Press Release | Stratford Festival sees largest jump in attendance since 1999

November 20, 2013… With a ticket sales increase of 11% – the largest since 1999 – the Festival regained valuable ground in 2013, exceeding the season’s goals. Attendance reached more than 480,000, generating revenue from ticket sales of $29.7 million. Though it’s very early days, the trend seems to be continuing with advance sales to Members up 11% for 2014.

In addition to being a smashing success at the box office, Antoni Cimolino’s first season as Artistic Director was also a huge critical success, winning acclaim from critics almost across the board. Five of the season’s 12 productions were extended to meet the demand for tickets, including Mr. Cimolino’s sold-out production of Mary Stuart, which was extended an unprecedented four times.

“We feel we’ve made a great start in turning things around,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney, reflecting on her first season as the Festival’s top administrator. “Antoni programmed an amazing season featuring repertoire with great appeal to our audiences and we implemented a number of initiatives to encourage longer visits, draw new audience members and bring back lapsed patrons. I’m relieved and delighted these initiatives resonated with people and succeeded on so many fronts.”

The new Forum was enormously popular, attracting nearly 30,000 people to the 150 events held throughout the 2013 season. The Forum was conceived to make a visit to the Festival a more immersive experience, giving theatregoers an opportunity to more deeply explore and discuss the themes of the plays. Figures show that 47% of those who attended The Forum bought more performance tickets than they did the previous year. In addition to accomplishing its goal of solidifying the Festival’s relationship with existing patrons, The Forum also attracted a new audience, with 13% of overall attendance coming to the Festival expressly for Forum events. (As The Forum was designed to enhance the Stratford experience, it was budgeted as a break-even project. Neither the $340,000 it generated in revenue nor its attendance numbers are included in the figures quoted above.)

“We are so pleased to see attendance growing once more,” says Mr. Cimolino, “but what has been even more gratifying is our audience’s response to the season. Time and again, people have come to me to thank me for creating an experience that stimulates them not just emotionally but intellectually and spiritually as well; for presenting plays they aren’t able to see elsewhere; and for providing them with a place to discuss the productions through The Forum. To hear that we’re heading in a positive direction and then to see that reflected at the box office makes our work all the more rewarding as we prepare for 2014.”

Growth was seen across the board, with the following notable increases:

  • Lapsed patrons (who have not attended in five years) up 76%.
  • New customers up 46%.
  • School sales up 20%.
  • U.S. attendance up 8% – the first increase since it began to decline in 2003.
  • Canadian attendance up 13%.

In 2013, a number of new initiatives were introduced to make the Festival more accessible to a broader section of the population and to allow a greater number of people to see multiple performances, giving them a richer experience.

“We wanted to make the Festival as accessible as possible,” says Ms Gaffney. “To that end, we introduced the bus between Toronto and Stratford, which not only brought more people to the Festival but also made it easier for people to make multiple visits.

“We also extended special ticket savings as soon as our box office opened rather than waiting to offer last-minute discounts. As a result we saw an increase in the number of shows patrons were attending, as well as an increase in the number of new and returning patrons. There was also an additional benefit: in recent years we had observed a trend toward last-minute ticket purchases, but this year we were encouraged to see slightly earlier buying behaviour. We will be adding to our incentives to bolster these trends.”

The new Stratford Direct bus service running twice daily from Toronto at a price of just $20 round trip was a huge success. Roughly 15,000 people used the service, and they bought $1 million worth of tickets. As hoped, the bus helped attract new patrons – 53% of those riding the bus had not been to the Festival before. It also lured a number of patrons back to the Festival: 13% of riders had not attended in two or more years. Inspired by this success, the Festival is launching a bus service from Detroit three times a week in 2014.

The Festival introduced two-for-one Tuesdays in 2013. This incentive provided an opportunity for almost 12,000 additional people to attend a performance at the Festival, and 32% of people who took advantage of the two-for-one offer were first-time visitors. The offer drove a 30% increase in Tuesday attendance, along with a 6% increase in Tuesday revenue over 2012. As a result of its success, the program will be extended to include Thursdays in 2014.

The Festival also started a loyalty program in 2013, which featured special acknowledgements, perks and selected incentives for its best customers. People targeted by the program purchased $3.7 million more in tickets than they did the previous year.

Meanwhile, existing incentives also saw increased sales, including Play On, which offers 16- to 29-year-olds $25 tickets to selected performances – up 57% – and the Family Experience, which offers $36 tickets to children 18 and younger attending with an adult – up 39%.

