………………………………………………………………………………… Xuan Fraser
Musician…………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Harper
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Alana Hawley
Corin………………………………………………………………………………… Randy Hughson
Ensemble………………………………………………………………………………. Robin Hutton
Silvius………………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Lake
Hymen…………………………………………………………………………………….. Roy Lewis
Musician………………………………………………………………………….. George Meanwell
Understudy……………………………………………………………………………. Ginette Mohr
Amiens…………………………………………………………………………….. Mike Nadajewski
Hisperia……………………………………………………………………………… Nathalie Nadon
Orlando……………………………………………………………………………………. Paul Nolan
Fourth Forest Lord…………………………………………………………….. Stephen Patterson
Audrey………………………………………………………………………………… Lucy Peacock
Second Forest Lord………………………………………………………….. Christopher Prentice
Jaques de Boys…………………………………………………………………… Jonathan Purdon
Celia……………………………………………………………………………………. Cara Ricketts
Duke Frederick / Duke Senior………………………………………………………… Tom Rooney
Rosalind……………………………………………………………………………….. Andrea Runge
Oliver……………………………………………………………………………………… Mike Shara
Adam………………………………………………………………………………………. Brian Tree
Second Page……………………………………………………………….. Abigail Winter-Culliford

Artistic team

Director……………………………………………………………………………….. Des McAnuff
Scenic Designer…………………………………………………………………….. Debra Hanson
Costume Designer………………………………………………………………….. Dana Osborne
Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………….. Michael Walton
Composer, Original Songs…………………………………………………………. Justin Ellington
Composer, Musical Director…………………………………………………………. Michael Roth

Ways to Save at Stratford

Talk about the rough economy has yet to die down. So people are looking for that bargain. In tough times, we’re forced to cut back on spending in all areas of our lives – and one area where that can be particularly painful is our entertainment budget. After all, we need something to lift our spirits when life’s troubles get us down.

But just because things might be a bit tighter than they were a couple of years ago, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Here are a few ways you can catch these great shows without putting strain on the family budget:

  1. Many people are worried about the HST hitting the books soon in Ontario. But if you act now, you won’t have to pay the additional tax on any performances this season. Simply by purchasing your tickets before the end of April – even if they’re for performances after July 1, when the new tax comes into effect – you’ll beat the HST. That’s 8% less than what you’ll pay for the same show if you purchase your ticket on or after May 1. So why pay the HST? Buy now, and you won’t have to!
  2. TiXX are back this season, meaning you can get great seats for only $29 each! (At that price, you could afford to treat a friend or two.) The Festival sets aside 60 TiXX seats in the balcony of the Festival Theatre for every performance, excluding the musical (sorry, no Kiss Me, Kate for this price). A few things to keep in mind if you want to get these great tickets: (a) The seats are in the A and B sections of the balcony at the Festival Theatre – this program isn’t available at the Avon, Tom Patterson or Studio theatres. (b) To get this price, you have to place your order online. Just follow the link here and select the production you want to see. (c) A maximum of four tickets can be purchased in each transaction. (d) The seating is randomly assigned, and you’ll get your seat locations at check-out. But don’t worry: if you buy four tickets you’ll all be seated together. (e) TiXX sales are final: we can’t exchange these tickets. But if you can’t come, that doesn’t mean those seats need to be empty! If you have friends or family who’d like to see the production, you can pass the tickets on to them.
  3. Do you have children 18 years of age or younger? Bring them to a show and save on the price of their tickets. Every adult who attends can bring up to four children (18 and under) for only $36 per child. The children just need to sit with an adult and provide proof of age when you attend the performance. If that isn’t a good enough bargain, how about this? Bring a child to Peter Pan on their actual birthday, and the birthday boy or girl gets to see the wonders of Never Land, see Peter and the Darling children fly, and help save Tinker Bell for free! Really, what better way to share your love of theatre with the little people in your lives?
  4. Online savings. You can find great discounts just by checking out our website from time to time. Right there you’ll find savings of up to 50% on selected performances! You don’t need to do anything to get those savings; just select a performance that has the discount, then choose the seats you’d like.
  5. For those social media savvy people out there: join us on our Facebook page and you could catch our shows at deeply discounted prices. Already we’ve offered tickets to our fans for as low as $10.41! I can’t think of a better way to save. If Facebook isn’t your thing, you can also find us on Twitter and get some discounts. And there’s more on Twitter and Facebook than just savings. You can also find out what’s happening behind the scenes or get involved in a discussion about a theatre-related topic. You can also share your Stratford stories with other Stratford fans.
  6. Are you between the ages of 16 and 29? We have a program just for you! By joining our Play On program, you get tickets to selected performances for only $25. That’s right, $25 – and for that price you can buy two tickets and bring anyone you want along to the show. The only exclusion here is that the seats exclude A+ seating and these tickets are also final-sale. To find out more about this program just click here.
  7. If you’re the type who waits until the last minute to make any plans, that’s an option too. An hour before a performance (excluding student/senior performances and shows that have sold out), you can save up to 50% off the regular priced ticket. These rush tickets can be purchased at the venue of the show you wish to see, or call the main box office at 1.800.567.1600.

