Crazy Composition Competition – Write to win a pair of opening night tickets!

Let the madness of creativity take hold: enter our Crazy Composition Competition for a chance to win a pair of opening night tickets for King Lear!

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Anticipation is growing for our 2014 season, and we can’t wait to present the twelve stunning productions this coming year as we explore the theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Our Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, has carefully selected a playbill that has something for everyone.  Shakespeare lovers will be mad for King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, King John and two wildly different versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while musical aficionados will go nuts for Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha. The merry madness continues with Restoration comedy making its first return to our stages in over a decade with The Beaux’ Stratagem. Rounding out the lunacy – ranging from the fantastical to the highly dramatic – is Alice Through the Looking-Glass, Hay Fever, Mother Courage and Her Children and Christina, The Girl King.

We will give you and a friend opening night tickets to King Lear on May 26, 2014, two Shakespeare-lover’s journals and two copies of King Lear. All you have to do for a chance to win this unique experience is to put quill to parchment… (Okay, okay – pen to paper or fingers to your keyboard!) …and write a few lines of poetry.

Watch here as Colm Feore discusses the madness of Lear in King Lear!

Here’s what you need to take home this amazing prize!*

In an e-mail to socialmedia@stratfordfestival.ca, please include:

  • A poem of no more than 20 lines about the Festival’s 2014 season playbill and themes. It can take the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, a haiku, a limerick, free verse – you name it!
  • Your first and last name.
  • Your mailing address, e-mail address and phone number.

The deadline for submissions is December 17, 2013 at midnight.

Your poems will be read and reviewed by a panel of Festival staff members, and the top submission will win the prize package to be awarded on December 19, 2013.

We have a season full of inspiration and a pair of tickets waiting for you, so sit down, summon up your most maniacal Muse and unleash your inner poet!

*Please note that your poem will be shared on our social channels for others to read. Failure to include any of the information requested above will render your submission null and void. Current Festival staff members are ineligible to submit an entry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stratford Festival set for a GUlNNESS WORLD RECORDS™ achievement at Pinballapalooza

May 2, 2013… Calling all pinball wizards! The Stratford Festival invites you to be a part of history. On Thursday, May 16, the Festival will be in Toronto to host Pinballapalooza, an exciting event to celebrate the opening of its much-anticipated rock musical, Tommy.

One hundred pinball machines will fill the main lobby of First Canadian Place in an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS attempt to log the greatest number of pinball machines being played simultaneously at a single venue. An all-day occasion, the event will feature free game play, exclusive Tommy ticket deals through an on-site pop-up box office and spectacular live performances by Tommy cast members Robert Markus, Paul Nolan, Gabriel Antonacci and Matthew Armet.

Tommy is the biggest musical we have ever mounted in Stratford,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney, “and what better way to celebrate it than by throwing a larger-than-life pinball tournament that would impress even Tommy, the pinball wizard himself.

“Hosting the event outside of Stratford gives us a rare opportunity to showcase our theatre to a wider audience – an audience we hope to see more of with the help of Stratford Direct, our new daily return bus service between Toronto and Stratford. Whether you are a pinball pro, a theatre fan or you just happen to be in the area, come on out and help us make history!”

For those who cannot attend, the Festival offers two other opportunities to practise your pinball moves: a Tommy-inspired pinball machine found at different locations in Stratford throughout the season and a virtual pinball game at http://tommypinball.com.

EVENT: Pinballapalooza

Date: Thursday, May 16, 2013

Location: First Canadian Place, 100 King Street West, Toronto

Time: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Attempt time: 12:40 p.m.

Live performances: 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. on the Waterfall Stage

Admission and all game play is free. For more information on the event, please visit: www.stratfordfestival.ca/pinball.

Based on The Who’s 1969 concept album of the same name, Tommy tells the story of a young man who, despite having lost the faculties of speech, sight and hearing, becomes a pinball virtuoso – and the centre of a celebrity cult. In a new production helmed by its original Tony Award-winning director, Des McAnuff (who co-wrote the show with The Who’s Pete Townshend), the explosive rock opera features such unforgettable hits as “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Acid Queen” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Set to start previews on Saturday, May 4, at the Avon Theatre, the production features Robert Markus as Tommy, 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.

