Community is the reason for the season

by Lisa Middleton

Our Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, has focused his inaugural season around themes of community and belonging. As our lives become increasingly individualistic, the theatre is one of the few spaces left where we gather as a community. As you plan your visit to the Festival this year, we hope that you’ll take a few moments to contemplate the value of community. Mr. Cimolino has said that from “collective experience comes empathetic understanding,” and we sincerely hope that this is true for you as you enter our theatres this season.

Watch here as Antoni discusses our 2013 season:

Many productions in our 2013 playbill explore the position of people on the fringes of society — the “other.” Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Othello are certainly deemed as cultural and ethnic outsiders in their communities; this idea of outsiders also extends to characters like Tommy and like Elora in The Thrill, who are physically set apart. The playbill also considers how communities and individuals relate to governing bodies – family, church, state – all of which play a fundamental role in shaping the cultural landscape. Certainly in Romeo and Juliet, Mary Stuart, Measure for MeasureThe Merchant of Venice, Fiddler on the Roof and even The Three Musketeers, we see the dynamics of communities at play. There are elements of community in all twelve productions being offered this season, from the comedic to the tragic. We hope that our productions will give you opportunities to connect to, understand and contemplate the communities in your life.

An important feature of our 2013 season is The Forum. The Forum will provide Festival fans and community members with a platform to further explore the themes that are prevalent in our productions and in the world around us. We have an exciting line-up of speakers, concerts, discussions, classes, film screenings, exhibitions, panels, debates and even meals planned for you! To top things off, we have an amazing roster of special guests joining us including John de Chastelain, Canada’s former Chief of the Defence Staff; comedian Colin Mochrie; former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson; your favourite Festival actors and many more! We hope that these events will be fun, but also thought-provoking, and will challenge our assumptions about the stories we watch unfold on our stages, in the news and in our own communities. For a full list of Forum events, please visit our website!

Remember, booking your tickets before January 31 ensures that you’ll enjoy the lowest regular prices of the season (up to 25% less than our in-season rates), and also gives you the benefit of being able to exchange your tickets at a later date without paying any fees! In addition, if you book your tickets online, you’ll be saving 50% on handling fees!

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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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Antoni Cimolino unveils first season as Artistic Director

July 17, 2012… Antoni Cimolino today announced the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s playbill for 2013, his first season as Artistic Director, and began to outline his vision for the Festival’s future during his tenure.

Combining intimate chamber pieces with works of larger scope, the 2013 season offers a rich variety of repertoire, from classics to light-hearted comedy to powerfully emotive musicals. It also invites audiences to enhance their enjoyment of the productions by exploring various thematic strands that run through the playbill as a whole.

“I have selected a season that I hope will touch both the hearts and minds of our audiences, not only engaging them emotionally but also provoking discussion and debate,” said Mr. Cimolino. “These plays complement and reflect one another, while at the same time connecting with contemporary social issues. Each will offer a complete and fulfilling experience on its own – but the experience will be even richer for those who see several of the productions and take advantage of the opportunity to draw connections among them.

“Our audiences have always expected us to tell the great stories, and to tell them superbly,” he added, “but I believe that today they also want to explore, to ask questions, to interact with us and to better understand the artist’s goals.”

To that end, Mr. Cimolino will complement his playbill with a new initiative, the Forum: an interactive program of talks, discussions, music and dance, and other ancillary events that will offer a diverse range of perspectives and invite debate on the season’s themes.

“Many of these plays, for instance, deal with the bonds that hold communities together and the differences that divide them,” said Mr. Cimolino. “Several of them feature characters whose ‘otherness’ challenges the status quo. The Forum will invite our audiences to pursue these and other topics raised on our stages by participating in a lively exchange of ideas.

Acclaimed directors featured throughout the season

The 2013 season will open at the Festival Theatre with Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s great tragedy of young lovers who defy their families’ ancient hatred. It will be directed by Tim Carroll, who helmed 2010’s Peter Pan and is currently directing Mark Rylance in Richard III and Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe in England.

Donna Feore, whose previous work on the Festival’s thrust stage has included such hugely popular productions as Oklahoma! and Oliver!, will direct and choreograph one of Broadway’s most celebrated musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, the humorous yet heart-wrenching story of a community whose traditions – andvery existence – are assailed by the winds of change.

The solidarity of comrades-in-arms is pitted against the machinations of church and state in the swashbuckling adventure The Three Musketeers. Based on Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel, this adaptation by Peter Raby was written in 1968 especially for the Festival stage and will appeal to audiences of all ages. It will be directed by Miles Potter, whose Stratford productions include the highly lauded Richard III, Medea and Orpheus Descending.

Brian Bedford to play Shylock

Completing the line-up at the Festival Theatre will be The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s perennially popular yet always controversial story of a despised outsider who seeks horrific vengeance for the abuse to which he has been subjected. It will be directed by Mr. Cimolino, whose prior Festival productions include the current season’s widely acclaimed Cymbeline. The production will feature Brian Bedford as Shylock.

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, and was broadcast in high definition on cinema screens, will also direct Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s hilariously witty comedy of ghostly visitation from the “other side.” The production will be presented at the Avon Theatre.

