Press Release | Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello begins previews

August 3, 2013… Shakespeare’s Othello, the classic tragedy of an interracial marriage fatally undermined by the deadly insinuations of a master manipulator, begins previews at the Avon Theatre on Sunday, August 4.

Award-winning theatre and film director Chris Abraham returns for his fourth season at the Festival. Following his popular staging of The Matchmaker, as well as audience favourites The Little Years in 2011 and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again in 2010, this production will be Mr. Abraham’s first Shakespearean assignment at Stratford.

“Othello, like Hamlet, Macbeth and Lear, struggles to locate the truth in an uncertain world,” says Mr. Abraham. “How is one to know anything about anybody? What is true and what is false? How can you know for sure? Are we fundamentally that mysterious to each other? It’s a terrifying question and one of ultimate importance, hinting that the dynamics of doubt and faith, more than jealousy, constitute the maddeningly dangerous subject of the play.”

The play centres on the Moorish general Othello, whose valiant exploits have earned him the gratitude of the Venetian state he serves – and the love of Desdemona, who defies social convention and her father’s will to marry him. But Othello’s ensign, Iago, harbours a secret resentment – and during a mission to Cyprus, he plants the seed that will destroy Othello’s love.

In a season built around a cluster of inter-connected themes, Othello is one example of how this year’s playbill becomes more than the sum of its parts.

“In assembling this season, I wanted to offer plays that reflect, complement and comment on each other,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “For instance, The Merchant of Venice and Othello are two very different plays, but both informed by the same themes – specifically, the role of the outsider. Each offers a fulfilling experience on its own, but those who see both productions will have a fuller opportunity to draw connections between them.

Othello is one of the great plays in the world – both for its language and its characters, and ultimately for what it has to say about overcoming our differences and how hard that can be. I am thrilled to have this production in the very capable hands of Chris Abraham, who has quickly become one of our principal directors. His work is always entertaining and his bold staging of this powerful production is no exception.”

The play features Graham Abbey as Iago, Bethany Jillard as Desdemona and Dion Johnstone as Othello, with Shauna Black as Bianca, Deborah Hay as Emilia, Brad Hodder as Cassio, Peter Hutt as Brabantio, Mike Shara as Roderigo and Brian Tree as Gratiano.

The artistic team features Designer Julie Fox, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Composer and Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Dramaturge Robert Blacker and Fight Director John Stead.

Othello 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 offers theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

Othello will be explored through several Forum events, including: Honest Villains and Noble Killers: The Iago/Othello Character Dynamic, the second annual Stratford Festival symposium, in which leading artists and scholars express their views on the play; Othello vs Otello, in which Verdi aficionado John Zaretti of the Verdi Opera Theatre of Michigan and Othello director Chris Abraham discuss the play and the operatic adaptation and their respective strengths and genius; 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 is generously provided in memory of Dr. Philip Hayman. Support for the Symposium is generously provided by Dr. Jules and Josephine Harris.

Othello officially opens on August 14 and runs until October 19. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

Othello is sponsored by BMO Financial Group. Production support is generously provided by Larry Enkin & family in memory of Sharon Enkin and Martie & Bob Sachs.

Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.

The Festival’s new Toronto bus service, Stratford Direct, is now available twice daily on performance days for only $20 return. Reservations can be made through the box office.

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)

Iago……………………………………………         Graham Abbey
Understudy……………………………………         Sarah Afful
Ensemble………………………………………         Karl Ang
Bianca…………………………………………         Shauna Black
Montano…………….…………………………         Keith Dinicol
Ensemble………………………………………          Paul Duncan
Ensemble………………………………………          W. Shaw Forgeron
Ensemble………………………………………          Carmen Grant
Emilia…………………………………………          Deborah Hay
Cassio…………………………………………          Brad Hodder
Brabantio………………………………………         Peter Hutt
Desdemona……………………………………         Bethany Jillard
Othello…………………………………………         Dion Johnstone
Ensemble………………………………………         Ruby Joy
Ensemble………………………………………         Josue Laboucane
Gentleman #3………………………………….         Ian Lake
Lodovico………………………………………         Gareth Potter
Senator #1……………….…………………….         Christopher Prentice
Duke of Venice………………………………..         Stephen Russell
Roderigo………………………………………         Mike Shara
Gentleman #1………………………………….         E.B. Smith
Gratiano………………………………………..        Brian Tree
Ensemble………………………………………         Dylan Trowbridge