In addition to extending two-for-one Tuesdays and adding the Detroit bus, the Festival is introducing the following programs and incentives:

  • Playcare, a weekend afternoon babysitting service for children 4 to 10 years old, offered through the Stratford Y at just $15.
  • A family concierge in the Avon lobby to assist with children’s needs.
  • Sundays with the Bard, $45 tickets for Sunday matinées of King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival Theatre.
  • The Dream Deal, a $99 advance purchase package with tickets to both Chris Abraham’s and Peter Sellars’s versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • The Lucky 29 ticket lottery, sponsored by Sun Life Financial, offering $29 balcony seats to non-musicals at the Festival and Avon theatres.
  • Teacher Ticket Deals, offering discounts for teachers to preview plays for student attendance or enjoy a performance on their own.

The 2013 attendance figure of 480,232 represents an 11% increase over 2012’s attendance of 432,240. In 2011, attendance dipped below 500,000 for the first time in almost 20 years, hitting 455,044.

Tickets for the 2014 season went on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on November 11. Sales to the general public begin on January 4. For more information, or to place an order, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.

The 2014 season runs from April 21 to October 12, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 150 events in The Forum.

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Friedrich Schiller’s political thriller Mary Stuart starts previews

May 3, 2013… Examining the power struggle between two legendary monarchs, Mary Stuart offers a timely exploration of the often dangerous relationship between religion and politics. Directed by the Festival’s Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, Friedrich Schiller’s gripping historical drama, in a new version by Peter Oswald, begins previews on Friday, May 3, at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

For the first time since 2005’s Fallen Angels, two of the Festival’s most celebrated leading women – Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock – will be sharing the stage. Ms Peacock will play the title role opposite Ms McKenna as Elizabeth I. The cast also features Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

This will be the first production directed by Mr. Cimolino since taking over as Artistic Director this season. A celebrated director, he has been at the helm of many of the Festival’s most successful productions, including last year’s hauntingly beautiful Cymbeline. Mary Stuart promises to be a highlight of this season as well, with a quarter of the performances already sold out.

“I have selected a season that I hope will touch both the hearts and minds of our audiences, not only engaging them emotionally but also provoking discussion and debate,” says Mr. Cimolino. “A story about religious extremism, fanatics willing to die for their God, gender politics and a society struggling to find its way to democracy, Mary Stuart serves as a bridge that connects the England of 1587 with the German states of 1800 and with any monotheistic nation in 2013.”

Mary Stuart, former Queen of Scots, is imprisoned in England because her very existence poses a political and personal risk to her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth I. As Elizabeth hesitates over decreeing her rival’s fate, Mary pleads for a face-to-face meeting, and we see how religion can become a tool in the hands of cynical politicians who are willing to sacrifice lives in the supposed interests of the state.

“It’s a great enlightenment play,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I think the point Schiller is trying to make is that it is human to become intolerant – and even to take a force for good, like religion, and twist it. It’s not that you doubt the belief of the people who believe; you just doubt the aims of the people who are telling them who their enemies are and what to do.”

The production’s artistic team includes Designer Eo Sharp, Lighting Designer Steven Hawkins, Sound Designer Todd Charlton, Movement Coach Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

Mary Stuart Forum Highlights 

The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Mary Stuart will be explored through several Forum events, including: Dear Mary, Dear Elizabeth, in which cast members Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock present readings of real-life letters between the rival queens Elizabeth and Mary; Ascent of Women: A Remarkable Story of World-Wide Change, in which Sally Armstrong, journalist, author and three-time winner of the Amnesty International Media Award and a Member of the Order of Canada, discusses her latest book, Ascent of Women; and Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won, a talk and book signing by Barbara Kyle, author of Blood Between Queens, published in May 2013.

The Forum also includes events led by key cast members of Mary Stuart: Geraint Wyn Davies Presents… “Wordplay”: Becket, in which members of the company join Geraint Wyn Davies for a reading of Becket, Jean Anouilh’s historical drama about an earlier conflict in British history, and Late Night with Lucy, an after-hours cabaret with host Lucy Peacock and special guest performers.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Mary Stuart officially opens on May 31 and runs until September 21. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

Production support for Mary Stuart is generously provided by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, Drs. M.L. Myers & the late W.P. Hayman, Alice & Tim Thornton and Diana Tremain.

Support for the 2013 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, began May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommyBlithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Ensemble……………………………….        Sarah Afful

