Press Release | Mary Stuart extended for a fourth time

August 23, 2013… The Stratford Festival is extending Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino’s production of Mary Stuart for an unprecedented fourth time.

The production, described as “electrifyingly entertaining and intellectually exciting” by the Toronto Star’s Richard Ouzounian and “edge-of-your-seat suspenseful” by The Globe and Mail’s J. Kelly Nestruck, features Seana McKenna as Elizabeth I and Lucy Peacock as Mary Stuart, with Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

Mary Stuart is striking for the clarity of its storytelling, the constant intensity of its dramatic stakes and, especially, for the evenhanded excellence of Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna in the leading roles,” says Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. “This is one for the memory books, with two remarkable actresses at the peak of their powers,” says Postmedia’s Jamie Portman.

With the run entirely sold out despite three previous extensions, the Festival is delighted to offer eager theatre-goers four more opportunities to see the smash hit of the season.

Tickets for the following performances will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on Tuesday, August 27, and to the general public on Wednesday, August, 28:

  • Wednesday, October 16, at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 17, at 8 p.m.
  • Friday, October 18, at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 19, at 8 p.m.

The play, by Friedrich Schiller, newly adapted by Peter Oswald, follows a period in the life of Mary Stuart, when the former Queen of Scots has been 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.

The final performance of The Forum event Dear Mary, Dear Elizabeth will be held on August 31 at 11 a.m. in the Studio Theatre. It features Ms McKenna and Ms Peacock reading the letters of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, introduced and contextualized by Dr. Ted McGee.

Mary Stuart is co-sponsored by PwC. Production support for Mary Stuart is generously provided by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, Dr. M.L. Myers and the late Dr. 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.

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.

To purchase tickets for Mary Stuart and all of the 2013 season productions, call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

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Mary Stuart extended for third time | Six performances in October added in response to sold-out run

July 23, 2013… With every performance virtually sold out, the Stratford Festival’s production of Mary Stuart, directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, is being extended for a third time this season. Already one of the most highly attended productions in the Festival’s history, Mary Stuart will now run for an additional two weeks in October.

“It gives me immense pleasure to see a work by an 18th-century German playwright capture the public’s imagination in such a big way,” says Mr. Cimolino. “This play has so much to say about our world today and it’s great to see audiences recognize and connect to that.”

The following additional performances of Mary Stuart will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, and to the general public at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24:

  • Wednesday, October 2, at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 3, at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 5, at 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 9, at 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 10, at 8 p.m.
  • Friday, October 11, at 8 p.m.

“In my 22 years with the Festival, I have never seen a show consistently sell out to this extent,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “Mary Stuart tickets have been in demand since advance ticket sales began. In March we added two performances to the schedule. Then last month we added an additional week of performances for all three productions at the Tom Patterson Theatre – Mary Stuart, Measure for Measure and Waiting for Godot. Now we’re at it again!

“This compelling production of Mary Stuart features two of Canada’s finest actors, Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock, and is directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who was at the helm of last season’s Cymbeline and 2009’s Bartholomew Fair – two other rarely produced works that thrilled audiences and played to near capacity houses.”

Mary Stuart features Seana McKenna as Elizabeth I and Lucy Peacock as Mary Stuart, with Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

It also features James Blendick as Amias Paulet, Patricia Collins as Hanna Kennedy, Peter Hutt as Aubespine, Ian Lake as Mortimer, E.B. Smith as Bellievre and Brian Tree as Melvil, with Nigel Bennett as the Sheriff, Brad Hodder as O’Kelly, Josue Laboucane as the Page, Robert Persichini as the Earl of Kent, Christopher Prentice as Drury and Dylan Trowbridge as William Davison.

Production support for Mary Stuart is generously provided by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, Dr. M.L. Myers & the late Dr. W.P. Hayman, Alice & Tim Thornton and Diana Tremain. The production co-sponsor is PwC. Support for the 2013 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner.

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.

To purchase tickets for Mary Stuart and all of the 2013 season productions, call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

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Press Release | Noël Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit starts previews

May 17, 2013… A hilarious battle of wits plays out in one of Noël Coward’s most celebrated comedies, Blithe Spirit. Directed by long-time Festival favourite Brian Bedford, the gorgeously designed production started previews on Thursday, May 16, at the Avon Theatre.
 
