Celebrate 60 at the Festival one more time!

by Lisa Middleton

We can’t believe that there are only ten days left in our 2012 season – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to join us for one or two last hoorahs! With 25 performances left, you can enjoy one of these brilliant 60th season productions: The Matchmaker, Much Ado About Nothing, 42nd Street, The Pirates of Penzance and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

There’s always something special about the final performances of a run – the energy is great. I love coming to these performances to see how a show matures over the season, and I am always pleasantly surprised. Since it will be five long months until I see another production on the Festival’s stages, I always make sure I soak up every last second of the fun!

Here are a few of the moments I am excited to experience one last time before we bid our 60th season adieu on October 28.

  1. Taking my daughter to see You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown one last time!  We’ve become Peanuts-obsessed at chez Middleton this season!

  2. Enjoying a performance of The Matchmaker on October 25 with our fabulous social media followers. Want to join us? Click here to get $20.12 tickets and to join me and our Social Marketing Coordinator, Christi Rutledge, at our pre-show reception – good food, good friends and lots of laughs thanks to The Matchmaker!

  3. Getting to meet those “dancing feet” again! I love a good musical and I love tap dancing, and the cast of 42nd Street deliver both amazingly well.

  4. Watching real-life married couple Ben Carlson and Deb Hay fall in love on stage as the feuding foes Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

  5. Listening to the wonderfully funny songs of The Pirates of Penzance ! I’ll be there tomorrow with my daughter – if you’re in the audience I’d love to meet you at intermission, just tweet to me at @stratfest!

There’s still time before the curtain closes, folks! I’ll see you at the theatre!

p.s. If you’re not able to make it, you still have 10 days to enjoy all of the wonderful production footage we have posted on our YouTube channel!

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Backstage at the Festival – Part II!

by Lisa Middleton

AHOY, MATEY!  Cap’n Lisa Middleton here fer’yer backstage voyage – part two!

Earlier this season we took you on a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, if you missed the first part of the tour catch up here. It’s time to finish the tour, so let’s pick up where we left off…

The bijoux room! We have an incredibly talented group of people working to create all of the beautiful jewelry and ornamentation that you see on stage – from earrings, to rings, to necklaces, to the fine details that you see on hats, gloves and hairpieces!

And we have just about everything a girl could wish for when it comes to earrings!

Gigantic ring, anyone? And believe me, there are lots more!

Sorry. Button break! Let’s move on!

One of my favourite places backstage is the millinery room! When we say that we do it all here in Stratford, we really mean it! From the heels of the boots to the feathers on top of the hats, we’re making it all in-house – sized to fit!

Do you recognize these hats from Pirates and 42nd Street ?

I tried my hand in the dye room – a vat of vino? Nope, we’re cooking t-shirts today!

And the finished product:

 See if you can recognize any of the shoes from our 2012 season in the photos below:

I thought I would try making a pair of shoes… they kicked me out pretty quickly!

Gorgeous…  When can they custom-make me a pair?

Let’s move back to the prop shop!

So lifelike – and yet, no odour!

Served on a silver platter twice weekly at the Harmonia Gardens Hotel, on the set of The Matchmaker!
 If only this were made of actual silver.  Then I’d be in the money!

Our properties assistants are amazing at making something that looks very heavy feel very light! Ahhh, the magic of theatre!

The ladies of 42nd Street are oh-so syncrohnized in the “Dames” scene!  Me, not so much.
Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “a pat on the back.”

These shields from Cymbeline are built for battle – and they’re heavy. Kudos to the actors who carry them!

One of my favourite props from the season is this steampunk-inspired “boat” from The Pirates of Penzance!

And that brings us to end of the tour – and the end for this unfortunate fellow, as well!
Thanks for joining me backstage at the Festival! Don’t forget to come see all of these amazing pieces on stage before they’re gone forever!

Have you been backstage at the Festival before?

Festival Theatre magic – for just $35!

by Lisa Middleton

One of the (many) amazing things about the Festival is the variety of shows that theatregoers get to experience.  In the span of two days, you can see four different productions on the very same stage – where else does that happen?! This season, 42nd Street (a splashy tap musical), Henry V (a powerful Shakespearean history play), The Matchmaker (a delicious farcical romp) and Much Ado About Nothing (one of Shakespeare’s  high comedies) can all been seen on the Festival stage within a span of forty-eight hours!

I love seeing the stage transform from

This…  To this…

To this…

To this…

With every changeover, you step into another world!

Join us between August 19 and September 1 and see any show at the Festival Theatre (or all of them) for just $35!* Hurry, this great offer expires on September 1!