Artistic Credits

Director…………………………………………        Chris Abraham
Designer………………………………………..        Julie Fox
Lighting Designer………………………………        Michael Walton
Composer and Sound Designer………………..        Thomas Ryder Payne
Dramaturge…………………………………….        Robert Blacker
Fight Director………………………………….        John Stead
Producer……………………………………….         David Auster
Casting Director……………………………….         Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director…………………….        Jason Miller
Associate Fight Director……………………….        Geoff Scovell
Assistant Director………………………………        Andrea Donaldson
Assistant Set Designer…………………………        Devon Bhim
Assistant Costume Designer……………………        Kimberly Catton
Assistant Lighting Designer……………………       Jareth Li
Assistant Fight Director………………………..        Anita Nittoly
Fight Captain…………………………………..        Ian Lake
Stage Manager…………………………………        Anne Murphy
Assistant Stage Managers………………………        Michael Hart, Kristopher Weber
Apprentice Stage Manager…………………….        Kenilee Kehler
Production Assistant…………………………..         Katie Honek
Production Stage Manager…………………….        Julie Miles
Technical Director……………………………..         Elissa Horscroft

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PHOTOGRAPHY:

Promotional photos for Othello:
http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/imagegallery/imagegallery.aspx?id=20300

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

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Festival announces key casting for 2013

October 16, 2012… With the 2013 box office opening to Members in just a few weeks, the Stratford Festival is pleased to announce key casting for the 2013 season, featuring the return of many Festival favourites.

Jewelle Blackman, Michelle Giroux, Jonathan Goad, Kate Hennig, Dion Johnstone, Jeremy Kushnier, Mike Nadajewski, Paul Nolan, Stephen Ouimette, Steven Sutcliffe, Sara Topham and Scott Wentworth will be returning to the Festival in 2013, joining current company members Graham Abbey, Nigel Bennett, Michael Blake, James Blendick, Ben Carlson, Jacquelyn French, Carmen Grant, Deborah Hay, Randy Hughson, Luke Humphrey, Peter Hutt, Keely Hutton, Bethany Jillard, Gabrielle Jones, Ian Lake, Tom McCamus, Seana McKenna, Lucy Peacock, Chick Reid, Tom Rooney, Steve Ross, Stephen Russell, Mike Shara, Jennifer Stewart, Brian Tree and Geraint Wyn Davies.

Also joining the company are newcomers Daniel Briere, Nehassaiu deGannes, Kira Guloien, Hannah Miller, Andre Morin and Robert Markus. As previously announced, Brian Bedford, Brian Dennehy and Martha Henry will also return in leading roles.

“At the heart of the Festival stand extraordinary artists,” says Antoni Cimolino, who will take over as Artistic Director on November 1. “I am immensely proud of the company we have assembled for the 2013 season, bringing together some of our finest actors as well as some exceptionally promising newcomers. We look forward to working with them to present the most exciting stories ever told.”

Daniel Briere and Sara Topham to play Romeo and Juliet

ROMEO AND JULIET | DIRECTED BY TIM CARROLL | FESTIVAL THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 1 | OPENS MAY 27 | CLOSES OCTOBER 19
PRODUCTION SPONSOR: SUN LIFE FINANCIAL
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: M. VAILE FAINER

Daniel Briere and Sara Topham will play the title characters in Tim Carroll’s production of Romeo and Juliet. They will be joined by Nehassaiu deGannes as Lady Capulet, Jonathan Goad as Mercutio, Kate Hennig as the Nurse, Tom McCamus as Friar Laurence and Scott Wentworth as Capulet.

Daniel Briere will make his Stratford debut as Romeo. A graduate of the National Theatre School, Mr. Briere has played such roles as Tranio in The Taming of the Shrew and Paris in Romeo and Juliet at Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park, Borachio in Much Ado About Nothing at Driftwood Theatre, Number One in Lebenstraum at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre and Art in The Mail Order Bride at the Blyth Festival.

Sara Topham will return for her 13th season to play Juliet. After her Stratford and Broadway turn as Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest, Ms Topham returned to Stratford in 2010 to play Wendy in Peter Pan and La Présidente de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons, followed by Olivia in Twelfth Night and Célimène in The Misanthrope in 2011. This past year has seen her in leading roles at the Hartford Stage Company, McCarter Theater Center and Shakespeare Theater Company.  Other key Stratford credits include Miss Mabel Chiltern in An Ideal Husband, Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, Grace Harkaway in London Assurance, Cordelia in King Lear and Rosalind in As You Like It.

Fiddler on the Roof to feature Kate Hennig and Scott Wentworth

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF | DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY DONNA FEORE | FESTIVAL THEATRE
PREVIEWS START APRIL 23 | OPENS MAY 28 | CLOSES OCTOBER 20
PRODUCTION CO-SPONSOR: UNION GAS LIMITED
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: THE HARKINS FAMILY IN MEMORY OF SUSAN HARKINS

Kate Hennig and Scott Wentworth will take the leading roles of Golde and Tevye in Donna Feore’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Jacquelyn French has been cast as Hodel, Keely Hutton as Chava, Gabrielle Jones as Yente, Andre Morin as Motel, Mike Nadajewski as Perchik, Paul Nolan as Fyedka and Jennifer Stewart as Tzeitel.

