Press Release | Stratford Festival unveils 2014 season | Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge

August 20, 2013… Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is delighted to announce the 2014 season, in which, through the prism of a dozen plays, the Stratford Festival will explore the theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge.

“What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary places,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Extreme stakes lead to great drama.”

“These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poverty, age, sexuality. In today’s fast-paced global community, we are becoming ever more acutely aware of the consequences of such pressures. The issues behind them are interesting in themselves, but what they do to the human mind – to us – is ultimately the most fascinating thing. When the pressures of life become great enough, our minds give way to other realities. The result is often heartbreakingly tragic, but can also be a trigger for comedy.”

The season coincides with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, and to mark that occasion, Mr. Cimolino has programmed five Shakespeare productions, including two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that revolves around the madness of young love.

“For the first time in our history, we will examine a Shakespeare play in two different productions within the same season,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The first will be directed by one of Canada’s most exciting young directors, Chris Abraham; the second by one of the most highly regarded, internationally acclaimed directors of Shakespeare, Peter Sellars: two very different approaches to Shakespeare’s text.”

The season will also feature King Lear; Antony and Cleopatra; King John; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Mother Courage; Hay Fever; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Christina, The Girl King; and the musicals Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha.

“I’m very excited about the creative teams who’ll be working on this season with me,” says Mr. Cimolino. “In addition to Chris and Peter, our lineup of directors includes the great Martha Henry and others whose work has captivated Festival audiences in recent seasons: Donna Feore, Tim Carroll and Gary Griffin. I’m also looking forward tremendously to the Stratford debuts of artistic leaders from other major Canadian cultural institutions – Jillian Keiley from the National Arts Centre, Alisa Palmer from the National Theatre School and Vanessa Porteous from Alberta Theatre Projects – as well as Robert McQueen, whose work in opera and musical theatre has been acclaimed internationally.”

King Lear | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Antoni Cimolino | Festival Theatre #sfKingLear

The season will open at the Festival Theatre with the Shakespearean masterpiece King Lear, directed by Mr. Cimolino, whose sold-out production of Mary Stuart has been the runaway hit of 2013.

King Lear is the ultimate example of a mind pushed to the edge. When the aging king decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, requiring each in turn to publicly profess how much she loves him, he sets in motion a train of events that will rob him of his home, his status and his sanity – everything except the honest love and loyalty of his youngest daughter, Cordelia. Meanwhile, the Earl of Gloucester is falsely persuaded by his illegitimate son, Edmund, that his other son, Edgar, is conspiring against him. Both these fathers pay for their misjudgements by being driven to the very limits of human endurance.

King Lear speaks to the simple, naked humanity shared by everyone from a monarch to the poorest of the poor,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It’s from that essential humanity, not the trappings of wealth or power, that we claim our right to exist. After Lear loses everything, he finds that he is no longer who he thought he was. This loss is a liberation. In his subsequent madness he sees his own folly, awakens to empathy and discovers his soul.”

Like Mary Stuart this season, Mr. Cimolino’s 2012 production of Cymbeline caught the public’s imagination, and was twice extended to meet demand for tickets. His production of The Merchant of Venice opened last week to unanimous acclaim. Mr. Cimolino’s other Shakespeare credits at Stratford include Coriolanus with Colm Feore and Martha Henry in 2006, As You Like It with Graham Abbey, Stephen Ouimette and Sara Topham in 2005, King John with Peter Donaldson and Stephen Ouimette in 2004, Love’s Labour’s Lost with Graham Abbey and Brian Bedford in 2003 and Twelfth Night with Domini Blythe, Peter Donaldson and William Hutt in 2001.

Crazy for You | Music by George Gershwin | Lyrics by Ira Gershwin | Book by Ken Ludwig | Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore | Festival Theatre

Never before produced by the Festival, Crazy for You will be directed and choreographed at the Festival Theatre by Donna Feore, the force behind a growing list of hit musicals at the Festival, including one of this season’s hottest tickets, Fiddler on the Roof, as well as 2012’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 2007’s Oklahoma! and 2006’s Oliver!

Set in the 1930s, Crazy for You is the story of Bobby Child, the scion of a wealthy banking family, whose dream in life is to be a Broadway dancer. Sent by his mother to foreclose on a struggling theatre, he faces a dilemma when he falls in love with a local girl whose affections he will lose if he carries out his mother’s commission. His solution: put on a show and pay off the theatre’s mortgage.

This high-energy romantic comedy – replete with mistaken identities, plot twists and stunning dance numbers – is packed with beloved Gershwin songs, including “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Crazy for You presents a joyous view of love and madness,” says Mr. Cimolino. “But the story is secondary to the powerful force of the Gershwins’ music. The bedrock of their work is the music of the Russian and Ukrainian steppes, which led the brothers to write brilliant, entertaining, lively music, with an energy and madness of its own. It is the music of adversity now finding itself in the new world, in what should be the land of milk and honey.”

Next year, Ms Feore will celebrate her 20th season with the Festival. To her musical credits, Ms Feore adds the choreography of more than 20 productions here, as well as the direction of the captivating production of Cyrano de Bergerac in 2009. Ms Feore’s other credits include directing The Very, Very Best of Broadway with Martin Short and Marvin Hamlisch; the Canadian Stage productions of Rock ’n’ Roll and It’s a Wonderful Life; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Lecture on the Weather and A Soldier’s Tale with F. Murray Abraham; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart: A Life in Letters. Her film credits include Politics Is Cruel, Mean Girls, Eloise, Martin and Lewis, Stormy Weather and the opera films Romeo and Juliette and Don Giovanni Unmasked.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Chris Abraham | Festival Theatre

Chris Abraham, hot off his spell-binding production of Othello, will direct his first Shakespeare on the Festival Stage, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This delightful Shakespearean comedy of unrequited desire is imbued with the same life force that permeates Crazy for You. The madness of love runs riot as Hermia flees to the woods with her lover, Lysander, to escape her father’s command that she marry Demetrius. Demetrius follows, pursued by Helena, whose love he spurns. Their romantic problems intensify when the fairy world intervenes.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream explores the madness of young love – intemperate, powerful, blind, rash,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It is Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. This young love, however, exists in a male-dominated world where parents want to control their children’s natural desires, causing a series of metamorphoses. Even the natural world revolts at man’s determination to subvert these desires, putting the climate in disarray.”