To order tickets, follow these simple instructions:

1) Log into our website or Stratford Social Ticketing on our Facebook page with promotion code 45461 (or create an account and log in with the same promotion code)
2)  Select any performance of 42nd Street, Henry V, The Matchmaker or Much Ado About Nothing between August 19 and September 1, 2012
3) Choose “$35 Festival Theatre” as the price type and select your seats in A, B or C seating zones
4) Check out
5) Enjoy the show!

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances or in conjunction with any other promotion, including SSP, Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Promotion is available online through our website or Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Offer is only valid for productions on the Festival Theatre stage from August 19 to September 1.  Promotion ends on September 1. Some conditions apply.

Beat the heat with our midsummer sale!

by Lisa Middleton

“My Oberon! what visions have I seen!/ Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.” — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Does this hot weather have you seeing crazy things? Then it’s time to get out of the sun with the Festival’s midsummer sale! What better way to beat this heat than with $39 tickets* to selected shows between now and August 4!

Join us on any of the dates below at this special summer rate!

 Here’s how to place your order!
  1. Log into our website with promotion code 44972
  2. Select any performance from the list above on our calendar
  3. Once you’ve selected a date, ensure you have the “promotion” price type selected from the drop-down menu
  4. Select your seats
  5. Complete your orderOR

Purchase your tickets using Stratford Social Ticketing on our Facebook page!

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances or in conjunction with any other promotion, including SSP, Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Promotion is available through our website and through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Some conditions apply.

Beyond the Stage: Star Talks ‘Cynthia Dale xo’

by Madeleine Brown

I am not one of those giddy fans.

Well, maybe I am… when Cynthia Dale is the star in question.

I arrive “just in time” (“late” is such a negative word) at the Festival Theatre Lobby for Star Talks: in-person interviews by the Toronto Star’s Chief Theatre Critic, Richard Ouzounian, with Festival company members.

The chairs arranged around the Lobby stage in the Festival Theatre are filled. The chairs from the Lobby Café are filled. The space that is not occupied with chairs is filled. Adults, teenagers, and children.

Cameras flash from the audience—even Mr. Ouzounian has his. I wish I hadn’t been too embarrassed to bring mine.

Ms Dale enters in white. The audience applauds. A man whistles. I grin.

I promise I am not one of those giddy fans.

From my seat in the back row I’m only a few feet from Ms Dale and Mr. Ouzounian. I’m delighted: such an event would usually occur in a distant radio or television studio. However, in this case the only thing separating me from a Stratford leading lady and a top theatre critic is a couple of rows of chairs.

The pair has known each other for 35 years, or as Mr. Ouzounian describes it, since “she had cheeks… when she was a child.” Their close relationship is reflected in the interview, which is casual and conversational. Mr. Ouzounian’s questions are in-depth and honest. They discuss Ms Dale’s time away from the Festival and what it is like for her now returning as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. Ms Dale reminisces about stepping onto the Festival Stage for the first time and being reduced to tears at last season’s production of Camelot (Ms Dale played Guenevere in the 1997 production).

Mr. Ouzounian’s questions nicely lead into an audience Q&A period. My fellow audience members ask, “Would you ever go on Mansbridge One on One?” (the host, Peter Mansbridge, is Ms Dale’s husband), “How old is your son?” and “How do you manage to keep bumping into C. David Johnson?” (the pair most famously worked together on the television series Street Legal, as well as in the Festival production of The Sound of Music). Without a moment’s hesitation, Ms Dale graciously answers the questions. The atmosphere in the room is reminiscent of old friends catching up after years passed.

As it must, the talk eventually wraps up. I’m on my way out when I notice a discarded 42nd Street program on a Lobby Café table. My eyes dart back to the Lobby stage. Ms Dale is still there. She takes pictures with fans and gives autographs.

I hesitate.

Just for a second.

I grab the program, sprint to Ms Dale and hand her my pen.

She signs, “Cynthia Dale xo.”

When I get home I display the program on the top shelf of my bookcase.

Star Talks is a series of interviews by the Toronto Star’s Chief Theatre Critic, Richard Ouzounian, with selected company members, followed by audience Q&A periods. They occur after Sunday matinée performances in the Festival Theatre Lobby. Mr. Ouzounian will interview Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay, who play Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, on July 29 and will also interview Christopher Plummer on August 26 in the Avon Theatre (auditorium) following his closing performance.

If you like Star Talks you may also enjoy Exhibition Talks, Festival Friday Chats, and Meet the Festival.

