Treat your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day (on us)!

By: Christi Rutledge

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! As all of the shelves in the stores turn red and pink with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and strange stuffed bears and animals holding cliché quotes about love, let me suggest a different gift for your sweetheart. Take your valentine to the theatre and see one (or both!) of two romantic 2012 productions: Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. The best part is – we’ll pay for your date! Buy one regular-priced ticket, and we’ll pick up the tab for the second* when you order online using promotion code 42255.

I’m all for making it a double-header, but if you need to choose just one play to see – or if they’re both new to you – here’s some information to help you out.

Much Ado About Nothing: (#ssfMuch)

As Claudio woos his beloved Hero, his friend Benedick and Hero’s cousin Beatrice trade insults in their “merry war” of mutual disdain. But as Claudio’s wedding day approaches, a series of deceptions – both friendly and malicious – brings about more than one dramatic change of heart.

Starring real-life married couple Ben Carlson as Benedick and Deborah Hay as Beatrice, this Shakespearean rom-com is the ultimate battle of the sexes and a deliciously good time!


The Matchmaker: (#ssfMatchmaker)

With his eye ever fixed on the bottom line, wealthy merchant Horace Vandergelder can’t see the value of love – even as he searches for a wife. His matchmaker, Dolly Levi, however, is making her own plans for him, while his clerks pursue their hearts’ desires in the big city.

If this story sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen Hello, Dolly!, which was based on The Matchmaker. American playwright Thornton Wilder developed his comedy here atStratford, and now two Festival favourites – Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna – are giving it life in the roles of Horace and Dolly.


Love is in the air at the Festival! Give your valentine a great night out at the theatre; we won’t tell you got a deal!

*Buy one regular-priced ticket to The Matchmaker or Much Ado About Nothing for performances between April 26 and May 25, 2012, and receive your second ticket free.  Offer is only available online for A, B and C seating zones; it may expire without notice and is subject to casting changes. Offer is not available in conjunction with any other promotions, including Family Experience, PlayOn and TiXX. Promotion is available for a maximum of two orders and expires on February 14, 2012, at 11:59 p.m.

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Get ready for the 2012 season!

By Christi Rutledge

Well, we officially wrapped up the 2011 season last weekend with the closing of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It has been an absolutely fabulous season – and as sad as I am to see it close, I can’t help but get excited about 2012! We have a spectacular line-up to celebrate our 60th season of world-class theatre. Take a tour with me as we explore what’s being offered on our five (!) stages next year.

The Festival Theatre will host four productions: Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, 42nd Street and The Matchmaker. Henry V will return to the Festival stage for the first time in 11 years. Directed by Des McAnuff, this production will no doubt be spectacular and have lots to say about war, leadership and friendship. Expect to see a familiar face on stage as Aaron Krohn, who played Lenny in The Homecoming this year, takes on the title role. Mr. Krohn is joining the ranks of some luminous actors – the part of Henry V was first performed at the Festival by a man named Christopher Plummer.

Much Ado About Nothing is high comedy perfection – and with a cast featuring Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay as Benedick and Beatrice, it will be impossible for anyone to resist this performance. Expect to see a Brazilian flare to this witty comedy directed by Christopher Newton, former Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival.

The Festival is also extremely excited to welcome back Cynthia Dale, who will play Dorothy Brock in Gary Griffin’s production of 42nd Street. This smash Broadway hit tells the classic story of a small town girl moving to the big city to make a name for herself. And it’s full of sensational tap dancing!

And last, but certainly not least, the Festival stage will feature The Matchmaker– Thornton Wilder’s story of a wealthy merchant named Horace Vandergelder (played by Tom McCamus) who searches for a wife with the help of his matchmaker, Dolly Levi (Seana McKenna). This production will be directed by Chris Abraham, who brought you The Little Years (2011) and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again (2010).