Kate Hennig, who is returning for her fourth season at Stratford, is well remembered for playing the dance teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, in Broadway’s Billy Elliot: The Musical, a role she also played in Toronto, winning a Dora Award for her performance. Most recently she was seen as Emma Goldman in this season’s Shaw Festival hit, Ragtime, as well as in A Man and Some Women. She was also in the wildly popular première of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Arts Centre. Ms Hennig was last in the Stratford company in 1991, playing Mrs. Mullin in Carousel, Ursula in Much Ado About Nothing and the Player Queen in Hamlet. She can currently be seen playing Adele Witham in Bomb Girls on Global Television.

Scott Wentworth, who marks his 18th season in 2013, was last seen at Stratford in 2008, playing Commander Fernán Gómez de Guzmán in Fuente Ovejuna and Claudius in Hamlet. His musical credits at Stratford include playing Clifford Bradshaw in the 1987 production of Cabaret and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls in both 1990 and 2004 – a role he is currently reprising at the Segal Centre in Montreal. His other Stratford credits include the title roles in Macbeth, Richard III, Henry IV Part 1 and The Merchant of Venice, Iago in Othello, David Cutrere in Orpheus Descending and Theseus in Phèdre. Mr. Wentworth has also written a number of musicals in collaboration with his wife, Marion Adler, including Enter the Guardsman, which was nominated for an Olivier Award for best musical in 1997.

Musketeers Graham Abbey, Jonathan Goad, Mike Shara joined by Luke Humphrey as D’Artagnan

THE THREE MUSKETEERS | DIRECTED BY MILES POTTER | FESTIVAL THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 18 | OPENS JUNE 1 | CLOSES OCTOBER 19

Graham Abbey, Jonathan Goad and Mike Shara headline Miles Potter’s production of The Three Musketeers, with Luke Humphrey playing D’Artagnan. They will be joined by Michael Blake as Count de Rochefort, Nehassaiu deGannes as the Queen of France, Deborah Hay as Milady de Winter, Bethany Jillard as Constance Bonacieux and Steven Sutcliffe as Cardinal Richelieu.

Graham Abbey, who will play Athos, returned to the Festival in 2012 for the first time since 2006 to play Posthumus in Cymbeline and Aigisthos in Elektra. His extensive television career includes the series lead, Gray Jackson, in The Border, Glen Martin in Degrassi and George Thomey in Republic of Doyle. His Stratford credits include Henry V, Macbeth, Romeo and Henry VIII, as well as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Happy in Death of a Salesman and D’Artagnan in the 2000 production of The Three Musketeers.

Jonathan Goad will play Porthos. Mr. Goad was last seen at Stratford in 2009, playing Quarlous in Bartholomew Fair, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Hippolytus in Phèdre. In 11 Stratford seasons, his credits have included Harold Hill in The Music Man, Iago in Othello, Angelo in Measure for Measure, Theseus and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the title role in Pericles. Mr. Goad can also be seen on CBC TV, where he plays Christian Doyle in Republic of Doyle.

Luke Humphrey made his Stratford debut in 2010, appearing in The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. This season he played Michael Williams in Henry V. He will also be remembered as the shirtless tango dancer in Much Ado About Nothing. His other credits include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at Highland Hall Theatre, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Leontes in The Winter’s Tale at the Stella Adler Studio.

Mike Shara will return for his fifth season at Stratford to play Aramis. Mr. Shara is currently playing Cloten in Cymbeline and Cornelius Hackl in The Matchmaker. His Stratford highlights include Teddy in The Homecoming, Orsino in Twelfth Night, Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac and Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest. Mr. Shara is a veteran of the Shaw Festival and has performed across the country. His television work includes Little Mosque on the Prairie, Queer as Folk and Due South.

Tom McCamus to play the Merchant

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE | DIRECTED BY ANTONI CIMOLINO | FESTIVAL THEATRE
PREVIEWS START JULY 30 | OPENS AUGUST 15 | CLOSES OCTOBER 18
PRODUCTION SPONSOR: SCOTIABANK
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: CATHERINE & DAVID WILKES; JANE PETERSEN-BURFIELD & FAMILY; BARBARA & JOHN SCHUBERT

Tom McCamus will once again collaborate with Antoni Cimolino in next season’s The Merchant of Venice, in which he will play Antonio. Mr. McCamus gave a searing performance as Iachimo in Mr. Cimolino’s production of Cymbeline this year and beautifully portrayed Jim Casy in 2011’s The Grapes of Wrath and Justice Overdo in 2009’s Bartholomew Fair. His portrayal of Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker continues to delight audiences. In his 12 seasons at Stratford, Mr. McCamus has played a vast number of leading roles including Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Le Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, Master Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Arthur in Camelot, Vladimir in Waiting for Godot and Edmund Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night.

As previously announced, Brian Bedford will play Shylock. They will be joined by Michelle Giroux as Portia, Jonathan Goad as Gratiano and Hannah Miller as Jessica.