Des McAnuff returns to direct Tommy

Also at the Avon, Des McAnuff, whose tenure as Artistic Director ends after the 2012 season, will return to direct The Who’s Tommy, which he co-wrote with Pete Townshend and for which he won a Tony for Best Director in 1993. The spectacular rock musical 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 his first Shakespearean assignment at Stratford, Chris Abraham, director of this year’s critically lauded production of The Matchmaker, will direct Othello, the classic tragedy of an interracial marriage fatally undermined by the deadly insinuations of a master manipulator.

At the Tom Patterson Theatre, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure will explore the problems and paradoxes inherent in the state’s attempts to regulate sexual morality. It will be directed by Martha Henry, whose renowned Stratford productions most recently included Chekhov’s Three Sisters in 2009.

Brian Dennehy returns for Mary Stuart and Waiting for Godot

Meanwhile, at the same theatre, Mr. Cimolino will direct Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart. This gripping historical drama about the power struggle between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, offers a timely exploration of the often dangerous relationship between religion and politics. Brian Dennehy will return for his third season at Stratford to play Talbot.

Jennifer Tarver, who won international plaudits for her 2008 production of Krapp’s Last Tapefeaturing Mr. Dennehy, will continue her exploration of Samuel Beckett’s work with Waiting for Godot, a 20th-century classic that raises fundamental questions about the meaning of human life in a seemingly indifferent universe. She will once again be working with Mr. Dennehy, who will play Pozzo.

Martha Henry takes the lead in Taking Shakespeare

Two Canadian plays will be presented at the Studio Theatre. Diana Leblanc, whose remarkable career includes the Festival’s celebrated 1994 production of Long Day’s Journey into Night, returns to direct John Murrell’s Taking Shakespeare, in which a disenchanted professor and her student undertake an exploration of Othello, a journey that leads them to a new understanding of themselves and each other. The play will feature Martha Henry as the Prof, a role that was written expressly for her.

Dean Gabourie, who this year is directing the première of Daniel MacIvor’sThe Best Brothers, will bring another world première to the stage in 2013: Judith Thompson’s The Thrill. Commissioned by the Festival, this spirited new play concerns a disability activist who confronts a champion of the right-to-die movement – with results that catch them both unawares.

Two new initiatives focus on innovation and exploration

In outlining his future plans, Mr. Cimolino –­ a 25-year Stratford veteran– said that he intends to build in three specific ways on the achievements that have already earned the Festival its reputation as North America’s leading classical theatre company.

“First, I will put the actor and the text firmly at the centre of what we do. That was the principle on which our Festival was founded 60 years ago, and I think it has become even more important today. In a culture that has become so visually oriented, I think people crave the kind of storytelling that relies above all on the uniquely compelling power of the spoken word.

“At the same time, I want the Festival to be a world leader in artistic innovation and exploration. The very act of exploration, of trying things in new ways and expanding the skills we have, is critically important to a great company examining the classics. With that in mind, I shall also launch a second initiative, the Laboratory, which will be for the artist what the Forum is for the audience.”

Incorporating the Festival’s existing new play development activities into a program with wider aims, the Laboratory willenable playwrights to work on a grander scale, emulating the scope of the classics. It will also provide opportunities to experiment with existing works.

“The Laboratory will be a workshop but also a playground,” explained Mr. Cimolino. “It will enable us to work with artists from other countries and to form partnerships with other disciplines.It will encourage innovative approaches to the great classical texts, so that we can find new ways of telling these familiar stories, and it will also enable us to explore classics with which we are less familiar, so that we may discover the overlooked treasures of other eras and other cultures.

“My third goal for the future,” he added, “is to establish our Festival and its beautiful city of Stratford as an unrivalled spiritual, emotional and intellectual retreat. Tyrone Guthrie, our first Artistic Director, conceived of Stratford as a place removed from a major metropolis where you could lay aside for a moment the demands of daily life and give yourself time to enjoy, to think and to feel – and then go home refreshed, restored and inspired. Hence my introduction of the Forum as a means of enabling audiences to enjoy theatre in a deeper and more dynamic way, using the work they see on our stages to prompt ideas, raise questions and open the door to good-hearted and open-minded debate.”

Specific details regarding casting, the Forum and the Laboratory will be announced at a later date.

“We are excited about both the 2013 playbill and the vision for the Festival outlined by our incoming Artistic Director,” said Dr. David Goldbloom, Chair of the Board of Governors. “It reconfirms our commitment to classical theatre while promoting new talent and innovation through the Laboratory. Antoni’s plans for the playbill bring a coherence to the offerings that we hope provokes curiosity and discussion – not only before and after performances but also in the Forum.”

THE 2013 PLAYBILL

FESTIVAL THEATRE

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tim Carroll

Fiddler on the Roof
Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, Book by Joseph Stein
Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore 

The Three Musketeers
By Peter Raby
Adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas
Directed by Miles Potter

The Merchant of Venice
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino

AVON THEATRE

Blithe Spirit
By Noël Coward
Directed by Brian Bedford

The Who’s Tommy
By Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Based on the album Tommy by The Who
Directed by Des McAnuff

Othello
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Chris Abraham

TOM PATTERSON THEATRE

Measure for Measure
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Martha Henry

Mary Stuart
By Friedrich Schiller
Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Waiting for Godot
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Jennifer Tarver

STUDIO THEATRE

Taking Shakespeare
By John Murrell
Directed by Diana Leblanc

The Thrill
By Judith Thompson
Directed by Dean Gabourie
World première of a Stratford Shakespeare Festival commission