Opening week in review!

by Christi Rutledge

Opening week has flown by, but not without a lot of hard work and celebration! If you weren’t able to make it out, or haven’t had a chance to crack open a newspaper, here’s a bit of what you missed!

Monday: Opening Night – Much Ado About Nothing
There is always an extra special buzz of excitement in the air on opening night (perhaps it’s the bagpipers :)). The pomp and circumstance, the glamour and the sense of anticipation all make your skin tingle. If you weren’t able to be there for the opening of our 60th season, or if you want to take it in again, here are some highlights from the evening.

Opening Night Red Carpet Live Stream

What were people saying about Much Ado About Nothing
“Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay are brilliant together” – Twitter

“Much Ado is a must see! For brevity’s sake let it suffice to say the star studded cast pays tribute to the vast depth of this great company.” – Facebook

“Tears of laughter, sadness and joy… it’s hard to ask for much more from a night at the theatre.” -Kelly Nestruck, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Check out some of these beautiful production photos!

Tuesday: 42nd Street

All that glitters is theatrical gold in 42nd Street! Here’s what you had to say about this dazzling tap musical!

“We were blown away by 42nd Street!! Awesome production!” – Facebook

“I smiled through the entire show! Cannot recommend #ssf42nd highly enough. Entire cast were amazing!” – Twitter

Wednesday: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

It’s hard not to smile when you’re watching Charlie Brown. This show is the entire cast’s Stratford début (with the exception of Stephen Patterson) and boy, did they rock it!

Here is the cast of Charlie Brown singing “Beethoven Day” (#SQUEE, seriously!)

“@stratfest I laughed so hard during #ssfCharlie I cried. Tears. Pouring down my face. Brilliantly done. Also: best Snoopy ever. Thanks!” – Twitter

“LOVED Charlie Brown last night 🙂 I usually just see the Shakespearean productions but this was such a treat . I am going to recommend it to everyone!” – Facebook

Thursday: Cymbeline

The rarely staged Cymbeline opened to rave reviews from critics and fans alike. This beautiful late Shakespearean romance stole my heart from the first line – don’t miss seeing it at the Tom Patterson Theatre!

View more production photos from Cymbeline here!

This is what you thought of Cymbeline

“#ssfCymbeline a moving, funny, beautifully staged production. The actors are inspiring, reminds me why I want to be one. Get your tickets!” – Twitter

“Just left the theatre after seeing Cymbeline. WOW! Loved it!” – Facebook

Friday: The Pirates of Penzance

The beloved Gilbert and Sullivan made a fabulous, splashy reappearance on Friday night at the Avon Theatre. I couldn’t wait to see this personal favourite of mine on opening night! If you’re into fabulous music, comedy, steampunk design and magnificent casting (and really, who isn’t) you’re going to loooove this show!

Here’s a bit of what you can expect to see on stage:

More of your reviews from Pirates!
“I saw [The] Pirates of Penzance today and it was PHENOMENAL!!! It was the first play I’ve ever seen and my mum and I were fortunate enough to get seats 2nd row from the front. I’ve heard amazing things about the Festival but what I experienced today went WELLLLLL above and beyond my expectations. I will absolutely go back and bring all my friends and family with me!!” – Facebook

“#SSFPIRATES of PENZANCE is a GLORIOUS thing! See it now so you’ll have time to see it again & again b/c it’s extraordinary!” – Twitter

Saturday: The Matchmaker

On Saturday afternoon we launched our beautiful 60th season book, Stratford Behind the Scenes. If you haven’t had a chance to peruse it yet, you need to! Stratford Behind the Scenes explores the process of building a season, from choosing the playbill to set construction to performance. Filled with interviews, observations and breathtaking full-colour photography, this new coffee-table book will lead readers on a fascinating journey into corners of the Festival seldom seen by members of the public. Keep watching for the interactive digital version of this book filled with exclusive video footage from behind the scenes!

From the launch we were off to our last opening (at least for this month!), The Matchmaker. It has been a long time since I’ve heard an audience laugh like they did during this performance. I had read the patron reviews, so I knew The Matchmaker would be amazing, but you really have to see it to understand how good it is!

Here’s a sneak peek at this show! (Seana McKenna and Tom McCamus together on stage – perfection!)

More patron reviews from The Matchmaker!
“The Matchmaker is one of the best productions we’ve seen at the Festival, and we’ve see a lot! ” – Facebook

“I saw “The Matchmaker” on Friday night and it really should be on everyone’s must-see list this summer. The whole thing just sparkles with wit and humour!” – Facebook

“@stratfest LOVED #ssfMatchmaker was hilarious, definitely taking more friends & family 2 see it and it is an excuse to go again!!” – Twitter

I’m not sure whether to cheer or cry – perhaps a bit of both! Opening week is always a highlight for me, so it’s sad to see it end, but it’s also exciting to have the season in full swing!