Stellar cast for Blithe Spirit features Ben Carlson, Michelle Giroux, Seana McKenna and Sara Topham

BLITHE SPIRIT | DIRECTED BY BRIAN BEDFORD | AVON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 16 | OPENS JUNE 1 | CLOSES OCTOBER 20
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: JOHN H. WHITESIDE; NONA MACDONALD HEASLIP
PRODUCTION SUPPORT FOR THE AVON THEATRE 2013 SEASON: THE BIRMINGHAM FAMILY

Brian Bedford will direct a stellar ensemble in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, with Ben Carlson as Charles Condomine; Michelle Giroux as Elvira, the ghost of Charles’s deceased wife; Seana McKenna as the medium, Madame Arcati; and Sara Topham as Charles’s second wife, Ruth. They will be joined by James Blendick as Dr. Bradman and Chick Reid as Mrs. Bradman. Mr. Bedford worked with Mr. Carlson and Ms Topham most recently in the Oscar Wilde comedy The Importance of Being Earnest in 2009.

Ben Carlson, currently playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and Captain Fluellen in Henry V, returns for his sixth season at Stratford. Highlights of his time here include Feste in Twelfth Night, Alceste in The Misanthrope, Touchstone in As You Like It, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, Brutus in Julius Caesar and the title role in Hamlet. He has worked throughout Canada and the U.S., and spent 12 seasons at the Shaw Festival, where he is well remembered for his marathon Man and Superman, The Return of the Prodigal and All My Sons, among other performances.

Michelle Giroux will celebrate her 10th season at Stratford in 2013. She was last here in 2007, when she played Jean Louise in the celebrated production of To Kill a Mockingbird and Julia in A Delicate Balance. Her Stratford credits also include Queen Isabella in Edward II, Katerina in The Brothers Karamazov, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Daphne in Present Laughter, Olivia in Twelfth Night and Gwendolen in the 2000 production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

After her hilarious turn as Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker, Seana McKenna will return for her 22nd season to play Madame Arcati. Stratford audiences will also remember Ms McKenna’s lighter side from such performances as Amanda Prynne in Private Lives, Monica Reed in Present Laughter, Dotty Otley in Noises Off and Lady Gay Spanker in London Assurance. Her other Stratford credits include her remarkable portrayals of Richard III in 2011 and Clytemestra in this season’s Elektra, as well as moving portrayals of Medea, Andromache and Phèdre. She has played every one of Shakespeare’s leading ladies, many of them here at Stratford, as well as his wife, Anne Hathaway, in the one-woman show Shakespeare’s Will, which was produced at Stratford in 2007 and 2011.

Newcomer Robert Markus to play Tommy

TOMMY | DIRECTED BY DES McANUFF | CHOREOGRAPHED BY WAYNE CILENTO | AVON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 4 | OPENS MAY 30 | CLOSES OCTOBER 19
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: RICHARD ROONEY & LAURA DINNER

Newcomer Robert Markus will play the title role in Des McAnuff’s production of Tommy. Mr. Markus graduated from the University of Alberta’s acting program in 2010. His credits include Gabe in Next to Normal at the Citadel Theatre and Theatre Calgary, Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show and Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, also at the Citadel, and Angelo in The Comedy of Errors at the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.

He will be joined by Jewelle Blackman as the Gypsy, Kira Guloien as Mrs. Walker, Jeremy Kushnier as Captain Walker, Paul Nolan as Cousin Kevin and Steve Ross as Uncle Ernie.

Dion Johnstone takes title role in Othellowith Graham Abbey as Iago and Bethany Jillard as Desdemona

OTHELLO | DIRECTED BY CHRIS ABRAHAM | AVON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START AUGUST 4 | OPENS AUGUST 14 | CLOSES OCTOBER 19
PRODUCTION SPONSOR: BMO FINANCIAL GROUP
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: LARRY ENKIN & FAMILY IN MEMORY OF SHARON ENKIN;
MARTIE & BOB SACHS

Dion Johnstone will return to Stratford to take on the title role in Chris Abraham’s production of Othello, with Graham Abbey playing Iago and Bethany Jillard as Desdemona. They will be joined by Deborah Hay as Emilia, Peter Hutt as Brabantio, Mike Shara as Roderigo and Brian Tree as Gratiano.

Dion Johnstone comes to the role of Othello at the Festival, having turned in a number of memorable classical performances here, including Aaron in Titus Andronicus, Caliban in The Tempest, opposite Christopher Plummer’s Prospero, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macduff in Des McAnuff’s production of Macbeth, Edmund in King Lear, Iachimo in the 2004 production of Cymbeline and Orestes in the 2003 productions of The Flies and Electra. He has a vast television career as well, most recently including Harold Kalb in The Listener, Tyrone Evans in King and Barnaby Howe in Flashpoint.

