Twelfth Night: Where worlds collide!

By Christi Rutledge

I’m not sure if I’ve ever enjoyed a production of Twelfth Night so much. It was so engaging, funny, fresh, and the music blew me away.  Most scenes take place around a sporting event or some leisure activity – the perfect venue for the characters in Twelfth Night to – quite literally – play around in.  I don’t think anything could replace the pleasure of seeing Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Stephen Ouimette) and Sir Toby Belch (Brian Dennehy) zoom on stage in a golf cart.  I lied – maybe one thing might be better, and that is seeing Mr. Ouimette moonwalk as he prides himself in saying that he has “the back-trick simply as strong as any man in Illyria.” (Twelfth Night I.iii)

Check out this clip to see some fabulous dancing:

I am sure you all noticed that this production doesn’t look like “traditional” Shakespeare. For all of the skeptics, check out this great video clip of our Artistic Director and Twelfth Night director, Des McAnuff, explaining why this production of Twelfth Night just couldn’t be earthbound!

This eclecticism is perhaps best marked by the great variety of original music that has been built into the production. The lyrics are Shakespeare’s own words – as well as a few penned by Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh – and the score invokes all the musical greats of the past 60 years. It is a fabulous collection of the old and the new that highlights just how much Shakespeare’s works resonate with our culture today. Check out the closing number of the production and see how his words have been fused together with a new tune!

If you want to take home the soundtrack to this production, check out our Twelfth Night CD.  (I’m listening to mine right now!)

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The Pinter Pause

Many elements come together when we put on a production, most obviously the work of the actors, directors, designers and crew. But sometimes it’s the absence of something that gives an effect its particular power.

Light and darkness, movement and stillness, sound and silence each gain significance from their counterparts. A stage bathed in light all the time would afford no opportunity for the emphasis created by a single spotlight. The same is true of silence; without it, meaningful moments would be lost in a general wash of sound.

This is particularly true of the plays of Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, whose famous “Pinter pauses” have given new meaning to the importance of silence. Pauses run through all of Pinter’s work – and they occur in The Homecoming a whopping 224 times.

The “Pinter pause” is typically found partway through a line of speech. It’s not a prolonged or pregnant pause of the kind that’s often used to draw attention to a particular moment. Rather, it’s a brief pause that’s used to reflect the natural rhythm of speech. It represents the moment for thought that we all take in our daily conversations, when we pause and consider what it is we want to say.

As The Homecoming is the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s first foray into the works of Harold Pinter, why not take the opportunity to go to the Avon Theatre this season and see what the “Pinter pause” is all about? Perhaps while you’re watching, something will give you pause for thought.

As a side note, this the second time director Jennifer Tarver and actor Brian Dennehy have worked together at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. They first teamed up in 2008, when Ms Tarver directed Mr. Dennehy in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape as part of a double bill at the Studio Theatre. Which brings us to a connection between these two and Harold Pinter. Check out this video to see what that connection is:

The video is Harold Pinter performing Krapp’s Last Tape.

Press Release: Jesus Christ Superstar extended by one week

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce the extension of its production of Jesus Christ Superstar, helmed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff. The Festival has added eight performances between November 1 and 6, extending the 2011 season by one week.
“It’s a testament to the work that we do and the talent we’ve assembled that this production has received such positive response,” says Mr. McAnuff. “And it’s extremely gratifying to have praise come from the highest quarters with lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber attending the show and offering their support. We’re very pleased to be able to give people additional opportunities to see this production at the end of our season.”
Jesus Christ Superstar has been thrilling audiences and critics since it first previewed in May,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “It’s been a tremendous success for the Festival this season, and the demand for tickets is so strong that we wanted to ensure that everyone gets a chance to see this truly remarkable piece of theatre.”
Immediately following the run the production will transfer to the La Jolla Playhouse in California, where it will play from November 18 – December 31.
Tickets will go on sale for the extension period to the General Public on Monday, July 25 at 9 a.m. Festival Members will have access to these tickets starting on Saturday, July 23 at 9 a.m. To order tickets, contact the Box Office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit http://www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com, where the new performances have been added to the online calendar.

Press Release: Jesus Christ Superstar to move to La Jolla Playhouse

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that its hit production of Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, is moving to La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego this November.

Lyricist Tim Rice and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber both gave the production high praise after seeing it earlier this month and the production received glowing reviews across the board.

The Globe and Mail raved, “This production is an absolute miracle,” while the Toronto Star called it “the best show you’ll see this year.” “A sparkling 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.”