Do you have any favourite opening week moments? Let us know in the comment box below!


Stratford Garden Festival giveaway!

By: Christi Rutledge

The Stratford Garden Festival is fast approaching!  This year, the theme of the festival is “Celebrating our Roots” – a perfect fit for the Festival as we celebrate 60 seasons of theatre in Stratford!  If you’ve never been toStratford before, or haven’t taken the time to view some of the spectacular horticulture in our city, you need to!

This four-day festival from March 1 to 4 features a ton of activities and beautiful displays. Landscapers will create gardens inspired by their choice of Canadian music as they interpret the 2012 theme, “Celebrating our Roots.”  The Festival will be creating a display that you won’t want to miss, as will seven other landscapers and groups. Every day there will be guest speakers talking about everything from growing your own food to the algae in your pond. (Click here for a complete list of guest speakers.) Other special events at the festival include a seniors’ day, a garden party and a family fun night.

We’re giving away six pairs of day pass tickets for you to come and enjoy the Garden Festival.  Be one of the first six people to comment below and name a flower or plant that Shakespeare refers to in his plays or poems, and you could win a ticket for yourself and a friend! We’ll announce the winners on Monday, February 27, on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. Winners will be able to pick up their tickets at the Festival Theatre Box Office.

Event times and location:
Thursday, March 1, 2012, noon to 5 p.m.
Friday, March 2, 2012, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 4, 2012, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Stratford Rotary Complex
353 McCarthy Road

Check back next week for a special promotion you’re going to want to take advantage of!

2012 T-Shirt Contest

By Aaron Kropf

This weekend the 2011 season comes to a close, with the exception of Jesus Christ Superstar which may have a long shelf life outside of Stratford. When one season ends that just means another season gears up, and the next season is a big one. 60 years for any institution is huge, and it’s exciting to be a part of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as it gears up to celebrate this milestone in 2012. As the designers, scene, prop, and costume builders slowly start making their way back to the Festival in the weeks and months ahead we in the social media world are preparing for some exciting things planned.

The first big event we have going on is the second Stratford Shakespeare Festival T-shirt Design Contest! Dayna Manning was the winner of the contest last year with this simple yet elegant design highlighting the Festival Theatre (available for purchase at the Theatre Store or online here). It was exciting to have someone originally from Stratford win the first design contest and look forward to seeing what comes in this year.

This contest will be quite similar to last season except we are going to give you a theme to use to create your t-shirt design instead of leaving it wide open as we did last season. For 2012 we would you create a design on the theme – Celebrating 60 years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. We challenge you to think about what Stratford means to you and how would you interpret that into a t-shirt design.

Once the contest is officially launched in a couple of weeks you’ll find all the details surrounding the contest include colour choices for the t-shirt is restrictions as to the number of colours you can use in your design.  We couldn’t be more excited about hosting this contest again and hope that you’ll be a part of it and celebrate 60 years of this amazing theatre.

Press Release: Twelfth Night going from stage to screen

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce the filming of the 2011 production of Twelfth Night, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff. The production will be screened exclusively at Cineplex and participating theatres across Canada in 2012.

The film will be produced and directed by Barry Avrich, who also produced the Festival’s films of Caesar and Cleopatra in 2008 and The Tempest in 2010.

“The nature of theatre is such that we practise our craft in the eternal present. After a production closes it lives only in our memory, but this is a rare opportunity to capture it in a more enduring medium,” says Mr. McAnuff.  “Twelfth Night has had an exuberant response from student and adult audiences all season long. In fact we had to add a performance to help meet the demand for tickets. I’m absolutely delighted that it will be the third production filmed during my tenure.”

“In the past few years we have developed a strong relationship with Cineplex, releasing filmed versions of our productions of Caesar and Cleopatra, The Tempest and now Twelfth Night,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “These screenings give people across Canada a taste of what we do here in Stratford and an opportunity to see some of this country’s finest artists at work.”

“This stunning production beautifully filled the stage with an unyielding energy that makes the transfer from stage to screen a natural rebirth,” says Mr. Avrich.

“Cineplex audiences overwhelmingly embraced both previous Stratford productions,” said Pat Marshall, Vice-President Communications and Investor Relations, Cineplex Entertainment.  “We are so pleased to once again feature this great Canadian institution and share Twelfth Night with our audiences across Canada.”

Twelfth Night features Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch, Stephen Ouimette as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Tom Rooney as Malvolio, Andrea Runge as Viola and Sara Topham as Olivia, with Ben Carlson as Feste, Trent Pardy as Sebastian, Cara Ricketts as Maria and Mike Shara as Orsino.

Production sponsors include Violet Productions, Richard Rooney and the Slaight Family Foundation.

The music of Twelfth Night, written by Mr. McAnuff and Michael Roth, has been released on CD and is also available for download on CD Baby.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 season runs until November 6, featuring Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Homecoming.