Bethany Jillard made her Stratford debut in 2010 as Cécile Volante in Dangerous Liaisons and has since shone in both classical and contemporary roles as Lady Anne in Richard III, Young Kate and Tanya in The Little Years, Hero in Much Ado About Nothing and Catherine in Henry V. Her other credits include Miss Julie in the MTC Warehouse production of After Miss Julie, the title role in My Name is Rachel Corrie at Theatre Panik and Brooke in How It Works at Tarragon. She won the Equity Emerging Theatre Artist Award in 2010.

Seana McKenna plays Elizabeth to Lucy Peacock’s Mary Stuart

MARY STUART | DIRECTED BY ANTONI CIMOLINO | TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 3 | OPENS MAY 31 | CLOSES SEPTEMBER 21
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: DR. M.L. MYERS & DR. W.P. HAYMAN; ALICE & TIM THORNTON; DIANA TREMAIN; DR. DENNIS & DOROTHEA HACKER

Lucy Peacock will take on the title role in Antoni Cimolino’s production of Mary Stuart opposite Seana McKenna as Elizabeth.

It will feature Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester and, as previously announced, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury. James Blendick will play Amias Paulet, Peter Hutt will play Count Aubespine, Ian Lake will play Mortimer and Brian Tree will play Melvil.

Lucy Peacock celebrated her 25th season and 60th production with the Festival this season, playing the Hostess in Henry V and Mrs. Munsch in the new musical Wanderlust – as well as producing and starring in the cabaret series Late Night with Lucy. Last season she also combined musical theatre and Shakespeare, playing Morgan le Fey in Camelot and the delightfully scheming Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Her career at Stratford has been studded with brilliant performances, including Nana in For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, Audrey in As You Like It, Masha in Three Sisters, Emilia in Othello, the title roles in The Duchess of Malfi and Hello, Dolly!, and a tour-de-force performance of all of the characters in The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead.

After his stirring portrayal of King Cymbeline, Geraint Wyn Davies will again collaborate with Mr. Cimolino, playing the key role of the Earl of Leicester in Mary Stuart. Mr. Wyn Davies will celebrate his 10th season at Stratford in 2013. He began his Stratford adventure in 1986, playing Pericles and Antipholus of Syracuse in The Boys from Syracuse. Since then he has played a number of major roles, including Stephano in The Tempest, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the title roles in Julius Caesar and Henry V, Polonius in Hamlet, Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and Dylan Thomas in the one-man show Do Not Go Gentle. His stage career has taken him throughout Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and he has dozens of film and television credits, including key roles in Republic of Doyle, ReGenesis, 24, Slings and Arrows, Airwolf, Forever Knight and American Psycho II.

Measure for Measure to feature Carmen Grant, Stephen Ouimette,

Tom Rooney, Geraint Wyn Davies

MEASURE FOR MEASURE | DIRECTED BY MARTHA HENRY | TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START MAY 18 | OPENS MAY 29 | CLOSES SEPTEMBER 21
PRODUCTION SPONSOR: RBC
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: KARON BALES & CHARLES BEALL

Martha Henry’s production of Measure for Measure will feature Carmen Grant as Isabella, Stephen Ouimette as Lucio, Tom Rooney as Angelo, and Geraint Wyn Davies as Duke Vincentio, with Randy Hughson as Pompey, Peter Hutt as Escalus and Stephen Russell as Provost.

Carmen Grant made her Stratford debut in 2010, after completing her first year at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, where she played such roles as Mrs. Higgins in Pygmalion, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Goneril in King Lear. At the Festival she has appeared in Much Ado About Nothing, The Matchmaker, Titus Andronicus and Richard III. She received a Dora nomination for her portrayal of the title role in The Miracle Worker at YPT and won the Rising Star Award for playing Ruth in the ATP production of Zadie’s Shoes.

Stephen Ouimette recently gave an acclaimed performance as Harry Hope in The Iceman Cometh at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy. Mr. Ouimette and Mr. Dennehy had performed together at Stratford in 2011’s outstanding productions of The Homecoming and Twelfth Night. Mr. Ouimette was also featured in the West End and Broadway productions of La Bete and is well-known for his portrayal of Oliver Welles in the television series Slings and Arrows. He has spent 18 seasons entertaining Stratford audiences with such performances as Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest and Touchstone in As You Like It. He has directed a number of productions, including Timon of Athens in 2004, and has played the title roles in Hamlet, King John, Amadeus and Richard III, as well as many other leading roles.

Tom Rooney will return for his sixth Stratford season, after delighting audiences as Robert Service in the 2012 première of Wanderlust and as Ensign Pistol in Henry V. Since joining the company in 2008, Mr. Rooney has fast become a favourite on the Festival stage, with his richly drawn portrayals of Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Master Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He gave standout performances in 2009 as the Porter in Macbeth, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cassius in Julius Caesar.  In addition to playing the Narrator in 2010’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, Mr. Rooney played Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It and Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale.