Set Designer John Arnone, Choreographer Wayne Cilento and Costume Designer David C. Woolard, key members of the original creative team, have reunited for this production to join Musical Director and Supervisor Rick Fox, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Andrew Keister, Projection Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis and Fight Director Steve Rankin.

Tommy is sponsored by Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. Production support is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner and by the Ontario government.

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

Stratford Direct is the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford. 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 Cundhill 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.

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Two performances of Mary Stuart added to 2013 schedule

March 26, 2013… The Stratford Festival is taking action to meet growing demand for what is shaping up to be one of the season’s hottest tickets, Mary Stuart, with a quarter of performances already sold out.

Matinee performances of Mary Stuart have been added to the 2013 schedule on August 27 and September 20. Tickets are available online and through the box office.

“This rarely performed play explores the fascinating relationship between two iconic figures from history – Mary, Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth I – and features two of Canada’s finest actors, Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “It is the first production directed by Antoni Cimolino since he took over as Artistic Director. His production of Cymbeline was one of the highlights of last season – and we had to schedule additional performances of it as well.

“Antoni has assembled a playbill that connects through themes of ‘community’ and in Mary Stuart we are swept away by the political and religious forces that envelop this world. It will be interesting to see this play alongside some other selections in the season that expose these same forces, such as Measure for Measure, Othello and The Three Musketeers.”

Mary Stuart features Ms Peacock in the title role and Ms McKenna as Elizabeth I. Joining them are Ben Carlson as Lord Burleigh, Brian Dennehy as the Earl of Shrewsbury and Geraint Wyn Davies as the Earl of Leicester.

The play, by Friedrich Schiller, 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.

A number of events relating to Mary Stuart are being presented at the Festival’s new Forum, a series of thought-provoking and entertaining events planned to enrich the play-going experience. They include:

  • Dear Mary, Dear Elizabeth, in which Ms McKenna and Ms Peacock present readings of the letters of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, introduced and contextualized by Dr. Ted McGee. In the Studio Theatre on June 28 at 5:30 p.m., July 26 at 11 a.m., and August 31 at 11 a.m. $15.
  • Table Talk, a buffet lunch followed by a talk on Mary Stuart by David G. John of the University of Waterloo. In the Paul D. Fleck Marquee on July 9 at 11:30 a.m. $37, with a cash bar.
  • The Power of Women / Women in Power, a panel featuring author, playwright and activist Susan G. Cole, scholar Margaret Jane Kidnie and others. In the Studio Theatre Annex on August 18, 5:30 p.m. $10.

The 2013 season begins on April 23 and 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. To order tickets, call 1.800.567.1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.

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St. Paddy’s Day ShamROCK deal – Enjoy $50 tickets to Tommy!

We’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a shamROCK of a deal. Today until March 18 at midnight, book any seat in the balcony at any May performance of Tommy – The Who’s epic rock opera – for just $50!

2013-FB-img-Shamrock2.2 About Tommy
Deprived of sight, hearing and speech by the shock of what he has witnessed as a child, young Tommy Walker seems lost to life – until he reveals an uncanny talent for the game of pinball. When his faculties are suddenly restored, Tommy is hailed as a living miracle – but will the fans who turn to him for enlightenment want to hear what he has to say?

Here’s what you need to do to take advantage of this limited-time offer!

  1. Log into our Facebook page and click on the Stratford Social Ticketing tab
  2. Select any May performance of Tommy
  3. In the “Have a Promo Code” box enter 47853 and click “Apply”
  4. Select any seat in the balcony (including A+)
  5. Check out!

Enjoy this shamROCK of a deal and have a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day!

P.S. – If you’re in the Toronto area on May 16, join us for a Pinballapolooza! There will be 100 pinball machines set up for free play – so challenge yourself and others in the world’s largest Pinball play!

Take a break from playing and enjoy a VIP concert with the incredible talent from our production of Tommy – hear your favourite songs and get a taste of our larger than life production.

