Press Release: Casting begins for Festival’s 60th season

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival has begun to confirm casting for its 60th season and is pleased to announce the return of the following actors: Kyle Blair, James Blendick, Ben Carlson, Juan Chioran, Cynthia Dale, Deborah Hay, Tom McCamus, Seana McKenna, Lucy Peacock, Tom Rooney and Mike Shara.

“I am delighted to welcome all these superbly talented performers back to our stages,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “A theatre is defined by its artists, above all else, and I take great pride in knowing that we will be embarking on our milestone 60th season with an acting ensemble to rival any in the world.”

“This casting announcement is just a taste of what is to come for the Festival in 2012,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “With key players like these leading our ensemble, the 60th will be a season to remember.”

Kyle Blair takes musical leads in Pirates and 42nd Street

Kyle Blair will play the leading roles of Billy Lawlor in the tap spectacular 42nd Street and Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance. Mr. Blair was last seen at the Festival in 2007, playing Will Parker in Oklahoma! and Achmed in My One and Only. In seven seasons at Stratford, Mr. Blair’s memorable musical credits include Jack in Into the Woods, Professor Hamilton Steeves in South Pacific, Ambrose Kemper in Hello, Dolly! and Noah Claypole in Oliver!

Blendick, Carlson, Chioran return for a season of Shakespeare

James Blendick will mark his 29th season at the Festival, playing the principal role of Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing and the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V. Mr. Blendick delighted audiences this season as Master Robert Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Mr. Blendick has been a stalwart of the Festival stage, playing significant roles in both Shakespearean and modern classics, including Doctor Chebutykin in Three Sisters, Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1, Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Claudius in Hamlet and Matthew Brady in Inherit the Wind.

Ben Carlson, currently playing Feste in Twelfth Night and Alceste in The Misanthrope, will celebrate his fifth season at Stratford playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and Fluellen in Henry V. Among the Festival’s finest young classical actors, Mr. Carlson has taken on an impressive list of key roles, including 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.

Juan Chioran will return for his 13th season to play Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing and Montjoy in Henry V. An award-winning stage and television actor, Mr. Chioran this season played Philinte in The Misanthrope and Fabian in Twelfth Night. He is admired by audiences for his musical and classical roles, both comic and dramatic, including last season’s Juan Perón in Evita and Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate, as well as Solyony in Three Sisters, Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well, Jaques in As You Like It and the title role in Man of La Mancha.

Cynthia Dale returns in 42nd Street; Deborah Hay returns to play Beatrice

Cynthia Dale’s eagerly anticipated return to the Stratford stage will see her take on the role of Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. When last at Stratford, in 2007, Ms Dale starred in another tap musical, beautifully portraying Edythe Herbert in My One and Only. Ms Dale’s musical credits at the Festival also include leading roles in The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, Man of La Mancha, Camelot and Anything Goes. 2012 will mark Ms Dale’s 11th season with the Festival.

Deborah Hay, most recently seen in leading roles at the Shaw Festival, will return for her fourth season at Stratford to play Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Alice in Henry V. A member of the Birmingham Conservatory in 1999, Ms Hay played such roles as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew and Katharine in Love’s Labour’s Lost in Stratford. This season at Shaw, Ms Hay is playing Eliza Doolittle in their hit production of My Fair Lady, as well as Hesione Hushabye in Heartbreak House. Her portrayal of Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday was proclaimed as a standout at the Shaw in 2010.

Seana McKenna and Tom McCamus join forces in a lighter love affair

After his moving portrayal of Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath and his masterful turn as Master Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Tom McCamus will play the leading roles of Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker and Iachimo in Cymbeline. Last season, Mr. McCamus delighted audiences in the deliciously evil roles of Captain Hook in Peter Pan and Le Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons. In 11 seasons at Stratford, he has played a vast number of leading roles in such productions as Three Sisters, Bartholomew Fair, An Ideal Husband, The Threepenny Opera, Camelot, Waiting for Godot and Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

After her triumphant turn as Richard III, Seana McKenna will make a welcome return to comedy, playing Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker. Stratford audiences will remember Ms McKenna’s lighter side from such productions as Private Lives, Present Laughter, Noises Off and London Assurance – and will be delighted to see her reunited with Mr. McCamus after their sizzling performances in Dangerous Liaisons. Adding to her acclaimed credits in classical tragedy, Ms McKenna will also play Clytemestra in the 2012 production of Elektra, having given moving portrayals of Medea, Andromache and Phèdre at the Festival, all of which were extremely highly regarded.

Tom Rooney and Lucy Peacock together again in Wanderlust

Celebrating her 25th season and 60th production with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Lucy Peacock will play the Hostess in Henry V and Mrs. Munsch in the new musical Wanderlust. Ms Peacock combined musical theatre and Shakespeare this season as well, playing Morgan le Fey in Camelot and the delightfully scheming Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, with Tom Rooney as her jealous husband. Last season the two actors appeared together in the moving production of For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again and in As You Like It, in which Ms Peacock played a memorable Audrey. In 2012 Ms Peacock and Mr. Rooney will again appear together.

Tom Rooney will take on the leading role of Robert Service in Wanderlust, the new musical commissioned from Morris Panych and composer Marek Norman. He will also play Pistol in Henry V. Since joining the company in 2008, Mr. Rooney has fast become a favourite on the Festival stage, most recently 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.

Mike Shara to play Cornelius in The Matchmaker

After making an impressive Shakespearean debut in 2010 as Oliver in As You Like It and the Young Shepherd in The Winter’s Tale, Mike Shara portrayed Orsino in this season’s Twelfth Night, and will return in 2012 to play Cloten in Cymbeline. Mr. Shara will also play the leading role of Cornelius in The Matchmaker. His Stratford credits also include an insightful portrayal of Teddy in this season’s acclaimed production of The Homecoming and the deliciously daft Algernon Moncrieff in the 2008 production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Casting continues for the 2012 season.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 season runs until November 6, featuring The Merry Wives of Windsor, Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Homecoming, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Little Years and Hosanna.