Stephen Ouimette and Tom Rooney lead cast of Waiting for Godot

WAITING FOR GODOT | DIRECTED BY JENNIFER TARVER | TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
PREVIEWS START JUNE 13 | OPENS JUNE 27 | CLOSES SEPTEMBER 20
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: SYLVIA D. CHROMINSKA

Jennifer Tarver’s production of Waiting for Godot will feature Stephen Ouimette as Estragon and Tom Rooney as Vladimir. As previously announced, Brian Dennehy will play Pozzo. Randy Hughson will play Lucky.

Lucy Peacock stars in Judith Thompson’s The Thrill

THE THRILL | DIRECTED BY DEAN GABOURIE | STUDIO THEATRE
PREVIEWS START JULY 28 | OPENS AUGUST 13 | CLOSES SEPTEMBER 22

Lucy Peacock will play the leading role of Elora in the world première of Judith Thompson’s The Thrill, which was commissioned by the Festival and will be directed by Dean Gabourie. She will be joined by Nigel Bennett as Julian.

Luke Humphrey to take Shakespeare from Martha Henry

TAKING SHAKESPEARE | DIRECTED BY DIANA LEBLANC | STUDIO THEATRE
PREVIEWS START JULY 13 | OPENS JULY 30 | CLOSES SEPTEMBER 22
PRODUCTION SUPPORT: DR. NANCY EPSTEIN & DR. DAVID GOLDBLOOM

As previously announced, Martha Henry will play the Prof in John Murrell’s new play Taking Shakespeare, directed by Diana Leblanc. Luke Humphrey has been cast as the student, Murph.

Tickets for the 2013 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on November 11 and to the public on January 5. The 2012 season concludes on October 28, with tickets still available for Much Ado About Nothing, 42nd Street, The Matchmaker, The Pirates of Penzance and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

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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.

Des McAnuff’s Henry V starts previews

June 22, 2012… The epic story of King Henry V’s battle with the French during the Hundred Years’ War comes alive on the Festival Theatre stage in William Shakespeare’s historical drama Henry V. The production, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, begins previews on June 24.
 
“We live in an era when war in foreign lands is again very much on our minds,” says Mr. McAnuff, “and Henry V is one of the greatest dramas about war ever written. In part, that’s because Shakespeare doesn’t take sides: this is neither an overtly anti-war play nor a jingoistic celebration of military glory. Instead, it confronts head-on all the paradoxes and ambivalences inherent in warfare and raises the kinds of questions we still struggle with today. When is war justified? What are its rules of engagement? And how do you hold on to your moral compass in the heat of combat?”
 
Though written as the final part of a tetralogy (preceded by Richard IIHenry IVPart 1and Henry IVPart 2), Henry V is a self-contained drama in its own right. It tells the story of the young king seeking to unite his strife-torn kingdom by launching a campaign to seize the throne of France. But after his invasion’s initial success, the king finds himself facing a vastly superior French force on the fields of Agincourt – and with it, the ultimate test of his leadership.
 
“I started my Shakespeare career by directing Henry IV, Part 1 in New York,” says Mr. McAnuff, “and it has long been a dream of mine to tackle the other plays in the cycle. So it means a lot to me to be doing Henry V – especially here at Stratford. This Festival can present these epic plays, these vast canvases, on a scale that most theatres simply can’t match. It is immensely rewarding to be staging this action-packed yet profoundly thought-provoking work with one of the greatest theatre companies in the world.”
 
“Des’s imagination is limitless and he has a way of harnessing the powers and resources of the theatre to create a spectacular production that is both visually and emotionally stunning,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “His production of Henry V this season will be a case in point: our audiences can expect to be held on the edge of their seats and completely engrossed in one of Shakespeare’s most legendary dramas.”
 
The production features Aaron Krohn as the title character. Mr. Krohn made his Stratford debut as Lenny in last season’s production of The Homecoming and appeared in Mr. McAnuff’s production of Twelfth Night. His Broadway credits include The Farnsworth InventionThe Coast of Utopia and Julius Caesar. He has also worked extensively off-Broadway and on television and has performed many voices for several anime films, including Kaji in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Murakomo in Blue Seed and Go in Super Atragon.
 
Mr. Krohn will be joined on stage by Ben Carlson as Captain Fluellen, Juan Chioran as Montjoy, Deborah Hay as Alice, Tom Rooney as Ensign Pistol and Timothy D. Stickneyas the Duke of Exeter.
 
Artistic credits for this production include Set Designer Robert Brill, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Composer Michael Roth, Sound Designer Peter McBoyle, Dramaturge Robert Blacker, Choreographer Nicola Pantin, Fight Director Steve Rankin and Associate Director Lezlie Wade.
 
Henry V is sponsored by Scotiabank. Production support is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein, Jane Petersen-Burfield and Family, and Catherine and David Wilkes.
 
This production is dedicated to the memory of John Neville, Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival from 1986 to 1989.
 