Jesus Christ Superstar will play at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre from November 18 to December 31.

“Given my long, happy and fruitful history with La Jolla Playhouse, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of this collaboration between our two great theatres,” says Mr. McAnuff. “The pride I take in the magnificent work being done by our Festival artists in Jesus Christ Superstar is matched by my deep appreciation to La Jolla for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase that work to an audience of which I am very fond – an audience that, like Stratford’s, is accustomed to enjoying some of the finest theatre in the world.”

“We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to share this production with La Jolla Playhouse audiences,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Jesus Christ Superstar has created a huge buzz in the media and the show has become one of our hottest tickets. It’s a pleasure to work with our colleagues in La Jolla to take this ‘Superstar’ on the road.”

“We are absolutely overjoyed to showcase the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s stunning revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on our stage,” says Christopher Ashley, the Artistic Director for La Jolla Playhouse. “We have been looking for an opportunity to bring Des back home to the Playhouse, and this project was perfect in every way. I can’t wait to share this critically acclaimed production of this classic rock musical with our audiences.”

Set as an epic rock concert, this sensational new production of the ground-breaking rock opera features Paul Nolan as Jesus, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Tony Award winner Brent Carver as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod and Mike Nadajewski as Peter.

In addition to Mr. McAnuff as Director, the creative team includes Choreographer Lisa Shriver, Musical Director Rick Fox, Set Designer Robert Brill, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Video Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis, Dramaturge Chad Sylvain, Fight Director Daniel Levinson, Aerial Stunt Coordinator Simon Fon, Associate Choreographer Bradley “Shooz” Rapier, Associate Musical Director Laura Burton, Assistant Director Lezlie Wade and Assistant Choreographer Marc Kimelman.

Before joining the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as Artistic Director, Mr. McAnuff was Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994 and 2001 to 2007 and is now Director Emeritus. A two-time Tony Award-winning director, Mr. McAnuff received an honorary doctorate in June from his alma mater, Ryerson University in Toronto.

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is one of the most respected not-for-profit theatres in the U.S. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including Jersey Boys, Big River, The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, and The Farnsworth Invention, all of which were directed by Mr. McAnuff.

Why The Grapes of Wrath?

The Great Depression is one of the most documented times in human history. The photos from that era are etched in all of our minds: the faces, the destruction, the devastation and, of course, the dust all over the place. If we are all familiar with these people and the struggles they have faced, why should or would anyone want to see this on stage?

On the surface, The Grapes of Wrath is a story about the struggles of people in a difficult time in American history. The Depression is an era that everyone knows about: we’ve seen the photos and heard the stories from parents or grandparents that experienced it. The faces of those people are etched in each of our minds. But The Grapes of Wrath is more than that; it’s a story of perseverance, overcoming obstacles, the strengthening of families and, most importantly, hope. If the Joad family were lacking in any of these traits, this would indeed be a story difficult to swallow and a challenge to watch on stage.

Frank Galati took Steinbeck’s masterpiece and made it into a piece of theatre that maintains the traits mentioned above. Hope, the greatest of these, is evident in Ma (Janet Wright), who, despite the hardships, encourages her family to soldier on and finish the journey to California – and who, once there, provides for the family by bringing their spirits up. Without that hope and determination, I’m sure The Grapes of Wrath would quite a different story.

As part of the rehearsal process, the company had the opportunity to talk to some migrant workers. In this video clip Antoni Cimolino (director), Tom McCamus (Jim Casy) and Evan Buliung (Tom Joad) talk a bit about their time with the migrant workers and what they learned from them:

Why stage The Grapes of Wrath? It’s a story we are all familiar with. It’s relevant to our time. It gives us hope and shows that even when things might look their bleakest, we can still get through. We’ll get through with the help of those we have surrounded ourselves with. Come to Stratford and experience the trials, tribulations and survival of Ma, Pa, Tom and the rest of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, playing at the Avon Theatre until June 1.

Come see The Grapes of Wrath June 4 or 7 for $39. Include A, B and C seating and the tickets must be purchased online. When ordering include promotion code 38784

Guest Blogger #1 – Show Time

Hey, my name is BC; I’ve always had a love and appreciation for music since a young age. I started playing guitar when I was about 13 years old. I was very influenced by Rock/Alternative music, so you could always find me learning and playing other artists’ songs.

That love carried on into my college years, when I went from just being interested in playing guitar to wanting to pursue audio production and engineering. Although I was influenced by Rock/Alternative music, Hip Hop also inspired me as well. I got my first beat-making program, as well as ProTools, and started to create instrumentals to record over. At this time I formed my record label/project recording studio, GAME Records.