Mr. Bedford, whose recent double triumph as director and star of The Importance of Being Earnest thrilled audiences first in Stratford and then on Broadway, returns for his 28th Festival season. Widely regarded as an authority on Coward’s work, he has not only directed and acted in Blithe Spirit several times, he also knew the English playwright personally.
 
“I absolutely worshipped him,” says Mr. Bedford. “I thought he was just a magical guy. And of course he was incredibly good company; he spoke with the same kind of wit and original energy that is in his plays.”
 
Set in an exquisite 1940s Georgian style English house, Blithe Spirit centres on Charles, an author who cheekily engages a medium, Madame Arcati, to conduct a séance as research for his latest novel. Things go decidedly not as planned when she inadvertently raises the ghost of his late wife, Elvira, much to the chagrin of his current wife, Ruth. As the only one who can see or hear Elvira, Charles must figure out how to entertain his ethereal house guest without stepping outside of matrimonial bounds. Trying to keep everyone happy, as it turns out, is a hilarious challenge.
 
“Coward’s laser-sharp wit and brilliant dialogue make this a delicious play – one that will serve as a source of joy and amusement within this Festival season,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “I was delighted when my mentor and friend, Brian Bedford, agreed to direct this play and return to the Festival. He is a true master of bringing Coward to life. With an extraordinary cast, sumptuous costumes and outstanding production design, this is sure to be a wildly entertaining, feel-good evening out at the theatre.”
 
The cast features Ben Carlson as Charles Condomine, Michelle Giroux as Elvira Condomine, Seana McKenna as Madame Arcati, Sara Topham as Ruth Condomine, James Blendick as Dr. Bradman, Susie Burnett as Edith and Wendy Thatcher as Mrs. Bradman.
 
“I’m really looking forward to [this production] because of the company,” says Mr. Bedford. “I think it will be the best cast of the play that I’ve ever had.”
 
The artistic team features Set Designer Simon Higlett, Costume Designer Katherine Lubienski, Lighting Designer Paul Miller, Sound Designer Jim Neil and Stunt Coordinator John Stead.
 
Blithe Spirit 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 Blithe Spirit will be explored through several Forum events, including a Talking Theatre series, in which discussions are led by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Education Consultant Pat Quigley on a variety of topics such as The Dynamics of MarriageWoman as Stereotype“Dying is fine, but death…” and Premonitions and the Supernatural, as embodied in many of this season’s productions.
 
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.
 
Blithe Spirit officially opens on June 1 and runs until October 20. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
 
Blithe Spirit is sponsored by CIBC. Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip, Sally & Larry Rayner and John H. Whiteside. 
 
Support for the 2013 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham Family.
 
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)
Dr. Bradman………………………………….          James Blendick
Edith…………………………………………..         Susie Burnett
Charles Condomine.…………………………..         Ben Carlson
Understudy……………………………………         Shane Carty
Elvira Condomine.…………………………….         Michelle Giroux
Understudy…………………………………….         Monique Lund
Madame Arcati………………………………..         Seana McKenna
Understudy……………………………………         Kaitlyn Riordan
Mrs. Bradman…………………………………         Wendy Thatcher
Ruth Condomine………………………………         Sara Topham
 
Artistic Credits
Director……………………………………….          Brian Bedford
Set Designer…………………………………..          Simon Higlett
Costume Designer…………………………….          Katherine Lubienski
Lighting Designer…………………………….          Paul Miller
Sound Designer……………………………….         Jim Neil
Stunt Coordinator……………………………..         John Stead
Producer………………………………………          David Auster
Casting Director………………………………          Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director……………………         Jason Miller
Assistant Set Designer…………………………         Devon Bhim
Assistant Costume Designer…………………..         Sara Brzozowski
Assistant Lighting Designer…………………..         C.J. Astronomo
Stage Manager…………………………………         Michael Hart
Assistant Stage Managers……………………..         Meghan Callan, Holly Korhonen
Apprentice Stage Manager……………………         Christopher Sibbald
Production Assistant…………………………..         Katie Honek
Production Stage Manager…………………….        Julie Miles
Technical Director…………………………….          Elissa Horscroft
 
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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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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!