This year, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 60th season, with 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28:  Much Ado About Nothing42nd StreetThe MatchmakerHenry VYou’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownThe Pirates of PenzanceA Word or TwoCymbelineWanderlustElektraMacHomerThe Best BrothersHirsch; and The War of 1812.

Get in on the action with $25 tickets to Shakespeare’s Henry V

by Christi Rutledge

I like to think of Shakespeare’s Henry V as the granddaddy of all historical action films. If you’re looking for thrills, the Festival’s upcoming production will deliver: battles, strategy and rousing speeches (plus a touching courtship) are just some of the elements that make up this epic history play. Does it sound a bit like Braveheart, The Patriot, Apocalypse Now or Saving Private Ryan? Methinks… yes!

 Henry V is the fourth play in what is commonly referred to as the Henriad – Shakespeare’s second set of history plays, composed of Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. If you’re not familiar with these works, or if you’re in need of a refresher, we’ve created a short trailer to catch you up on the story.

Henry V arguably has one of the most gripping battle scenes that you’ll ever see on stage. It’s based on the historic Battle of Agincourt, which was fought by the armies of England and France on October 25, 1415. In Shakespeare’s play, the French army “have full threescore thousand” troops – which means that the 3000 exhausted English soldiers are up against “fearful odds.” But the English manage to rally the courage they need to take arms, thanks in no small part to Henry’s stirring words of motivation, known as the St. Crispin’s Day speech. It’s one of those moments in Shakespeare that just grabs you and pulls you in – I’m so looking forward to seeing it!

Helmed by our Artistic Director, Des McAnuff, the Festival’s production features a massive wooden set with a working drawbridge and an impressive raked stage that will transport you back to the medieval era. It’s going to be spectacular!

Aaron Krohn (whom you might remember from last season when he played Lenny in The Homecoming) will be leading the troops in the role of Henry V, along with Ben Carlson as Captain Fluellen, Juan Chioran as Montjoy, Deborah Hay as Alice, Lucy Peacock as the Hostess, Tom Rooney as Ensign Pistol and Timothy D. Stickney as the Duke of Exeter – just to name a few.

Find out Juan Chioran’s take on this exciting show!

Henry V starts previews this weekend! Dive into the action for $25 when you come to any preview performance.* Log into our website with promotion code 44377, or try our new Stratford Social Ticketing Application on Facebook! (You can use the same promotion code.) Don’t delay – this offer is only available until Monday, June 25, at 11:59 p.m.!

Here’s a bit more information about our new Social Ticketing Application, and a “how-to guide” to help you plan an outing with your friends!

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

Festival officially launches 60th season on Monday

May 25, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival launches its 60th season on Monday, May 28, with a gala performance of Much Ado About Nothing. This is the final season under the artistic directorship of Des McAnuff, and one that promises an array of wonderful theatre for every taste and age group.

“The 60th season is representative of Stratford in all its glory,” says Mr. McAnuff, who is directing Henry V and Christopher Plummer’s A Word or Two, both of which open later in the season. “Embodying Stratford’s hallmark marriage of tradition and innovation, the Cplaybill ranges from the very roots of drama to some of the finest playwrights working in Canada today. Shakespearean comedy, history and romance are complemented by a hilarious contemporary pastiche of Shakespearean tragedy, while the season’s varied musical theatre repertoire acknowledges our own era’s great contribution to the western dramatic tradition. Meanwhile, the strength of our acting company is being showcased not only in Stratford but also on Broadway, with the Tony-nominated Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“As we celebrate our Festival’s 60th season, the glorious heritage of our past provides us with a clear signpost to the way ahead,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Our pioneering artists and those who supported them sought to create in Stratford nothing less than the finest classical theatre in the world. Thanks to their vision and determination, the adventure that began in 1953 with two productions in a tent is now North America’s premier repertory theatre, featuring 14 productions in five venues. That same spirit drives us today as we explore the classics of the past and give birth to the classics of the future.”

Much Ado About Nothing is directed by Christopher Newton, who was a member of the Festival’s acting company from 1966 to 1968. It features Ben Carlson as Benedick and Deborah Hay as Beatrice.

Five other productions will open during the week: 42nd Street, directed by Gary Griffin and featuring Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh, Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, Cynthia Dale as Dorothy Brock, and Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Peggy Sawyer; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, directed by Donna Feore, featuring Stephen Patterson as Snoopy, Erica Peck as Lucy and Ken James Stewart as Charlie Brown; Cymbeline, directed by Antoni Cimolino, featuring Graham Abbey as Posthumus, Tom McCamus as Iachimo, Cara Ricketts as Innogen, and Geraint Wyn Davies as Cymbeline; The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Ethan McSweeny, featuring Sean Arbuckle as the Pirate King, Kyle Blair as Frederic, C. David Johnson as the Major General, and Amy Wallis as Mabel Stanley; and The Matchmaker, directed by Chris Abraham, featuring Tom McCamus as Horace Vandergelder and Seana McKenna as Dolly Levi.