Mr. Abraham, who is Artistic Director of Crow’s Theatre in Toronto, will mark his fifth season at Stratford, where he has quickly established himself as a director of note with stellar productions of The Matchmaker, The Little Years and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again to his credit. He has won numerous awards in his career, including a Dora for The Little Years, which he directed at Tarragon after its Stratford run. He also has received Doras for Eternal Hydra and Easy Lenny Lazmon, and a Gemini for I, Claudia, and was the recipient of the Siminovitch Protégé Award in 2002. His other credits include Someone Else, Seeds and BOXHEAD at Crow’s Theatre; The Patient Hour at Tarragon; Blue/Orange at Canadian Stage; Antigone and The Lesson at Soulpepper; and Hedda Gabler, The Glass Menagerie and Salt-Water Moon at the Saidye Bronfman Centre.

The Beaux’ Stratagem | By George Farquhar | Directed by Antoni Cimolino | Festival Theatre

Opening later in the season at the Festival Theatre is George Farquhar’s brilliant Restoration comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, directed by Mr. Cimolino. It is the first Restoration comedy produced in Stratford since The Country Wife in 1995.

Written in 1707, The Beaux’ Stratagem follows the madly comic antics of two impoverished rakes, who, disguising their identities, arrive in the town of Lichfield seeking to restore their fortunes by wooing wealthy women. As the two connive to relieve ladies of their wealth, they must contend with a suspicious local innkeeper and his band of highwaymen, and with an acquaintance privy to their true identity.

“In The Beaux’ Stratagem, the necessity of coping with the realities of marriage and personal finance give way to a romp,” says Mr. Cimolino. “One of the last of the Restoration comedies, it was written by the amazing George Farquhar, who himself was dying and hoped the play would finance his family after his death. It is very funny and I look forward enormously to directing it.”

Hay Fever | By Noël Coward | Directed by Alisa Palmer | Avon Theatre

Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director of the National Theatre School English Section, makes her Festival debut at the Avon Theatre as the director of Noël Coward’s celebrated comedy Hay Fever.

As stylish as it is intoxicatingly absurd, Hay Fever introduces audiences to the Bliss family: a retired actress mother, novelist father and two children, all prone to their own outrageous eccentricities. The family’s self-absorbed antics astound and ultimately exasperate the various guests that each of them has invited to their country house for the weekend. Driven to distraction by a comic maelstrom of rousing fights, fevered flirtations and histrionic role-playing, the guests eventually flee, leaving the Blisses happily playing and bickering amongst themselves.

“This is one of the great opportunities for energetic comedy within the theme of madness,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Theatre is about taking ordinary situations and pushing them to the extreme – and what could be more delightful than experiencing this through the lives of a theatre family? These people pretend to have an interest in conventional living, in entertaining at their country property. But as we can see by the end, they really are in a world all their own. It’s as if they lived only on the stage – sheer madness!”

Ms Palmer is currently collaborating with Ann-Marie MacDonald and Torquil Campbell on a Festival commission to develop a musical reflection on Hamlet. An internationally award-winning director, playwright and producer, Ms Palmer has worked in a range of genres, including classics, contemporary plays, creation projects, musicals and operas. A former Artistic Director of Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre and long-time director at the Shaw Festival, Ms Palmer has directed across Canada, winning seven Dora Awards for her work, as well as two Chalmers Awards for her plays i.d. and A Play About the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. Her Shaw credits include Pal Joey, The Philanderer, The Women, Belle Moral: A Natural History, Sunday in the Park with George and Diana of Dobson’s. Her other credits include The Children’s Republic and East of Berlin at Tarragon, Cloud 9 for Mirvish Productions, the acclaimed Top Girls at Soulpepper, and Mrs. Warren’s Profession and The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Man of La Mancha | Music by Mitch Leigh | Lyrics by Joe Darion | Book by Dale Wasserman | Directed by Robert McQueen | Choreographed by Marc Kimelman | Avon Theatre

Robert McQueen, whose work in musical theatre and opera has been recognized both nationally and internationally, will make his Stratford debut at the helm of Man of La Mancha, to be staged at the Avon Theatre.

Featuring the timeless anthem “The Impossible Dream,” Man of La Mancha follows the saga of the aging Miguel de Cervantes, playwright, poet and tax collector, who finds himself in a dungeon in Seville awaiting trial by the Inquisition for an offence against the Church. When his fellow prisoners try to confiscate his few possessions, including the uncompleted manuscript of his most famous work, the novel Don Quixote, Cervantes defends his masterpiece by proposing that he present it to them as a play. To this end, Cervantes and his manservant transform themselves into Don Quixote and his fiercely loyal servant, Sancho Panza, recruiting prisoners to take on the roles of other characters. What follows is the stirring tale of the mad Quixote and his obsessive quest to attain the impossible dream. It is the lunatic who sees most clearly in Man of La Mancha, as in King Lear.

Man of La Mancha is a beautiful contrast to Crazy for You,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The source material, Don Quixote, is from the Spanish Golden Age, and you can see that period’s theatrical influence on Shakespeare in the Romance plays. Man of La Mancha takes that source material and puts it through the lens of American musical theatre. It depicts a pure, chaste, romantic and mature love – love that elevates the beloved. It is an extraordinary musical because of the story and the characters. Despite dark content, it manages to be inspiring, making us question what is actually the saner choice: to live in filth and despair, or to pursue the romantic ideal.”

Mr. McQueen directed Caroline, or Change, the Acting Up Stage musical that took Toronto by storm in 2012. His recent work includes the direction and dramaturgy of the new musical theatre piece Where Elephants Weep, at the Cambodian Living Arts centre in Phnom Pehn, The Light in the Piazza and Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio, for Pacific Opera in Victoria. In 2009 he directed a Tokyo-based creative team and acting company in a Japanese-language production of Carousel at the Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo. For the Vancouver Opera he served as director and dramaturge for The Magic Flute. The project, for which he also adapted the libretto, was a collaboration with a 15-member creative team of Canadian aboriginal and non-native visual artists and theatre-makers. His other work includes directing La Bohème for the Canadian Opera Company and serving as associate director of the Broadway and national touring productions of Mamma Mia, as well as the direction of the Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires productions.

Alice Through the Looking-Glass | Adapted by James Reaney | Directed by Jillian Keiley | Avon Theatre

Twenty years after its Stratford première, the Festival is pleased to present Lewis Carroll’s wildly inventive fantasy Alice Through the Looking-Glass, in an adaptation commissioned by the Festival from nationally renowned playwright and poet James Reaney, a native son of Stratford. So popular was the 1994 production that it was re-mounted in 1996 to the great delight of audiences of all ages.

Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, will bring her remarkable creative vision to the piece, to be staged at the Avon Theatre and produced in association with the National Arts Centre.

“The underlying material for Alice Through the Looking-Glass is, of course, iconic and examines a fantasy world filled with some of the greatest and most familiar nonsense verse,” says Mr. Cimolino. “The characters – the Walrus and the Carpenter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty and the Jabberwock – are the inhabitants of the farthest reaches of a child’s imagination.”

Deciding to explore the alternative world she sees inside her living-room mirror, Alice finds a place that in some aspects resembles her home yet differs from it in ways as delightful as they are surreal.

Ms Keiley won the 2004 Siminovitch Prize for her “startlingly original and radically imaginative” directing style, making her an ideal candidate to take on the sublime nonsense of both Lewis Carroll and James Reaney. She is also the recipient of the Canada Council’s John Hirsch Award. Her credits include Tempting Providence, which she created in collaboration with playwright Robert Chafe, and which, over a 10-year run, toured across Canada and abroad, as did Afterimage. She and Mr. Chafe, the co-founders of Newfoundland’s Artistic Fraud, also collaborated on Oil and Water, at Factory Theatre. Ms Keiley made a big splash with her first project as Artistic Director of the NAC, Metamorphoses, a play by Mary Zimmerman, which re-imagines 10 classical myths. Set around a giant swimming pool, this theatrical event allowed audiences to experience the consequences of humanity’s deepest desires. Ms Keiley’s Stratford connection dates back to 2008, when she was selected as a participant in the International Master Directors Summit.

Mother Courage | By Bertolt Brecht | Directed by Martha Henry | Tom Patterson Theatre

Considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century – and perhaps the greatest anti-war play of all time – Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage will be directed by one of the Festival’s most celebrated artists, Martha Henry, returning for a remarkable 40th season with the Stratford Festival in 2014. Ms Henry’s contributions to the Festival include the direction of numerous critically acclaimed productions, including this season’s Measure for Measure, 2009’s Three Sisters, 2007’s Of Mice and Men and 2002’s Elizabeth Rex.

Mother Courage was written in 1939 as a response to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Set in 17th-century Europe and spanning 12 years, the story follows Mother Courage as she struggles to make a living and to protect her three children during the Thirty Years’ War. By the end of the play, having lost everyone she loves and almost everything she owns, she has truly been driven to the edge – yet somehow she finds the will to carry on.

“Mother Courage presents a world in which the madness of war becomes not only day-to-day but something that the people can’t live without,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It represents profit. It represents the new normal. In that respect it is like our world today. As the characters cynically take advantage of the opportunities for commercial gain that the war provides, they lose anything of real worth, including their souls. They lose their children, they lose their freedom, they lose their self-respect and eventually they lose their lives.”

A Companion of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Ms Henry boasts a career without parallel in this country. Her work opposite the great William Hutt was truly the stuff of dreams, beginning with her portrayal of Miranda to his Prospero and also including Mary to his James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Her Shakespearean roles include Titania, Lady Macduff, Helena, Luciana, Cressida, Viola, the Countess of Rossillion, Cymbeline’s Queen, Lady Anne, Queen Eleanor, Cordelia, Goneril, Rosaline, the Princess of France, Thaisa, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Isabella, Beatrice, Paulina and Volumnia. As Director of the Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory, Ms Henry is training a whole new generation of classical actors.

King John | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Tim Carroll | Tom Patterson Theatre

King John, the story of a monarch trying desperately to maintain his grip on power, will be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre in a production directed by Tim Carroll.

King John looks at a mind driven by the dangerous combination of ambition and insecurity,” says Mr. Cimolino. “John commits horrible acts to secure a position he rightly holds. There is a wonderful range of characters in this play who navigate, with varying degrees of success, the pressures of politics, ambition, legitimacy and loss. From Hubert the mercenary, asked to commit an atrocity, to Constance, who wishes she were mad to escape the pain of her child’s murder, it is the Bastard (a very different bastard from Edmund in King Lear) who comes through the play with the most honour and integrity.”

Tim Carroll, who this season gave audiences the opportunity to see a Romeo and Juliet as Shakespeare might have presented it at the Globe Theatre, will transport audiences to the Blackfriars Theatre in a candlelit production of King John.

Mr. Carroll, former Associate Director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, directed a sold-out production of Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance, which transferred from the Globe to London’s West End, garnering four Olivier nominations this year, and which will open on Broadway in the fall. Mr. Carroll is one of the world’s most respected directors of Shakespeare. His Globe credits also include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Tempest and The Golden Ass. For the RSC he directed The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His international credits include Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, The Duchess of Malfi and Victory for the Barka Theatre in Budapest; All’s Well That Ends Well for the National Theatre in Craiova, Romania; Amadeus for the National Theatre in Portugal; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Sydney Opera House. He is a founding member of The Factory, in London, for which he directed three theatre experiments: Hamlet, The Seagull and The Odyssey. Mr. Carroll made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan in 2010.

Antony and Cleopatra | By William Shakespeare | Directed by Gary Griffin | Tom Patterson Theatre

Gary Griffin, Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, will return for a fifth season to direct Antony and Cleopatra at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

The play, produced just four times before at Stratford, follows the relationship of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with Mark Antony, who, having defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, is now one of the three rulers of the Roman republic. Criticized for neglecting his political and military responsibilities – and his wife in Rome – as he dallies in Alexandria with Cleopatra, Antony attempts to break free of Cleopatra’s spell, and returns to Rome to help crush an incipient rebellion. Once there, his wife having died, he agrees to a political marriage, enraging Cleopatra. But Antony cannot long endure his separation from the bewitching Egyptian queen: when war breaks out, he abandons his new wife and returns to Egypt, a choice that leads to his own and Cleopatra’s tragic ends.

Antony and Cleopatra examines older love and the pressures of being madly in love when you know better,” says Mr. Cimolino. “This play has some of the most incredibly lyrical and intense love poetry ever written, along with beautiful observations on life that speak to us today, in a world where second and third marriages have never been more common.”

Mr. Griffin has a string of hit productions to his credit at Stratford, including 42nd Street, Camelot, Evita and West Side Story. He won an Olivier Award for outstanding musical for his production of Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse in London. On Broadway, he was the director of Oprah Winfrey’s production of The Color Purple and of The Apple Tree. His Off-Broadway credits include Music in the Air, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pardon My English and The New Moon for City Center Encores!, Saved at Playwrights Horizons; and Beautiful Thing at the Cherry Lane. He has won numerous awards for his work at Chicago Shakespeare, where his credits include Amadeus, Passion, A Flea in Her Ear, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Pacific Overtures.