Over at the Avon Theatre, the greatly anticipated return of Gilbert and Sullivan has finally come with Ethan McSweeny’s staging of The Pirates of Penzance. The theatre will also house a one-hander called A Word or Two, written and performed by the legendary Christopher Plummer and directed by Des McAnuff. And there will be a production that appeals to the child in everyone – You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

It is always exciting for us at the theatre and for our patrons when we get to put on a show as magical as Pirates. It’s one of the first plays that my brother saw as a child here at the Festival, and I remember him coming home from his school trip in 1994 and telling me how fascinated he was by it. Filled with wit and with cherished musical numbers, this is a great play for children and adults alike.

A Word or Two will no doubt be difficult to get tickets to, so the sooner you order yours, the better. You won’t want to miss seeing Mr. Plummer back on our stage to offer an intimate look at his life-long love of literature. And Donna Feore’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – presented for the first time at the Festival thanks to Schulich Children’s Plays – will be another heart-warming show to bring the family to. For all the baby-boomers out there, it also offers a chance to revisit a beloved childhood icon.

My favourite theatre, the Tom Patterson, will feature three productions next year: Cymbeline, Wanderlust and Elektra. I am particularly excited for this set of shows!

Cymbeline will be directed by Antoni Cimolino. After falling in love with The Grapes of Wrath this season, I can hardly wait to see how he interprets this fantastic Shakespearean romance.

Another show to get excited about is Wanderlust, a new Canadian musical by Morris Panych and Marek Norman. Wanderlust is a fictional story about the adventures of Robert Service, the great Bard of theYukon, as he grapples with his love for his co-worker Louise, who is engaged to a forbidding man. With songs based on Service’s poetry and Tom Rooney playing the lead (as well as Lucy Peacock playing his landlady, Mrs. Munsch!), this piece had me at “hello.”

Lastly, let’s take a look at Elektra – a play that should be on everyone’s must-see list for the 2012 season. This classic Greek tragedy will be led by the fabulous Yanna McIntosh in the title role, along with Seana McKenna as Clytemestra. Athenian director Thomas Moschopoulos will be making his Festival debut with this production; you may know him as the artist behind the Olympic closing ceremony in Athens in 2004.

The Studio Theatre is home to three productions in our 60th season: MacHomer, The Best Brothers and Hirsch. Rick Millers’ MacHomer, directed by Sean Lynch, reimagines Shakespeare’s Macbeth through the voices of more than fifty characters from The Simpsons. If you’re dying to see this hilarious production, make sure to book tickets soon – it’s only running through the month of May!

Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers is another new Canadian play that we’re excited to feature in its world première. Associate Artistic Director Dean Gabourie helms this two-man show, in which Mr. MacIvor will star. It’s about two brothers, Hamilton and Kyle Best. Upon the unexpected death of their mother, Hamilton and Kyle mourn in very different ways, leading them to some profound realizations about each other and the woman who raised them.

The last play that we’ll be showing on the Studio stage is Hirsch, a play chronicling the life of John Hirsch, former Artistic Director of the Festival. Mr. Hirsch was orphaned at a young age by the Holocaust, but survived and eventually moved to Canada, where his fierce talent and stormy temperament won him acclaim in the theatre. It’s a gripping play, created and conceived by two celebrated Canadian theatre makers: Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson.

One final production, I promise, and then I’m done!

Next year we will be hosting special guest ensemble VideoCabaret in a brand new theatre space. The Studio Theatre Annex will be accessible through the Studio Theatre and will feature The War of 1812, a satirical examination of Canada’s past from Michael Hollingsworth’s series The History of the Village of the Small Huts.

PHEW – I got through them all! I am so excited to share more about our 2012 productions and hope that you find a great selection of shows to come see during our 60th season.

Any shows that you’re already looking forward to? Share your thoughts on our 2012 season!