Officer #1/Sheriff………………………       Nigel Bennett

Amias Paulet……………………………        James Blendick

Ensemble……………………………….        Susie Burnett

Lord Burleigh…………………………..       Ben Carlson

Hanna Kennedy………………………..        Patricia Collins

Earl of Shrewsbury…………………….        Brian Dennehy

Ensemble……………………………….        Carmen Grant

O’Kelly…………………………………       Brad Hodder

Aubespine………………………………       Peter Hutt

Ensemble……………………………….        Ruby Joy

Officer #2/Page…………………………       Josue Laboucane

Mortimer………………………………..       Ian Lake

Elizabeth………………………………..       Seana McKenna

Mary Stuart……………………………..       Lucy Peacock

Earl of Kent…………………………….       Robert Persichini

Drury……………………………………       Christopher Prentice

Understudy……………………………..       Stephen Russell

Bellievre………………………………..        E.B. Smith

Ensemble……………………………….        Dorcas Sowunmi

Melvil……………………………………       Brian Tree

William Davison………………………..       Dylan Trowbridge

Earl of Leicester…………………………       Geraint Wyn Davies

Artistic Credits

Director…………………………………       Antoni Cimolino

Designer…………………………………       Eo Sharp

Lighting Designer………………………       Steven Hawkins

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

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

Fight Director…………………………..       John Stead

Producer…………………………………       David Auster

Casting Director………………………..        Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director……………..       Jason Miller

Assistant Director………………………       Birgit Schreyer Duarte

Assistant Set Designer………………….       Patrice Strate

Assistant Costume Designer……………       Kimberly Catton

Assistant Lighting Designer……………       Sarah Mansikka

Assistant Fight Directors……………….       Geoff Scovell, Anita Nittoly

Stage Manager………………………….       Anne Murphy

Assistant Stage Manager……………….       Holly Korhonen, Kristopher Weber

Apprentice Stage Manager……………..       Kenilee Kehler

Production Assistant……………………        Heather Bellingham

Production Stage Manager……………..       Janine Ralph

Technical Director………………………        Sean Hirtle

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Two performances of Taking Shakespeare added to meet demand

May 1, 2010… To meet the demand for tickets, the Stratford Festival is adding two performances of Taking Shakespeare, the John Murrell play featuring Martha Henry and Luke Humphrey, directed by Diana Leblanc.

The new performances have been scheduled for Saturday, September 14, at 8 p.m., and Wednesday, September 18, at 8 p.m. Taking Shakespeare begins previews on July 13 and runs until September 22, with the official opening set for July 30.

“John Murrell wrote the role of the Prof in Taking Shakespeare especially for Martha Henry, one of Canada’s most respected actors,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “This is the first opportunity theatre-goers will have to see her in the role, so it’s no wonder tickets are being snapped up.”

Taking Shakespeare explores the relationship between an aging and disenchanted professor whose career is on the wane and a struggling student, who is also the son of the university president. A chasm of difference lies between them, yet as they delve into the text of Othello together, they draw new strength from Shakespeare’s extraordinary insights.

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino programmed Taking Shakespeare as a complement to the 2013 production of Othello. In a season exploring a number of inter-connected themes, this is one example of how the playbill becomes more than the sum of its parts.

“By coupling these two plays, we offer our audiences an opportunity to make connections between one of the great classics and our life today, something that will allow the productions to resonate more deeply and personally with each patron,” says Mr. Cimolino.

Tickets for the additional performances of Taking Shakespeare, and all of the 2013 productions, are available by calling 1.800.567.1600 or visiting www.stratfordfestival.ca.

Production support for Taking Shakespeare is generously provided by Dr. David Goldbloom and Dr. Nancy Epstein.

Support for the 2013 season of the Studio Theatre is generously provided by Jane and Raphael Bernstein and Sandra and Jim Pitblado.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season features Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommyBlithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.

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Shakespeare as Shakespeare would have done it | Romeo and Juliet starts previews

May 1, 2013… One of Britain’s leading directors, Tim Carroll, returns to the Stratford Festival to present the most famous love story ever told. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers who risk everything to be together, begins previews on Wednesday, May 1, at the Festival Theatre.

A founding member of The Factory and Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1999 to 2005, Mr. Carroll has had a prolific career in theatre. He recently directed Mark Rylance – the Globe’s first Artistic Director – in Globe productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night, and in 2010, he made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan.

“It is an incredible honour to be asked to do Shakespeare on the amazingly beautiful stage of the Festival Theatre,” Mr. Carroll says. “I think of the truly great theatre artists who designed and built this theatre, and who have worked on it over the last 60 years, and now here I am doing one of the big ones on that stage. If that doesn’t excite you, it’s time to check you still have a pulse.”

In its tenth Stratford production, the classic story will be performed in Original Practices, a style of performance that evokes the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally staged in the Elizabethan era.

“I have staged Romeo and Juliet as though it were indeed an afternoon performance in an Elizabethan playhouse,” says Mr. Carroll. “The light will not change to suit the scenes, any more than the scenery will move to reflect new settings. We will know where we are, what time of day it is, and everything else from the starting point of Shakespeare’s theatre: the actors and the words they speak.”

The title roles will be played by Stratford newcomer Daniel Briere and Festival favourite Sara Topham. The cast also features Nehassaiu deGannes as Lady Capulet, Jonathan Goad as Mercutio, Kate Hennig as the Nurse, Tom McCamus as Friar Laurence and Scott Wentworth as Capulet.