Christina, The Girl King | By Michel Marc Bouchard | Translated by Linda Gaboriau | Directed by Vanessa Porteous | Studio Theatre

The Festival is delighted to present Linda Gaboriau’s translation of Michel Marc Bouchard’s Christina, The Girl King. Written by one of Quebec’s most celebrated playwrights, the play will make its English-language première at the Studio Theatre, directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of Alberta Theatre Projects.

Commissioned as a translation by the Festival in 2010, the play is the story of Christina of Sweden, an extraordinarily modern character who was born just 10 years after Shakespeare’s death. Hers is a story of bringing sanity to an insane world. The enigmatic ruler showed a passion for philosophy, literature and the arts but her lifestyle and refusal to marry proved sources of great concern at court. Rather than bow to pressure to conform to the expectations of others, the 26-year-old queen abdicates in order to be free to pursue her own aspirations. Is this an act of madness? Or is Christina’s the story of a modern woman born out of her time – one whom the 17th century simply couldn’t contain?

“Michel Marc Bouchard has such a great gift for helping us understand the situation of the person who does not fit in,” says Mr. Cimolino. “In Christina, The Girl King, he has beautifully brought to life the story of a historical figure who had the courage to step outside of the society that attempted to bind her in. As the daughter of a Protestant warrior king – himself one of the driving forces of the Thirty Years’ War depicted in Mother Courage – she was expected to get married, have children and adhere to the spartan values of the Swedish nation as it was then. Instead she introduced foreign, and then radical scientific and philosophical ideas, and strained to remain unmarried and independent.

“Bouchard examines the pressures inherent in her sexual and personal self-discovery in a highly compelling play. The pressures in her life push her to the edge. Rather than give over to madness, which would be the only outcome of staying on as queen, she leaves her throne and her country, moving to Rome where she is free to live outside of marriage as a patron of the arts.”

Ms Porteous makes her Festival debut with this production.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream | By William Shakespeare | A Chamber Play Directed by Peter Sellars

Peter Sellars, renowned for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces, comes to the Festival for the first time to stage his reimagined version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With a cast of four actors playing all of the roles, this staging will offer an intensely focused approach to Shakespeare’s examination of the role-playing, mercurial mood swings, delusional fantasy, deep hurt, and forgiveness and release at the heart of human relationships.

“What is extraordinary about Stratford is not that we do 12 plays in one year, but that we do them all at the same time, giving theatre-goers an opportunity to experience one play in light of another. Next season, for the first time ever, we will offer a chance for audiences to experience the same title in two very different productions, along with further opportunities for exploration in The Forum,” says Mr. Cimolino.

“I look forward to welcoming Peter to the Stratford Festival,” he adds. “I have greatly enjoyed his work in opera and Shakespeare for its beauty, vulnerability and intelligence. When Peter spoke to me about his ideas for Dream, I sensed an opportunity to create not only an exploration but a celebration of this great play.”

Mr. Sellars has worked with an extraordinary range of creative artists over the past three decades. His landmark staging of Sophocles’ Ajax, set at the Pentagon, was invited to tour Europe and ignited his international career. Other noteworthy theatre projects include a 1994 staging of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice set in southern California with a cast of black, white, Latino and Asian-American actors; a production of Euripides’ The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience; and, in 2009, Othello, inspired by and set in the America of newly elected President Barack Obama. Desdemona, Sellars’s recent collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traore, has been performed in Vienna, Brussels, Paris, Berkeley, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and Naples, and was presented in London as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Tickets for the 2014 season of the Stratford Festival go on sale to Members on November 11, 2013, and to the general public on January 4, 2014, with a special advance sale on Facebook beginning January 2.



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Media icons take part in the Festival’s July “Forum Foray”

July 4, 2013… The Stratford Festival is gearing up for its second “Forum Foray,” another supercharged week of fresh new performances, film screenings, provocative panels and talks by A-list guests. Following the season’s theme of community, many of this month’s events explore the idea of storytelling – at the heart of all drama – and its role in defining, challenging and changing communities. Offering more than a dozen exciting events, the Foray runs July 9 through 14.

Highlights of the week include: The Kind of Life It’s Been, in which acclaimed broadcaster Lloyd Robertson, in an interview with CTV National News correspondent Seamus O’Regan, looks at the stories that have shaped and changed his life, and his role in sharing those stories with the world; To 1982 and Back, in which award-winning broadcaster and best-selling author, Jian Ghomeshi, uses his book, 1982, to talk about growing up as a reluctant outsider in suburban Toronto and finding his way into the mainstream; and a Storytelling Workshop with First Nations storyteller James Adams, improvisational comedian Joanne O’Sullivan and actor and journalist Barbara Budd.

The Foray also includes The Playwright’s Crucible, an exhilarating performance in which Canadian playwright Carmen Aguirre inspires a director and five top-rate actors, including Festival favourite Stephen Ouimette, to create a new play right in front of the audience; a panel of Canadian playwrights, including Carmen Aguirre, Sky Gilbert and Djanet Sears discussing the drive to write and the theatrical forum in The Power of the Pen; and the second instalment of Geraint Wyn Davies Presents… “Wordplay”, in which he and members of the company will present Cardenio, Shakespeare’s “lost play”.

Also of note: a screening of An Unlikely Obsession: Churchill and the Jews; author Barbara Kyle on Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens; a panel discussion with directors Chris Abraham, Tim Carroll, Antoni Cimolino and Martha Henry; and Marlis Schweitzer on Fiddler on the Roof and the 1960s Generation Gap.

The week’s schedule of events includes:


Geraint Wyn Davies Presents… “Wordplay”: Cardenio  

Studio Theatre, 8 p.m.

Members of the company join host Geraint Wyn Davies for a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s “lost play”. Based on an episode in Cervantes’Don QuixoteCardenio is a thrilling story of a friendship betrayed, disguise, dishonour and deceit played out in the heat and dust of Andalusia in 17th-century Spain.

Admission: $25.


Storytelling Workshop  

Factory163, 163 King Street, 10 a.m.

First Nations storyteller James Adams, improvisational comedian Joanne O’Sullivan and actor and journalist Barbara Budd share thoughts, traditions and approaches to finding the universal myths of your own life.

Admission: $50. (Pre-registration is required.)