Festival marks anniversary with opening of Henry V

July 9, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival continues to mark its 60th season this week with the world premières of three Canadian plays and the opening of Artistic Director Des McAnuff’s production of Henry V. The Festival has been heralded recently throughout North America as a top destination for travel and culture, giving it even more reason to celebrate.

Henry V, featuring Aaron Krohn in the title role, will open on Friday, July 13, the Festival’s anniversary. Wednesday sees the opening of Wanderlust, a new musical commissioned by the Festival from Morris Panych and Marek Norman, based on the poetry of Robert Service. Daniel MacIvor’s new play The Best Brothers, workshopped at the Festival and directed by Associate Artistic Director Dean Gabourie, opens Thursday afternoon, followed that evening by Hirsch, which celebrates the life and career of former Artistic Director John Hirsch. Developed at Stratford over the past three years, Hirsch was created and conceived by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson.

“One of my proudest achievements at the Festival is to have mounted a celebratory 60th season that features Canadian works in such abundance,” says Mr. McAnuff, who concludes his tenure as Artistic Director at the end of 2012 and was recently appointed to the Order of Canada. “Fully 50 per cent of the productions on our playbill this year are written by Canadians. They represent an enormous range of dramatic genres, showcasing the talent that has developed in Canada’s rich theatrical landscape since the founding of the Festival 60 years ago.”

“This second round of openings heralds the beginning of the summer season in Stratford,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino, who has been named the Festival’s next Artistic Director. “We have recently been showcased as a top destination by a number of influential media outlets, establishing even further the appeal of this idyllic city. We hope people recognize what an ideal vacation spot Stratford is and include a visit to the Festival in their holiday plans. This year’s productions have won critical acclaim across the board and have been delighting audiences since the season began in April.”

Inspired by the success of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, The New York Times visited Stratford this spring and trumpeted the joys of the city and the Festival in its travel section in June. NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. has chosen to include Stratford in a feature of five significant cultural destinations in North America, the only one in Canada. Frommer’s included Stratford as a Top 10 Canadian Summer Vacation Destination; Reader’s Digest featured Stratford in its Top 10 Canadian Road Trips; and Trip Advisor named Stratford one of Canada’s Top 10 Cultural Destinations. Stratford has also been chosen as an iconic Canadian experience for travel writer Robin Esrock’s upcoming book The Great Canadian Bucket List.

Next to open this season is A Word or Two, written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer, which is being presented as a special 60th season event. Directed by Mr. McAnuff, the production, which begins previews on July 25 and opens August 2, is an autobiographical journey through the literature that has stirred the actor’s imagination since youth. Mr. Plummer, who this year won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Beginners, is one of the Festival’s most lauded alumni, first appearing at Stratford in 1956 in the title role of Henry V. This will be the third collaboration between Mr. Plummer and Mr. McAnuff at the Festival; their first two projects, Caesar and Cleopatra, in which Mr. Plummer played Julius Caesar, and The Tempest, in which he played Prospero, have also been captured on film for cinematic release.

The season’s final offering, Sophokles’ Elektra, translated by Canadian poet Anne Carson, will open August 11, featuring Yanna McIntosh in the title role and Seana McKenna as Clytemestra.

In addition to Henry V, the season features two other Shakespeares – Cymbeline, directed by Mr. Cimolino, which is being praised as one of the finest ever productions of this challenging classic, and Much Ado About Nothing. Three musicals are also on stage – 42nd Street, The Pirates of Penzance, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – as well as Thornton Wilder’s comedy The Matchmaker, which is being hailed as the feel-good show of the year. The War of 1812, by Canadian playwright Michael Hollingsworth, opened on Canada Day, and MacHomer, created and performed by Rick Miller, enjoyed a limited engagement at Stratford in May.

The Festival marked its 60th season by publishing Stratford Behind the Scenes, a full-colour book that reveals the complexities of season planning and captures the superb artistry carried out by the Festival’s costumes, props, sets and wigs departments. An ebook of Stratford Behind the Scenes will be launched this summer.

An archival exhibition, Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is open to the public daily at 104 Downie Street, across from the Avon Theatre. It features costumes, unique artefacts and props, plus rare footage and new interviews with key players in the Festival’s history

Since its founding 60 years ago, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has welcomed more than 25 million visitors. Originally conceived as an economic stimulus for the community, the Festival now generates about $140 million in economic activity annually. It employs 1,000 people and creates 3,000 full-year jobs.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season runs until October 28. To purchase tickets, visit www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com or call 1.800.567.1600.

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!