The Misanthrope – Paradox on stage

By: Christi Rutledge

The Misanthrope is nothing short of theatrical luxury. A stellar cast, some of the most beautiful set designs and costumes I have ever seen and rich language dripping with wit make the Festival’s production an absolute treat. What I love about this year’s production is that it’s about extremes: extreme hypocrisy, extreme honesty and extreme decadence. If you haven’t yet seen this classic comedy of manners, come for one of its last three performances on the Festival stage!

The incomparable Ben Carlson assumes the role of Alceste, the curmudgeonly social critic. Alceste cannot help but adore Célimène (played by Sara Topham), who is the essence of everything he detests. That is to say, she’s a terrible gossip and a flirt who relishes making her suitors laugh at the expense of their acquaintances. Alceste is determined to change his beloved’s ways – but can he succeed?

If you haven’t seen this production yet, or read the play, stop reading here (unless you’re prepared for a spoiler)! The ending is perhaps what sets The Misanthrope apart: instead of the more traditional conclusion of a marriage between the protagonists, Molière leaves his viewers with a sobering wake-up call after what feels like a great night of partying.

The production doesn’t end in a compromise; the tension between honesty and pretense remains strong right up to Alceste’s last speech.  Molière leaves us in a strange state of limbo: we are left to decide for ourselves who is in the right – if anyone. As an audience, we find it hard to know just who to side with.

What were you left feeling at the end of this production?  Let us know!

Here’s a taste of what you thought of The Misanthrope




By Aaron Kropf

Family. One simple word that means so much. A word that stirs up emotion. An idea that brings up a different set of emotions for each of us. Not only does the word family evoke thoughts of our own families and what it each member means to you but it brings to the forefront of our minds families that we have seen on stage and screen. This season alone we have seen several different families.  On the Festival stage we have a few different family dynamics going on in Camelot. Twelfth Night presents the uniting of twins. Over at the Studio Theatre we saw the struggles of one woman in a close knit family in The Little Years. In The Grapes of Wrath the Joad family shows us what is means to stick together as a family in difficult times. Then we saw different families in Richard III and Titus Andronicus that brought a whole new meaning of family conflicts.

Then along came The Homecoming. This all male family might make us shine a whole new light on our own family. We consider our family because these men really teach us what it means to be dysfunctional.

This is really a family we would like to avoid, and The Homecoming presents a family that is different than many that we see on stage or screen.  The dynamic seems a little strange but when we look at each relation I’m sure it’s something we can all connect to.  What makes watching the action on the stage so uncomfortable is that we are so present.  It’s voyeurism to the extreme because it feels as though we are sitting in the room with everyone because of the incredible set design.

As it is with the word “Family” different reactions and thoughts come out of viewing The Homecoming. It’s interesting to hear from each of you what you were thinking when watching. Cara Ricketts talks about her views on the show in this video created earlier in the year. Her perspective in so unique because she is the only woman in the show, which makes this so interesting:

What’s your take on this unique show?

Press Release: Broadway beckons: Jesus Christ Superstar to open at the Neil Simon Theater on March 22, 2012

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is thrilled to announce that its production of Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, will commence a Broadway run this spring.

The New York production of Jesus Christ Superstar will open at the Neil Simon Theatre on Thursday, March 22, 2012, with previews beginning Thursday, March 1.

Dodger Properties and the Really Useful Group will present the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

“I have wanted to do Jesus Christ Superstar for quite a long time,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “I’m extremely pleased to be able to stage the piece with the company of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I am even more pleased to be able to go with them back to La Jolla Playhouse, which I still consider an important home. We will all be very excited to go from there on to New York.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Festival,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Des’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar has delighted audiences here all season long. Now, as it heads for Broadway by way of La Jolla, it will raise our international profile and entice new audiences to come and experience more of our work in Stratford.”

The Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar opened in Stratford on June 3 and will run through November 6. Following that, it will play La Jolla Playhouse from November 18 to December 31.

The Toronto Star called Jesus Christ Superstar “the best show you’ll see this year,” while The Globe and Mail said, “This production is an absolute miracle.”

“A sparkly production literally pulsing with life,” wrote the Toronto Sun; and Variety enthused, “McAnuff has managed to come up with a vision that is faithful to the original but manages to make it seem fresh to an audience in 2011.”

A number of Stratford productions have gone on to New York over the years, including 2002’s King Lear, with Christopher Plummer in the title role; 1998’s The Miser and Much Ado About Nothing; 1996’s Barrymore; 1994’s The Molière Comedies; 1983’s The Mikado; and 1956’s Tamburlaine the Great. The 2009 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and featuring Brian Bedford, inspired a Broadway run this year, as did the 1994 production of Timon of Athens, directed by Michael Langham with Mr. Bedford in the title role.