Barbara Kyle: Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won
Festival Theatre lobby, 11 a.m.
Barbara Kyle, author of the recently published Blood Between Queens, will sign books following her talk.

Admission: Free.

An Unlikely Obsession: Churchill and the Jews  

University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, 125 St. Patrick Street, 5:30 p.m.

A screening of a powerful documentary examining a neglected aspect of one of world history’s most renowned leaders: Winston Churchill’s relationship to Jews and Jewish issues. Drawing on a treasure trove of interviews, the film explores the origins, implications and results of this world leader’s commitment to his generation’s most vulnerable people. Join director Barry Avrich and producer Michael Levine for a discussion following the screening.

Admission: $20.


Fiddler on the Roof: Song and Dance

Festival Theatre Lobby, 10:30 a.m.
Find out what it’s like to be in a musical at the Stratford Festival. Company members Matthew Armet and Julia Juhas teach a song and dance from Fiddler on the Roof. No observers, please.

Admission: $30.

The Playwright’s Crucible  

Studio Theatre, 11 p.m.

With only a script outline and character descriptions, Canadian playwright Carmen Aguirre inspires director Varrick Grimes and five top-rate actors, Laura Condlln, André Morin, Stephen Ouimette, Anand Rajaram and Kaitlyn Riordan, to create a new play right in front of your eyes. Created by Joanne O’Sullivan.

Admission: $20.


Marlis Schweitzer: Breaking with Tradition: Fiddler on the Roof and the 1960s Generation Gap
Festival Theatre lobby, Friday, July 12, at 11 a.m.
Talk by Marlis Schweitzer, associate professor of theatre at York University.

Admission: Free.

Jian Ghomeshi: To 1982 and Back
Studio Theatre, 5:30 p.m.
Jian Ghomeshi, the host and co-creator of CBC’s cultural-affairs program Q, uses his national bestseller, 1982, as a jumping-off point, as he shares hilarious and poignant anecdotes and insights of his journey from outside to inside: growing up Persian in Thornhill to being an award-winning, internationally renowned media personality.

Admission: $20.


The Kind of Life It’s Been  

Tom Patterson Theatre, 10 a.m.

Stratford-born broadcaster Lloyd Robertson speaks to CTV National News correspondent Seamus O’Regan, one journalist to another, about his life behind the headlines and the world as he sees it now.

Admission: $20.

The Power of the Pen  

Festival Theatre Lobby, 5:30 p.m.

Some of Canada’s most political and prolific playwrights, including Carmen Aguirre (The Refugee Hotel, Something Fierce – winner of 2012 Canada Reads), Sky Gilbert (Ban This Show, The Emotionalists) and Djanet Sears (Harlem Duet, The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God), discuss the drive to write and the theatrical forum.

Admission: $10.


Reform It Altogether: Directing Shakespeare Today
Studio Theatre, Sunday, July 14, at 11 a.m.
A panel discussion with directors Chris Abraham, Tim Carroll, Antoni Cimolino and Martha Henry. Chair: Communications Director David Prosser.

Admission: $10.

Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream  

University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, 125 St. Patrick Street, 8 p.m.

Based on Neal Gabler’s best-selling book An Empire of Their Own, this award-winning feature-length documentary tells the story of the men who founded Hollywood. All were immigrants, or children of immigrants, who wanted to reinvent themselves as Americans. In the process, they reinvented America. Join co-creator Stuart Samuels for a post-screening chat.

Admission: $20.


Late Night with Lucy – Back by popular demand!  

Fridays, July 5 and 19, August 9 and 23, at 11:30 p.m.

Join Lucy Peacock for her second series of after-hours cabarets with special guest performers from the acting company and from behind the scenes.

Admission: $25.

Table Talk

Paul D. Fleck Marquee, Festival Theatre, 11:30 a.m.

Buffet lunch followed by a talk on one of this season’s productions. Must book 48 hours in advance.

Admission: $37.

July 9: Mary Stuart led by David G. John – SOLD OUT

July 11: Blithe Spirit led by Alexander Leggatt

July 19: Measure for Measure led by Graham Roebuck

July 25: Fiddler on the Roof led by Bill Rudman

Tales Under the Tent
Festival Theatre Grounds, Wednesdays, July 10 to August 21, from 1 to 1:30 p.m.
Gather under the tent for family fun! Stratford Public Library staff provide stories and activities related to the play on stage at the Festival Theatre that afternoon. Look for the tent on the Festival Theatre grounds between the Discovery Centre and Upper Queen’s Park. Suitable for families with children ages 6 to 12. Cancelled in the event of rain.

Admission: Free.

Star Talks

Festival Theatre lobby and Tom Patterson Theatre stage, directly following performances

Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian interviews the stars, following matinée performances in July and August.

July 7: Graham Abbey, Jonathan Goad, Luke Humphrey and Mike Shara (The Three Musketeers, Festival Theatre lobby)

Admission: Free.

Festival Exhibition

104 Downie Street, Wednesdays through Sundays, June 5 to October 20

Explore Present and Past Productions of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice. A vast selection of costumes, props and artefacts from our Archives are displayed in a beautiful museum-style venue, with talks with Festival artists on:

July 6: Susan Coyne

July 20: Carmen Grant and Tom Rooney

July 27: Sara Topham

Cost included in admission to the Exhibition.

Festival Theatre Tours

Festival Theatre, Wednesday to Sunday, June 5 to October 20, at 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.

Take this one-hour walking tour to see and hear about the magic of the theatre. Our knowledgeable guides will share stories and information about both the current and past seasons.

Admission: $8 per person; $6 students and seniors.

For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit

The third and final “Forum Foray” is scheduled for August 9 to 18. Through debates, talks, concerts, comedy nights, hands-on workshops and more, The Forum offers theatregoers more ways to discover and examine the themes running through this season’s productions.

For those unable to attend, 15 of the over 150 Forum events will be available via Livestream:

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.

The Festival’s new Toronto bus service Stratford Direct is now available twice daily on performance days for only $20 return. Reservations can be made through the box office.

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.


Shakespeare as Shakespeare would have done it | Romeo and Juliet starts previews

May 1, 2013… One of Britain’s leading directors, Tim Carroll, returns to the Stratford Festival to present the most famous love story ever told. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of star-crossed lovers who risk everything to be together, begins previews on Wednesday, May 1, at the Festival Theatre.

A founding member of The Factory and Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London from 1999 to 2005, Mr. Carroll has had a prolific career in theatre. He recently directed Mark Rylance – the Globe’s first Artistic Director – in Globe productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night, and in 2010, he made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan.