*Offer is only available online until March 18 at midnight and cannot be combined with any other offers or on previously purchased tickets.  Promotion can only be redeemed online through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Some conditions may apply.

Stratford Festival launches its new Forum with a Shakespeare Slam in Toronto | Torquil Campbell, Adam Gopnik and Rufus Wainwright will debate and entertain

February 25, 2013… The Stratford Festival invites you to see Shakespeare in a whole new light, channeled through the remarkable perspectives of some of Canada’s most provocative thinkers and performers, Torquil CampbellAdam Gopnik and Rufus Wainwright.

On Shakespeare’s birthday, the Festival will be in Toronto to present the Shakespeare Slam, a thought-provoking and irreverent event to mark the launch of the Festival’s newest initiative, The Forum. This celebration of culture – both classical and pop – will look at how Shakespeare continues to entertain and inspire in today’s world. Like The Forum itself, the evening will offer insightful debate, along with music and other entertaining explorations.

“The Shakespeare Slam brings together three of the most original, lively and unpredictable talents we could find,” says Antoni Cimolino, the Festival’s Artistic Director and creator of The Forum. “They each have a love for Shakespeare and a passion for creating new work that is on the most thoughtful edge of contemporary culture. I, of course, have money on the outcome and predict it will be a monstrously entertaining evening.”

To start the evening, one of Canada’s most famous essayists, New Yorker staff writerAdam Gopnik, will face off against the country’s favourite hipster Torquil Campbell, lead singer of the indie rock band Stars and cultural contributor to CBC’s Q. The subject of their polemic: classical or pop culture – which has the reigning impact on our world?

Rufus Wainwright, singer, songwriter and composer extraordinaire, will take the evening to new heights with a performance of some of his own songs set to Shakespeare’s words.

The Slam will also feature a musical performance by Torquil Campbell, accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Julian Brown. They will perform Stars hits that are part of a new theatrical work, currently described as a reflection on Hamlet, which Mr. Campbell is developing for the Stratford Festival with Ann-Marie MacDonald and Alisa Palmer.

Mr. Cimolino is launching The Forum in this, his first season as Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival, as part of a new direction – one he hopes will make a visit to Stratford an all-encompassing, stimulating and immersive cultural experience.

“Through the diverse offerings of The Forum, I hope that we can offer transformational experiences that will allow our productions to resonate more deeply and personally with each patron,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“We have to offer audiences more ways to explore the work on our stages, to make the connections between the great classic plays and life today,” he says. “As part of that, it is critical to have contemporary voices alongside those of ancient times: it anchors our current experience to the bedrock of hard-won knowledge of those who came before us. The Shakespeare Slam will provide a taste of what is to come at Stratford, with diverse perspectives that stimulate, provoke and challenge our perceptions and assumptions about our work and our society.”

The Shakespeare Slam will be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, at Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

Tickets, priced from $30 to $45, $20 for students, go on sale Tuesday, February 26, and are available through the Stratford Festival box office, at 1.800.567.1600, or Koerner Hall’s Weston Family Box Office, at 416.408.0208.

Support for the inaugural season of The Forum is generously provided by Kelly and Michael Meighen, with media sponsorship provided by The Walrus.

The Stratford Festival’s 2013 season begins on April 23. It features Romeo and JulietFiddler on the RoofThe Three MusketeersThe Merchant of VeniceTommy,Blithe SpiritOthelloMeasure for MeasureMary StuartWaiting for Godot and two new Canadian plays, Taking Shakespeare and The Thrill, along with more than 150 Forum events.

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Why bring your children to the theatre?

Most people develop a love for the theatre at a young age because a parent, grandparent or family friend took them to the see a live performance.  Theatre can have an incredible impact on children; the chance to share the magic of live theatre with your family makes for unforgettable experiences.

Guest blogger and long-time Stratford Festival fan Stephanie MacDonald shares her experience of attending the theatre as a child with her mother and now sharing and building those same memories with her own four children.
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by Stephanie MacDonald

I spent a day with my son Dakota filming a Simple Plan video at the Toronto Airport a few years ago. I remember thinking that it would probably be the last day I was going to spend alone with my teenage boy before life got in the way. I was incredibly wrong. Remembering the lessons I learned at my mother’s side, I started to bring him (then his siblings) to Stratford for momma-child days.