With so many ways to save, it’s hard to pass up a trip to Stratford. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the city of Stratford before or after taking in one of the fabulous productions in the 2010 season. Just take a look at the playbill:

Festival Theatre
As You Like It Kiss Me, Kate              The Tempest                Dangerous Liaisons

Avon Theatre
Evita                             Peter Pan

Tom Patterson Theatre
The Winter’s Tale         Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again

Studio Theatre
Do Not Go Gentle        The Two Gentlemen of Verona             King of Thieves

This playbill has something for everyone. Come out and enjoy a show using one these great options to save on tickets.

Dress Rehearsal ~ Kiss Me, Kate

Monique Lund as Lilli Vanessi and Juan Chioran as Fred Grahm. Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Kiss Me, Kate
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Sam and Bella Spewack

April 10 to October 30 – Opens June 8

Yesterday a number of staff at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival got the opportunity to sit in on the dress rehearsal for Kiss Me, Kate directed by two time Tony award winner John Doyle.  And I must say that it was hugely enjoyable and had a lot of colour.

If you’re not familiar with this Cole Porter hit musical, here’s a brief synopsis of the story.  Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi celebrating the first anniversary of their divorce, while at the same time putting on a musical version of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.  This Shrew is directed by Fred and stars Fred and Lilli as Petruchio and Katherine.  And if that’s not enough of a tricky situation, Bill Calhoun, a member of the acting company with a gambling problem, has written an IOU for his latest loss – using Fred’s name.  Lo and behold, a pair of gangsters arrive to collect the IOU, and from that moment on chaos ensues.

Kiss Me, Kate is full of wonderful songs by Cole Porter that you are bound to recognize, even if you don’t know their titles.  These are tunes that seem to be implanted into all our subconscious at birth – and right from “Wonderbar,” the first number, we are humming along.  Among the best-known numbers are “Too Darn Hot,” “So In Love,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”.

Under the direction of John Doyle (most recognizable for the revivals of Company and Sweeney Todd on Broadway, in which the characters also fill in as the orchestra) the cast of Kiss Me, Kate put on a show you’re sure to remember for quite some time.  Be it because of the wildly fanciful asymmetrical costumes for Fred’s Shrew musical or new imagining of the “Too Darn Hot” number, you’ll fall for this show.  And that’s to say nothing of all the fantastic singers and dancers in the cast – who, by the way, not only play their “real” roles throughout but also stand in as set pieces in the show-within-the-show production of Shrew.

Kiss Me, Kate starts this Saturday April 9 at 2pm and runs in rep until October 30 at the Festival theatre.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
A Boy / Gregory………………………………………………………….. Jordan Bell
Fred Graham / Petruchio……………………………………………….. Juan Chioran
Wig Mistress / Padua Lady……………………………………………. Naomi Costain
Flyman / Philip…………………………………………………………….. Stephen Cota
Props Mistress / Padua Lady………………………………………….. Lindsay Croxall
Hattie, Lilli’s Dresser / Padua Woman……………………………… Keisha T. Fraser
Swing………………………………………………………………………… Nicko Giannakos
Stage Carpenter / Gremio………………………………………………. Kyle Golemba
Prompter / Padua Lady…………………………………………………. Eran Goodyear
Harry Trevor / Baptista…………………………………………………. Douglas E. Hughes
Bill Calhoun / Lucentio………………………………………………….. Mike Jackson
Lois Lane / Bianca……………………………………………………….. Chilina Kennedy
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine…………………………………………………. Monique Lund
Wardrobe Mistress / Haberdasher…………………………………… Lorena Mackenzie
Swing………………………………………………………………………… Josie Marasco
Assistant Stage Manager / Padua Lady…………………………….. Jennifer Rider-Shaw
First Man……………………………………………………………………. Steve Ross
Second Man……………………………………………………………….. Cliff Saunders
Stage Electrician / Hortensio…………………………………………… Jaz Sealey
Dance Captain / Nathaniel……………………………………………… Julius Sermonia
Ralph, the Stage Manager……………………………………………… Vince Staltari
Harrison Howell / Cab Driver…………………………………………. Kristian Truelsen
Pops, Stage Door Man / Priest……………………………………….. Rudy Webb
Paul, Fred’s Dresser / Padua Man…………………………………… Josh Young

Artistic Team
Director……………………………………………………………………… John Doyle
Choreographer…………………………………………………………….. Tracey Flye
Musical Director………………………………………………………….. Franklin Brasz
Designer…………………………………………………………………….. David Farley
Sound Designer……………………………………………………………. Peter McBoyle
Fight Director………………………………………………………………. Daniel Levinson
Associate Sound Designer……………………………………………… Michael Laird
Assistant Director…………………………………………………………. Rachel Slaven
Assistant Choreographer……………………………………………….. Kelly Fletcher
Lighting Design Execution………………………………………………. Siobhán Sleath
Assistant Set Designer…………………………………………………… Andrea Mittler
Assistant Costume Designer…………………………………………… Laura Gardner
Assistant Lighting Designer…………………………………………….. Jennifer Lennon
Assistant Sound Designer………………………………………………. Verne Good
Assistant Fight Director…………………………………………………. Kevin Robinson
New Musical Arrangements / Musical Supervisor………………. Rick Fox
Stage Manager…………………………………………………………….. Cynthia Toushan
Assistant Stage Managers………………………………………………. Marie Fewer, Holly Korhonen,
Zeph Williams
Production Assistant……………………………………………………… Loreen Gibson
Production Stage Manager…………………………………………….. Margaret Palmer