“It is an incredible honour to be asked to do Shakespeare on the amazingly beautiful stage of the Festival Theatre,” Mr. Carroll says. “I think of the truly great theatre artists who designed and built this theatre, and who have worked on it over the last 60 years, and now here I am doing one of the big ones on that stage. If that doesn’t excite you, it’s time to check you still have a pulse.”

In its tenth Stratford production, the classic story will be performed in Original Practices, a style of performance that evokes the manner in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally staged in the Elizabethan era.

“I have staged Romeo and Juliet as though it were indeed an afternoon performance in an Elizabethan playhouse,” says Mr. Carroll. “The light will not change to suit the scenes, any more than the scenery will move to reflect new settings. We will know where we are, what time of day it is, and everything else from the starting point of Shakespeare’s theatre: the actors and the words they speak.”

The title roles will be played by Stratford newcomer Daniel Briere and Festival favourite Sara Topham. The cast also features Nehassaiu deGannes as Lady Capulet, Jonathan Goad as Mercutio, Kate Hennig as the Nurse, Tom McCamus as Friar Laurence and Scott Wentworth as Capulet.

The production’s artistic team includes Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Carolyn M. Smith, Lighting Designer Kevin Fraser, Composer Claudio Vena, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Movement Coach Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

In a playbill that explores communities in conflict, Romeo and Juliet is a particularly apt choice.

“I have assembled a season with a particular focus on examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity, and few plays do this better than Romeo and Juliet,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “Although written over 400 years ago, it’s a story that remains incredibly pertinent today and one that, I think, matters so much to young people. It speaks to them; it speaks to their experience of the world. I’m thrilled to have Tim back to open our 2013 season with this beautifully imagined interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play.”

Romeo and Juliet 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 Romeo and Juliet will be explored through several Forum events, including: Ancient Grudges and New Mutinies, in which John de Chastelain, the former Chief of the Defence Staff and former ambassador to the U.S, reflects on the Prince of Verona’s role as peacekeeper in Romeo and Juliet and relates it to his own experiences; Original Pronunciation, with Tim Carroll, in which the director explores the implications of how Shakespeare’s text was originally pronounced; and Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna, a talk by Stanley Wells, Honorary President, Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and general editor of the Oxford and Penguin Shakespeares.

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, including the appearance of John de Chastelain, is generously provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Romeo and Juliet is sponsored by Sun Life Financial. Production support is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein and M. Vaile Fainer.

Stratford Direct, the new daily return private bus service between Toronto and Stratford, begins 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 Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof; The Three Musketeers, The Merchant of Venice, Tommy, Blithe Spirit, Othello, Measure for Measure, Mary Stuart, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare, and The Thrill, along with more than 150 events at The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Montague…………………………………….           Wayne Best

Escalus……………………………………….           Michael Blake

Benvolio……………………………………..            Skye Brandon

Romeo……………………………………….            Daniel Briere

Musician – Percussion…………………….…            David Campion

Lady Capulet…………………………………           Nehassaiu deGannes

Gregory………………………………………            Victor Ertmanis

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sara Farb

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Jacquelyn French

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Barbara Fulton

Mercutio……………………………………..            Jonathan Goad

Musician – Recorder/Flute…………….….…            Ian Harper

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Valerie Hawkins

Nurse…………………………………………            Kate Hennig

Lady Montague………………………………           Gabrielle Jones

Abraham/Apothecary………………………..            Robert King

Balthasar………………………………….….           Andrew Lawrie

Friar John……………………………………            Roy Lewis

Musician – Violin…………………………….            Mel Martin

Friar Laurence………………………….……            Tom McCamus

Musician – Lute……………………………….            Terry McKenna

Petruchio…………………………………….            André Morin

Old Capulet………………………………….           Sam Moses

Peter…………………………………………            Mike Nadajewski

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Andrew Robinson

Citizen of Verona……………………………           Sabryn Rock

Sampson……………………………………..            Brad Rudy

Tybalt………………………………………..            Tyrone Savage

Juliet………………………………………….            Sara Topham

Capulet………………………………………            Scott Wentworth

Paris……………………………………….…           Antoine Yared


Artistic Credits

Director……………………………….…..…            Tim Carroll

Set Designer………………………………….            Douglas Paraschuk

Costume Designer…………………….……..            Carolyn M. Smith

Lighting Designer……………………….…..            Kevin Fraser

Composer……………………………………            Claudio Vena

Sound Designer………………………………           Jim Neil

Movement……………………………………            Shona Morris

Fight Director……………………………….            John Stead

Producer………………………………….…             David Auster

Casting Director…………………………….             Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director……………….…            Jason Miller

Associate Fight Director…………………….            Geoff Scovell

Assistant Director……………………………            Ken Schwartz

Second Assistant Director…………………..            Graham Abbey

Assistant Set Designer………………………            Brandon Kleiman

Assistant Costume Designer…………………            Alyssa Prigioniero

Assistant Lighting Designer…………………           Tristan Tidswell

Assistant Fight Directors…………………….           Anita Nittoly, Kostas Tourlentes

Fight Captain…………………………………           Wayne Best

Movement/Vocal Captain……………………            Barbara Fulton

Stage Manager……………………………….           Bona Duncan

Assistant Stage Managers……………………           Bruno Gonsalves, Margaret Palmer,

Crystal Skinner

Production Assistant…………………………           Linsey Callaghan

Production Stage Manager…………………..           Margaret Palmer

Technical Director…………………………..             Jeff Scollon



Promotional photos for Romeo and Juliet:


For more information, please contact:

Ann Swerdfager
Publicity Director
Stratford Festival
519.271.0055 x2297

Celebrate the birthday Bard with an amazing deal!

Shakespeare’s 449th birthday is nearly upon us! On April 23 we’re celebrating the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon with the launch of The Forum – a.k.a. the Shakespeare Slam – at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. Join us for an evening of irreverent and provocative entertainment featuring the outstanding talents of Adam Gopnik, Torquil Campbell and Rufus Wainwright. Ticket information and other details are available here.

As part of our birthday celebration, we’ll also have an amazing ticket offer for some of the Festival’s 2013 Shakespeare plays!

2013-FB-BdayBard Get A or B seats for any May or June performance of Romeo and Juliet or Measure for Measure for the cost of a C seat – that’s just $49! But you’ll have to hurry – this great offer is only available from April 23 at 12:01 a.m. until April 24 at midnight, and only using Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page.