As I got more familiar with the recording aspect of music, I wanted to learn how to make my productions sonically better. I enrolled in the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe College, where I got to advance my engineering and production skills.

After graduation, I branched out and started to record and mix other artists’ material, and from word of mouth I expanded to work with more and more local artists. Even though I freelance, my biggest goal is to work in a recording facility where I’ll be able to expand my techniques and skills with more experienced professionals and better equipment.

After I was approached to work on “Show Time,” I was responsible for writing the verses for Twelfth Night and Titus Andronicus. It was a tough process to write the verses because I wanted to make sure I explained each play as best as I could in such a short amount of time. I wanted to make sure I provided some detail on each play to spark interest, but at the same time I didn’t want to give away the play either.

While writing both of my verses, I wanted to make sure that I included some of the characters’ names and the title of each play, for example: “Shipwrecked twins take the stage for the Twelfth Night, Viola foolin’ everybody although it’s in plain sight.” “A bloodthirsty saga of Tamora and her story, seeking vengeance for the murder of her son, Titus Andronicus leads a battle with his loved ones.” It took me a while to word each of my verses the way I wanted them, but in the end I was very happy and proud of what I came up with.

I hope everyone will check out and download the song from iTunes, and if you’d like to hear more material from GAME Records or myself, visit www.gamerecords.ca.

You can down load the song on iTunes.

The video created by the staff at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival can be seen on our YouTube channel. Create a video and share it on our Facebook page or post on YouTube with the tag “Stratford Show Time” to get a pair of tickets to a show this season.

Press Release: Stratford Joins National CULTURE DAYS Campaign

 Stratford Joins National CULTURE DAYS Campaign Communities Across the Country Unveil Plans for Second Annual Canada-Wide Celebration of Arts and Culture

Annual event inspires creators and public to discover and share in the creativity of communities from coast to coast to coast

The second annual Culture Days campaign launches today. This grassroots Canada-wide movement aims to raise awareness, participation and engagement in the arts and cultural life of our communities. More than 300 activity organizers in 122 cities and towns across the country have already pre-registered to take part in this year’s Culture Days weekend on September 30, October 1 and 2, 2011. The cross-Canada celebration represents the largest-ever collective public participation campaign undertaken by the arts and cultural community in this country.

“Culture Days aims to foster appreciation and support of the artistic and cultural life that is lived, created and expressed across the country,” says Stratford Shakespeare Festival General Director, and Culture Days National Chair, Antoni Cimolino. “This event is a fantastic opportunity for Stratford to show off its local artistic talent and cultural vitality while being a part of a national celebration. Best of all, it gives the citizens of Stratford the opportunity to explore their own creativity.”

Last September, Ontarians participated in 930 free Culture Days activities that took place in more than 160 towns and cities across the province including 49 activities that happened in Stratford. Plans for 2011 Culture Days in Stratford are already underway and include interactive arts workshops, story telling events, visual arts showcases and concerts throughout the county and in St Marys. Hermione Presents, a collective of performing and creative artists, will return with Culture Days for Schools and What’s on the Burner?, a  tasting of new works by regional writers and performers.

“Grassroots movements like Culture Days provide encouragement for everyone’s participation in culture,” says Warren Garrett, Chair of the volunteer task force for Ontario Culture Days. “They shine a spotlight on how arts and heritage enrich our lives and build important partnerships and collaborations in our communities.

The inaugural Culture Days celebration was held in September 2010 over three days in more than 700 Canadian cities and towns of all sizes. Today’s announcements across the country will call on the arts and cultural community to build upon last year’s success.  Once again free, hands-on, interactive activities will invite the public to participate “behind the scenes” and discover the world of artists, creators, historians, architects, curators, and designers at work in their communities

Interested artists and organizations can register online at www.culturedays.ca. Those who register activities will benefit from a national marketing and communications campaign as well as access to free materials to help promote their activities within their communities. New online tools will help the public find activities in their neighbourhoods as well as plan their Culture Days weekend. Provincial micro-sites offer news and informatiotailored to specific regions while an online calendar/planning tool can help plan and organize your Culture Days weekend.

To follow the development of the celebration, learn more about the Culture Days movement or to register an activity please visit www.culturedays.ca. For regular updates, please ‘follow’ @CultureDays on Twitter, ‘like’ Culture Days on Facebook and sign up for the e-newsletter.  Get all the latest Ontario news and activity highlights at www.on.culturedays.ca

Culture Days in Ontario is supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Government of Ontario.