 

 

Press Release: Festival casts title roles for Henry V, Cymbeline, Elektra, The Best Brothers, Charlie Brown

As casting progresses for 2012, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that the following actors will return for the 60th season: Sean Arbuckle, Richard Binsley, Skye Brandon, Laura Condlln, Naomi Costain, Randy Hughson, Peter Hutt, Robin Hutton, Bethany Jillard, Aaron Krohn, Ian Lake, Yanna McIntosh, Stephen Patterson, Gareth Potter, Cara Ricketts, Steve Ross, Andrea Runge, Tyrone Savage, E.B. Smith, John Vickery, and Geraint Wyn Davies. Joining the acting company in 2012 are: John Beale, Andrew Broderick, Daniel MacIvor, Erica Peck, Ken James Stewart, Amy Wallis and Kevin Yee.

As previously announced, Kyle Blair, James Blendick, Ben Carlson, Juan Chioran, Cynthia Dale, Deborah Hay, Tom McCamus, Seana McKenna, Lucy Peacock, Tom Rooney and Mike Shara are also key players in the 2012 season.

Aaron Krohn to play Henry V

After making a memorable Stratford debut as Lenny in The Homecoming, Aaron Krohn will return in 2012 to play the title role in Henry V, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff. Mr. Krohn’s New York credits include The Farnsworth Invention, also directed by Mr. McAnuff, the Tom Stoppard works The Invention of Love and The Coast of Utopia and Shakespeare’s Henry IV. He was also a member of the ensemble in the Broadway production of Julius Caesar featuring Denzel Washington and Colm Feore. Mr. Krohn is well known for his voice acting in a number of popular anime productions, most notably Neon Genesis Evangelion.

As previously announced, Ben Carlson has been cast as Fluellen, Juan Chioran as Montjoy, Deborah Hay as Alice, Lucy Peacock as the Hostess and Tom Rooney as Pistol.

Geraint Wyn Davies to play Cymbeline

Geraint Wyn Davies, featured this year as Falstaff and King Arthur, will return for the 60th season to play the title role in Cymbeline, directed by General Director Antoni Cimolino. In eight seasons at Stratford, Mr. Wyn Davies 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, Henry V and Pericles, 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.

Ian Lake will mark his fifth season with the Festival playing Arviragus in Cymbeline. This season Mr. Lake was seen as Joey in The Homecoming and the Second Officer in Twelfth Night. A graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory, Mr. Lake has played a number of key roles at Stratford, including Silvius in As You Like It, Florizel in The Winter’s Tale, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Cara Ricketts marks her fourth season at Stratford playing Imogen in Cymbeline. This season Ms Ricketts was seen as Ruth in The Homecoming and Maria in Twelfth Night. Her other Stratford credits include Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, Portia in Julius Caesar and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ms Ricketts has worked extensively in Toronto theatre as well as in film and TV.

After making his Stratford debut in 2011, Birmingham Conservatory member E.B. Smith will return to play Guiderius in Cymbeline. This season he played the Marquess of Dorset in Richard III and Alarbus in Titus Andronicus. Mr. Smith’s credits include Seyton in Macbeth and Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, as well as work at the Cleveland Play House and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

John Vickery, seen in the title role of Titus Andronicus this season, will play Belarius in Cymbeline. This year he also played the Camp Proprietor and the Officer in Mr. Cimolino’s production of The Grapes of Wrath. Returning for his fifth season at Stratford, Mr. Vickery has appeared as Antonio in The Tempest, the Duke in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Ross in Macbeth, Comte de Guiche in Cyrano, Victor in Zastrozzi, Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Holofernes in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Lucius Septimius in Caesar and Cleopatra. His Broadway credits include the original Scar in The Lion King, The Real Thing, The Sisters Rosensweig and Macbeth.

As previously announced, Tom McCamus will play Iachimo in Cymbeline, in addition to Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker. Mike Shara will play Cloten, as well as Cornelius Hackl in The Matchmaker.

Yanna McIntosh to play Elektra

Yanna McIntosh will return for her eighth season to take on the title role in Elektra, directed by Thomas Moschopoulos, and to play the Queen in Cymbeline. This season she was seen as Queen Elizabeth in Richard III and Grace in The Little Years. Other Stratford credits include Hermione in The Winter’s Tale, Lady Macbeth, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Helen in The Trojan Women and Mme. Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons. Ms McIntosh is a Dora and Gemini Award-winning actor, whose Toronto credits include Condoleeza Rice in Stuff Happens and the title roles in Mary Stuart, Hedda Gabler, and Belle.