What can you expect from Romeo and Juliet and Measure for Measure?

Director and Shakespeare aficionado Tim Carroll joins us this season to direct the most powerful love story ever told, Romeo and Juliet.  Mr. Carroll’s extensive work on original practice at the Globe theatre in London has been widely praised by critics and fans alike, and we’re thrilled to have him back at the Festival this season directing a period production of Romeo and Juliet (he also directed Peter Pan in 2010). Festival favourite Sara Topham will play Juliet alongside a new face this season, Daniel Briere as Romeo.

Learn more about Daniel in this exclusive interview!

Martha Henry makes her directorial return this season with Measure for Measure. Ms Henry’s film noir-inspired version of Measure will explore Shakespeare’s “problem” play in the world of 1940s Vienna. Measure’s star-studded cast includes Tom Rooney as Angelo, Stephen Ouimette as Lucio, Geraint Wyn Davies as Duke Vincentio and Carmen Grant in her break-out role as Isabella.

Read more about this year’s production of Measure for Measure.

To celebrate the birthday Bard with $49 tickets…

*Promotion not available on previously purchased tickets or in conjunction with any other offer. Offer is only redeemable through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page and cannot be used to purchase A+ tickets. May expire without notice. Some conditions apply.

Romeo and Juliet – The Rehearsal Blogs Pt. I

The rehearsal process is often mystifying to the general audience. What exactly goes on in preparation for a performance? How do the actors make sense of and breathe life into the words on the page? The Education Department has asked three actors from this season’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Tim Carroll, to share with us their experiences and discoveries while rehearsing the play.

Daniel Briere plays Romeo in this season’s production. He shares with us his first-day experience of being on the “Tanya Stage,” and the various exercises involved in understanding the power of the narrative and the importance of connecting with the audience and his fellow actors.

Keep your eye out for further blogs on this site from Tyrone Savage, who plays Tybalt, and Skye Brandon, who plays Benvolio!

by Daniel Briere 

Walking for the first time out onto the Festival Theatre stage, complete with the newly restored Tanya Moiseiwitsch floor plan, I am immediately struck by how small the room feels. I remember when I was a wide-eyed theatre student—on my school’s yearly trip to the Stratford Festival—sitting at the back of the balcony before the show, imagining that home plate in a baseball stadium was closer to me in that moment than this stage. I recall how when the actors took the stage, their warmth and energy soared across an ocean of heads, bodies and attentive ears. I think of how monumental this room felt, like an Olympus peopled with the demi-gods of Canadian stage. And yet, here I am today, standing centre stage, acutely aware that it is only 66 feet from centre stage to the very back of the balcony.

Daniel Briere Blog photo FestivalStagefromUC

This is my first season with the Stratford Festival, and I will be spending a lot of time upon this stage. In fact, all three of the shows in which I will appear will be on the Festival stage. Today is the first day “on deck” for the cast of Romeo and Juliet, and we have a lot to do. I am not the only rookie in the room, and while we test the space with all sorts of strange vocal sounds and exercises that actors do, many of the veterans experiment with the extra steps and playing spaces provided by the “Tanya” configuration. There are fights to work through, dances to space out and all kinds of entrances and exits to discover. Later on, we’re scheduled to do something called a Rope Theory Test, which raises more than a few hairs and much confusion throughout the company.

After a quick group warm-up, Tim Carroll, our director, teaches us a simple song, which we sing in a round. This being the third week of rehearsal with TC, we have become very familiar with his method of launching us into exercises before we have a chance to think about them—thereby allowing us to make unexpected discoveries. So with little explanation or pause, we are moving single file between aisles in the audience, up to the balcony, around backstage and through the underground passageway, sweetly harmonizing a round of In My Lady’s Garden. When we land back on the deck, the space newly christened with our voices and energy, the air seems thick. “Now spread out and find a seat somewhere in the house,” instructs TC. “Who knows a bit of their text? Daniel. You shall be our first victim. Give us ‘But soft…’”

I have managed to blend in with the crowd somewhat effectively in the first part of this rehearsal process, mostly as a side effect of Tim’s democratic rehearsal process—where no one was allowed to read his or her own character’s lines in the first week, as we worked on the structure and sound of Shakespeare’s verse lines. As I mentioned, this is my first season with the Festival, and starting with a role portrayed by such greats as William Shatner, Christopher Walken, Paul Gross and Stratford’s current Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino, I certainly feel pressure to perform. I have to prove that I deserve to be here, after all. So, about to speak Romeo’s lines for the first time, on this historic stage, in front of the entire cast, I forget to breathe.

Tim quickly and efficiently distracts me from my self-doubt, though, asking me to give each verse line to a specific person in the audience, and then say their name aloud. Even with all the lights up, this proves very difficult as I can’t clearly see some spots of the audience, so I spend most of the time trying to determine who I’m looking at and speaking to. I am starting to get a feel for actually speaking to the audience though, asking real questions, making real points. Then, to take it one step further, I work the final tomb speech—line by line to a specific person in the audience, saying their name aloud—and the listener has to repeat the verse line back to me word for word. If they don’t repeat it correctly, I haven’t communicated the idea/thought/image clearly enough, and I have to give them the line again until they receive it. Great: I sense some development there. Then we break quickly for coffee.

The scheduled Rope Theory Test turns out to be an opportunity to try out the corded ladder which I will use to descend from the balcony in Act III. The theory (I think) is that they will need fewer rungs on the ladder than originally thought, due to my long legs. Trying out the ladder myself, I find that I take most of my weight in my arms anyway, and my feet easily get tangled in the ropes. So the theory seems to be correct, and more experimentation is required.

At the end of the day, I’m still here, breathing, still standing, and still with the support of my director. We clearly have more work to do before we’ll be able to play our games in secret in front of an audience, but isn’t that the fun? Today was like a first date—somewhat sweaty, pretty self-conscious and full of questions. “But he that hath the steerage of my course / Direct my sail.”

Read more in Pt. II of our rehearsal blogs as company member Skye Brandon, currently playing Benvolio, shares with us some of his behind-the-scenes experiences during the run of Romeo and Juliet.

Meet Romeo – Interview with Daniel Briere

We were able to chat with Festival newcomer Daniel Briere about his upcoming debut as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet this season!  In addition to playing Romeo, you’ll also see Daniel in both The Three Musketeers and The Merchant of Venice. Find out a bit more about him in this exclusive actor interview!


Stratford Festival (SF): This will be your first season at the Festival, but you’ve been quite active across the Canadian theatre scene. Can you tell us how you got your start as an actor?