Avon Stage Door Snoopy

My mom had often taken me to plays and concerts when I was little, down in Windsor. It was our special time alone. I can’t tell you the name of my first play. Theatre was always there. She also told me every year, when The Sound of Music was on TV, that in 1960 she had seen Christopher Plummer as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at the Stratford Festival. I knew it was the place to be.

My children were raised believing that about Stratford, too. My ear was constantly turned to the happenings at Stratford when we lived in Smithers, BC. I relayed to them the plays of the season. This love of Stratford is one of the reasons why my last child (a girl after three boys) was named Cordelia. Then, in 2004, Mr. Plummer played Lear on the Festival Stage!

When we moved back to Ontario and much closer to Stratford, I started buying their TiXX deals. It was affordable for me to take a child or two with me. My first play at Stratford starred Christopher Plummer. It was a dream fulfilled for me (and later for Dakota with The Tempest).

I started taking my eldest boys to Stratford in 2008, when they were 13 and 11. It was Ben Carlson who took command of the stage that night as Hamlet. Dakota says now, at 17, that he didn’t really understand what going on, but it didn’t matter. He loved it, “like a foreign film. You don’t really understand, but you get wrapped up in it anyway.” Braeden was overwhelmed.

Going to Stratford the past four seasons has brought us closer as a family. It is a place where we can be our better and more relaxed selves, where we can each learn something about life while watching the characters on stage. Luke, when still 10, watched the three-hour-long production of Cymbeline. Did he understand it all? No, but Shakespeare is best understood live and he grasped far more than he would have by watching the play rather than reading Cymbeline. That day, Luke also spent two hours climbing trees along the Avon River, in his white shirt and dress pants. He didn’t rip or tear anything.

Luke Climbing

We pack a lunch to eat along the Avon River. We dance, talk, meditate, or climb those trees. Being enveloped by the Festival and the town, we all feel safer talking to each other. We feel protected from the outside world. When I took my mom back last season (her first trip since high school), I can tell you I hadn’t felt that close to her since childhood. It was magical.

When Cordelia and I spent our ‘Girl Day’ in Stratford last season, she fell in love with tap dancing because of 42nd Street. She danced everywhere after that, including our picnic table. She was amazed at the costumes and the actors in The Matchmaker.

Cordelia Feet

Not every child will be able to sit comfortably for Shakespeare or a musical. Bring them to productions which will entice them. Read the book or play beforehand. Costumes, swords, certain actors, lighting and music can really add to their enjoyment.

What my children look forward to the most this season at the Festival is sword fighting and love. The Three Musketeers has them arguing over who will attend first. They want to see swords in action. Cordelia is actually excited for it, too. But, she is most wanting Romeo and Juliet. (She had me tweet Antoni Cimolino to request it.)

Cordelia Festival

My kids and their friends in our Kids4Bard group have read Romeo and Juliet together, acted it out and choreographed a few scenes. It has been wonderful to see their imaginations and their understanding grow while reading it, even eight-year-old Cordelia. It helped them gain an understanding of the language and storylines so they won’t be lost when we see it.

It seems exquisitely full-circled that I can take my kids and my mom to see Romeo and Juliet this season at Stratford, the place where my mom found her love of theatre. Maybe the new Mercutio (Jonathan Goad) will be the next Christopher Plummer of whom my kids will say to their children, “I once saw him on the stage of the Festival Theatre.”

One day, life will get in the way – growing up will happen. My treasured moments of the upcoming season will be the days along the Avon River, in the Stratford Festival’s seats, spending time alone with my children. Time will stand imperceptibly still and add handprints of love to our hearts.

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Watch as these mothers discuss why they invest in theatre for their children:

Our Family Experience program is a great and affordable way to take your children to the theatre – for every adult ticket you purchase, get up to four kids’ tickets for just $36.

EXCLUSIVE FAMILY PROMOTION: Until, February 28, be sure to take advantage of our Three Musketeers promotion and get up to four kids’ tickets for just $1 each with each purchased adult ticket. Click here for full promot details.