The 60th season will feature a number of special events, including Christopher Plummer’s one-man show A Word or Two, which will run from July 25 to August 26. Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an exhibition of Festival artifacts, including rare footage of our pioneers, at a new space kitty-corner to the Avon Theatre, at 104 Downie Street. A symposium, Interpreting Shakespeare Across Settings and Media, featuring Colm Feore, Norman Lloyd, Dr. Katherine Lowe and the Festival’s Director of Archives, Dr. Francesca Marini, will be held on June 2. A dramatic reading of Edward Bond’s Bingo, about an aging William Shakespeare, will be held on June 15, with the playwright on hand for a Q&A with the audience. Lucy Peacock will hold a number of cabarets – Late Night with Lucy – in the new Studio Annex, in July and August, featuring music and conversation. The Celebrated Writers Series returns with Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare Changed Everything; Richard McCoy, author of Faith in Shakespeare; Michael Ondaatje, author of The Cat’s Table; and Margaret Atwood, author of In Other Worlds. Master voice and Shakespeare teacher Patsy Rodenberg will present three special events from July 18 to 22, to mark 60 years of the Festival’s extensive actor training activities. The Festival will launch a special 60th season book on June 2, Stratford: Behind the Scenes, which will available through the Theatre Store. These special events are all in addition to the Festival’s usual enrichment activities.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season runs until October 28, featuring Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street; The Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch and The War of 1812.

Opening Week Itinerary

Sunday, May 27
Garden Party
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Festival Theatre lobby and gardens

Monday, May 28
Gala Opening of Much Ado About Nothing
Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street, Stratford
6:30 p.m. Pipe Band parades to front of theatre and performs
7:00 p.m. Red Carpet arrivals
7:30 p.m. Performance of Much Ado About Nothing begins
10:10 p.m. Performance concludes

Tuesday, May 29
11:30 a.m. Book Launch – Festival Lobby
The Adventures of Adrian and Tiddlywinks by the late John Sullivan Hayes, former Producer of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Opening of 42nd Street
Festival Theatre
8:00 p.m. Performance begins
10:20 p.m. Performance concludes

Wednesday, May 30
Opening of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
8 p.m. Avon Theatre
9:55 p.m. Performance concludes

Thursday, May 31
Opening of Cymbeline
8 p.m. Tom Patterson Theatre
11 p.m. Performance concludes

Friday, June 1
Opening of The Pirates of Penzance
8 p.m. Avon Theatre
10:35 p.m. Performance concludes

Saturday, June 2
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Symposium, Studio Theatre (please contact Andrea Smitko to reserve tickets)
1:00 to 1:45 p.m. Book Launch – Stratford: Behind the Scenes. Rehearsal Hall 3, Studio Theatre.
Opening of The Matchmaker
8 p.m. Festival Theatre
10:40 p.m. Performance concludes

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Much Ado About Nothing begins previews at the Festival!

by Lisa Middleton

Much Ado About Nothing is Shakespearean comedy at its finest!  I had the great pleasure of attending the first preview of Much Ado yesterday, and it was positively enchanting.  Here are a few highlights of the show that I think you’ll enjoy… regardless of your age!

  • Real-life couple Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay bring their marital experience to the stage as the feuding Benedick and Beatrice. What are their thoughts about working together in these roles? Check out this great article from the Toronto Star. It is fabulous to watch the scornful Benedick and quick-witted Beatrice turn from enemies to lovers!
  • Beeeeautiful Brazilian-inspired costumes and set! Santo Loquasto’s design for the production is stunning. You can almost feel the sea breeze through the theatre. The stage floor really sets the mood (the 30-foot palm trees help, too)! Check out this fabulous time-lapse video as the stage floor is painted — two weeks of work narrowed down to three minutes!

  • Music and dance are blended into the production seamlessly. You’ll be swaying your hips as you leave the theatre – in keeping with the Brazilian flavour!
  • The cast for Much Ado is both large and talented! Here are just a few of the Festival favourites you can expect to see on stage!
    -Gareth Potter as Don John – both sinister and hilarious!
    -Bethany Jillard as the sweet and innocent Hero
    -James Blendick as Leonato – in his 29th Festival season!
    -Juan Chioran as the prince Don Pedro
    -Tyrone Savage as the impressionable and impassioned Claudio
    -Richard Binsley as Dogberry, detective extraordinaire!
    And so many more…

Pssst, we’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets to the 2 p.m. performance of Much Ado About Nothing on May 1, 2012!  Tell us why you’re looking forward to seeing this performance in the comment box below, and then send an e-mail socialmedia@stratfordfestival.ca to confirm your submission (you must do both to be eligible to win).  We’ll announce the lucky winners on our blog on April 30, 2012 and contact them by e-mail with their tickets!