Daniel Briere (DB): I suppose I started back in Calgary, where I grew up.  I learned at an early age that I loved telling stories and wanted to become an artist, and I was lucky to be introduced to some fantastic theatre happening in Calgary.  After high school I studied acting at Mount Royal College, and then felt I needed more training so I headed to Montreal to study at the National Theatre School of Canada.  Montreal was really great for my development, because I met so many like-minded artists from all over the country, and I had all kinds of doors and opportunities opened to me.  Since then I’ve been based in Toronto, but have worked all over Canada. I’m still young and it’s easy for me to pick up and head somewhere new every eight weeks or so, and I love discovering new parts and people in this great big country.

SF: You’ve played Paris in a different production of Romeo and Juliet – how does it feel to now be playing Romeo?

DB: Actually, in that particular production I was also understudying Romeo, and had an opportunity to go on once, but it was kind of a hip hop adaptation, and I’m not much of a dancer, so I can understand why they had cast me as a more straight laced Paris.  Having played on the other side of the love triangle though, I understand how tragic Paris’ story is, that he really is a man worthy of Juliet’s love, and his presence makes the love between Romeo and Juliet more dangerous and maybe even more thrilling.  It will also be interesting for me to win a swordfight or two this time around, playing Romeo.

Romeo and Juliet, 2013

SF: What excites you about this production of Romeo and Juliet?

DB: I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to work with Tim Carroll.  He’s obviously an incredible source of knowledge when it comes to Shakespeare’s work, and I love his idea of theatre as a game. I’ve been reading about the experimental productions he’s been doing with The Factory Theatre in London, where they’ll do things like switch which roles each actor plays on a nightly basis, or ask audience members to bring random objects that will become the set and props of the show. I’m really interested in the idea that you can prepare so much – like learn every line for every character in the play —and then toss all your acting tools up in the air while you fence with tennis rackets or figure out how to incorporate a fishing pole.  I don’t imagine we’ll be improvising in this way at the Stratford Festival, but I know that Tim will bring that same sense of play and investigation into the rehearsal hall, and we’ll have a much stronger and well-grounded show because of it.

SF: What is your favourite line from Romeo and Juliet?

DB: It changes regularly, because this play is full of so much beautiful poetry, but I think my favorite line currently is one of Juliet’s, from the balcony scene.

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep:  the more I give to thee

The more I have, for both are infinite. 

SF: You’re going to be busy this season – in addition to playing Romeo, you’ll also be appearing in The Three Musketeers and The Merchant of Venice. Will this be your first time working in a repertory theatre company?

DB: I have worked in repertory before in Calgary, with Shakespeare in the Park.  They typically do two Shakespeare shows, the first of which opens for a two-week run, then they’ll perform in rep for the rest of the summer.  So for a while they rehearse the second show in the day and perform the first show in the evening, making for some long days. Having worked with that company I think will prove a great exercise in preparation for the Stratford company, though I can certainly understand I will be very busy this season. I’ve heard of many other actors at the festival having to juggle two or three leads in different shows, which I imagine can become very taxing. My life is always busy, though, juggling between different projects, and I’m sure this year will only help me continue to build stamina.

SF: We’re lucky to have a lot of amazing talent appearing on stage this season – is there anyone in the company that you’re particularly excited to meet or work with? 

DB: I’m very excited to start work with Sara Topham, who has done fantastic work at the Festival and abroad.  And I’m also extremely lucky to be currently working with Tom McCamus in Gone With the Wind in Winnipeg, so I’m very much looking forward to continuing to work with and learn from him in Stratford. As you mentioned, this is my first season with the Festival, and I am honored to be part of such a talented company and what will surely be a thrilling season!

Just for fun…

SF: If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only bring one book with you, what would it be?

DB: I suppose I’d have to bring Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. I haven’t read it yet, but after all the hype I think it would be a shame to be stranded on an island not having read it. Other possible options might include Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor, David McIntosh’s How to Build a Wooden Boat, or Oliver Jeffers’ children’s classic The Way Back Home.

SF: The most-played song on your iPod is…

DB: All Night Long by Lionel Ritchie. ‘Nuff said.

SF: Salty or sweet?

DB: Definitely Salty.  Unless it’s a swimming pool.

EXCLUSIVE FACEBOOK EXTRA: Join us on our Facebook page on February 13, 2013, from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. for a Facebook Q&A with Daniel Briere to find out more about the man behind our 2013 Romeo!

Read Daniel’s full stage biography here.

To buy tickets to Romeo and Juliet, visit our website at

Photo credits: Daniel Briere and Sara Topham. Photo by Don Dixon.


Sweet savings for you and your Valentine – BOGO!

Sweet SavingsForget about chocolate and teddy bears and surprise your Valentine with an unforgettable experience – a trip to the theatre! We’ve got a sweet deal for you and your beloved this Valentine’s Day: when you buy one regular-priced ticket to any performance of Romeo and Juliet or Tommy during May or June (excluding openings), we’ll give you the second one free!*

All of you true romantics will want to indulge in the greatest
love story ever told – Romeo and Juliet. Helmed by critically acclaimed director Tim Carroll, this production promises to be one show that will be a must-see! The role of Juliet will be played by Festival favourite Sara Topham, who’ll appear alongside tall, dark and handsome Festival newcomer Daniel Briere as Romeo.

If a classic rock musical is more your style, join us for Tommy – a rock opera based on the The Who’s album by the same name.  Former Artistic Director Des McAnuff – who co-wrote the book for Tommy with Pete Townshend and directed the Tony-Award winning Broadway production in 1993 – will be back to direct this amazing show. Tickets won’t last long!

If you’re a romantic rocker, don’t feel forced to choose – join us for both Tommy and Romeo and Juliet! Variety is the spice of life!

Here’s all the information you need to know to take advantage of this limited-time promotion!

1) Using Stratford Social Ticketing on our Facebook page, select any performance of Romeo and Juliet and/or Tommy during May or June (excluding opening performances)

2) In the “Have a Promo” box, enter promotion code 47364 and click “Apply”

3) Select your seats and check out!

This sweet deal is only available until February 14, so don’t delay! Your valentine will thank you!

* Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances.  Offer not available in A+ seating category and is only available until February 14, 2013. Promotion only applies to adult pricing. May not be combined with any other offers.  Only available through Stratford Social Ticketing on our Facebook page only. Promotion excludes opening night performances of Romeo and Juliet and Tommy.