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.

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Stratford marks its 60th season with opening of new Festival Exhibition on Shakespeare’s birthday

April 23, 2012…The Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 60th season of theatrical innovation and achievement with the opening of a brand new attraction, the Festival Exhibition. The display, entitled Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, will open on April 23. It will feature content from each decade of the Festival’s history, including costume pieces, props, set models, rare photographs and footage, interactive displays, and a room with rare artefacts dating back to 1953–1956 (the years of the Festival’s original tent).

The new space, across from the Avon Theatre, will also be the venue for a series of talks hosted by Festival actors and artists. Each talk, to be held on Saturdays in July and August, will focus on a decade of the Festival’s history. In conjunction with the exhibition, a special symposium, “Interpreting Shakespeare Across Settings and Media,” will be held on June 2 at the Studio Theatre from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will feature actor Colm Feore, actor, director and producer Norman Lloyd, and Dr. Katherine Rowe.

“Every institution’s future is built on the foundations of its past,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff, “and our Festival’s vibrant and colourful history, from its adventurous beginning to its current pre-eminence as one of the greatest classical theatres in the world, is simply without parallel on this continent. The Festival Exhibition opens a whole new window on our 60 seasons of accomplishment.”

“This exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity for us to share some of the pivotal moments in our history with the very people who have helped make this Festival such a success: our patrons,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “We hope it will both reawaken fond memories in all those who have supported us so faithfully during the past six decades, and also provide newcomers and long-time patrons alike with fresh and compelling insights into our work.”

“This new exhibition space is a dream come true,” says Archives Director Dr. Francesca Marini, “and we are proud to offer a new venue to our patrons, to the Festival company and staff, and to the Stratford community. The display is meant to engage people of all ages, and we are glad to share with the public the joy we experience every day working in our theatre.”

Located at 104 Downie Street, kitty-corner from the Avon Theatre, the Festival Exhibition will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is fully accessible. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, HST included. Special pricing is available for groups of 10 or more ($4); free admission for children under the age of five. The exhibition will close a week after the season ends, on November 9.

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