The production’s artistic team includes Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Carolyn M. Smith, Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser, Composer Claudio Vena, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Movement Coach Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

In a playbill that explores communities in conflict, Romeo and Juliet is a particularly apt choice.

“I have assembled a season with a particular focus on examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity, and few plays do this better than Romeo and Juliet,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Although written over 400 years ago, it’s a story that remains incredibly pertinent today and one that, I think, matters so much to young people. It speaks to them; it speaks to their experience of the world. I’m thrilled to have Tim back to open our 2013 season with this beautifully imagined interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play.”

Romeo and Juliet Forum Highlights 

The Forum, the new festival within the Festival, is a series of activities and events designed to make a visit to Stratford an immersive, all-encompassing cultural experience. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum will offer theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Themes related to Romeo and Juliet will be explored through several Forum events, including: Ancient Grudges and New Mutinies, in which John de Chastelain, the former Chief of the Defence Staff and former ambassador to the U.S, reflects on the Prince of Verona’s role as peacekeeper in Romeo and Juliet and relates it to his own experiences; Original Pronunciation, with Tim Carroll, in which the director explores the implications of how Shakespeare’s text was originally pronounced; and Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna, a talk by Stanley Wells, Honorary President, Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and general editor of the Oxford and Penguin Shakespeares.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen and the Province of Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus. Support for the Speakers Series, including the appearance of John de Chastelain, is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Romeo and Juliet is sponsored by Sun Life Financial. Production support is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein and M. Vaile Fainer.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, begins May 1. Departing once daily from May 1 to 25 and October 1 to 20 and twice daily from May 27 to September 29 (on performance days only), the round trip costs only $20.

Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season runs until October 20, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Montague…………………………………….           Wayne Best

Escalus……………………………………….           Michael Blake

Benvolio……………………………………..            Skye Brandon

Romeo……………………………………….            Daniel Briere

Musician – Percussion…………………….…            David Campion

Lady Capulet…………………………………           Nehassaiu deGannes

Gregory………………………………………            Victor Ertmanis

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sara Farb

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Jacquelyn French

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Barbara Fulton

Mercutio……………………………………..            Jonathan Goad

Musician – Recorder/Flute…………….….…            Ian Harper

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Valerie Hawkins

Nurse…………………………………………            Kate Hennig

Lady Montague………………………………           Gabrielle Jones

Abraham/Apothecary………………………..            Robert King

Balthasar………………………………….….           Andrew Lawrie

Friar John……………………………………            Roy Lewis

Musician – Violin…………………………….            Mel Martin

Friar Laurence………………………….……            Tom McCamus

Musician – Lute……………………………….            Terry McKenna

Petruchio…………………………………….            André Morin

Old Capulet………………………………….           Sam Moses

Peter…………………………………………            Mike Nadajewski

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Andrew Robinson

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sabryn Rock

Sampson……………………………………..            Brad Rudy

Tybalt………………………………………..            Tyrone Savage

Juliet………………………………………….            Sara Topham

Capulet………………………………………            Scott Wentworth

Paris……………………………………….…           Antoine Yared

 

Artistic Credits

Director……………………………….…..…            Tim Carroll

Set Designer………………………………….            Douglas Paraschuk

Costume Designer…………………….……..            Carolyn M. Smith

Lighting Designer……………………….…..            Kevin Fraser

Composer……………………………………            Claudio Vena

Sound Designer………………………………           Jim Neil

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

Fight Director……………………………….            John Stead

Producer………………………………….…             David Auster

Casting Director…………………………….             Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director……………….…            Jason Miller

Associate Fight Director…………………….            Geoff Scovell

Assistant Director……………………………            Ken Schwartz

Second Assistant Director…………………..            Graham Abbey

Assistant Set Designer………………………            Brandon Kleiman

Assistant Costume Designer…………………            Alyssa Prigioniero

Assistant Lighting Designer…………………           Tristan Tidswell

Assistant Fight Directors…………………….           Anita Nittoly, Kostas Tourlentes

Fight Captain…………………………………           Wayne Best

Movement/Vocal Captain……………………            Barbara Fulton

Stage Manager……………………………….           Bona Duncan

Assistant Stage Managers……………………           Bruno Gonsalves, Margaret Palmer,

Crystal Skinner

Production Assistant…………………………           Linsey Callaghan

Production Stage Manager…………………..           Margaret Palmer

Technical Director…………………………..             Jeff Scollon

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PHOTOGRAPHY:

Promotional photos for Romeo and Juliet:

http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/imagegallery/imagegallery.aspx?id=20294

Headshots:

http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/imagegallery/imagegallery.aspx?id=14315

For more information, please contact:

Ann Swerdfager
Publicity Director
Stratford Festival
519.271.0055 x2297
aswerdfager@stratfordfestival.ca