Peter Hutt will play the Old Man in Elektra, after a season in which he was featured as Oronte in The Misanthrope and Muley and the Contractor in The Grapes of Wrath. In 12 seasons at Stratford, Mr. Hutt has been seen in such roles as Alonzo and Calilban in The Tempest, Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, Macduff in Macbeth, William Shakespeare in Elizabeth Rex and Marcus Andronicus in Titus Andronicus.

The role of Chrysothemis in Elektra will be played by Laura Condlln and the role of Orestes will be played by Ian Lake. As previously announced, the role of Clytemestra will be played by Seana McKenna.

John Beale, Daniel MacIvor take on The Best Brothers

Daniel MacIvor’s new two-hander, The Best Brothers, will feature the playwright as Hamilton and John Beale as Kyle. The production will be directed by Dean Gabourie. Mr. Beale, who played Nurk in the world première of Mr. MacIvor’s play Bingo, comes to Stratford from his home base in Halifax, where his recent credits include Peggy and Manuel in The Peggy Show, Owen in Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, Wendell in Home, Swinburne in Brightest Red to Blue and Reverend John Hale in The Crucible, for which he received a Merrit Award.

Mr. MacIvor joins the Festival acting company for the first time in 2012. One of Canada’s leading playwrights, Mr. MacIvor is a recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, and has won several awards for his plays and films. He has written and performed in a number of solo shows, including House, Here Lies Henry, Monster and Cul de Sac. Most recently he directed the première of his play Bingo! for Forerunner Theatre in Halifax.

Key roles cast for The Matchmaker

Laura Condlln will return for her 11th season to play Irene Molloy in The Matchmaker, directed by Chris Abraham. Ms Condlln, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory, is currently playing Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor and also appeared in Richard III. Other highlights of her Stratford career include Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan, Polly in King of Thieves and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Geraint Wyn Davies will play Malachi Stack, in addition to the title role in Cymbeline.

Skye Brandon will return for his fourth season to play Ambrose Kemper in The Matchmaker. Mr. Brandon made his Stratford debut in 2009, when, as a member of the Birmingham Conservatory, he played Haggis and the Puppet Assistant in Bartholomew Fair, and Cinna in Julius Caesar. In 2010 he was seen as Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Dennis in As You Like It. This season he played the Duke of Norfolk in Richard III and Bassianus in Titus Andronicus.

Returning for a fourth season at Stratford, Andrea Runge will play Minnie Fay. A graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory, Ms. Runge has taken on a number of key roles at the Festival, including Viola in Twelfth Night and Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Rosalind in As You Like It and Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Cara Ricketts will play Ermengarde, in addition to her role as Imogen in Cymbeline.

As previously announced, Tom McCamus will play Horace Vandergelder, Seana McKenna will play Dolly Levi and Mike Shara will play Cornelius Hackl.

Robin Hutton, Randy Hughson join cast of Wanderlust

Robin Hutton will return to the Festival for her fourth season to play the leading role of Louise in the new musical Wanderlust, opposite Tom Rooney’s Robert Service (as previously announced). The production will be directed by Morris Panych. Ms Hutton’s Stratford credits include Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly!, Cinderella’s Stepmother in Into the Woods, and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof.

Randy Hughson will celebrate his fifth season at Stratford playing Mr. McGee in Wanderlust. He was seen this season as Uncle John in The Grapes of Wrath and the Host of the Garter Inn in The Merry Wives of Windsor. His other Stratford credits include Antigonus and Time in The Winter’s Tale, Corin in As You Like It and Senex in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

As previously announced, Lucy Peacock will play Mrs. Munsch.

Three principals cast for Much Ado About Nothing

Richard Binsley, a company member in the 1980s, will return for the 60th season to play Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Christopher Newton. Mr. Binsley has worked at theatres across Canada and played Harry in both the Broadway and Toronto productions of Mamma Mia!. His recent stage credits include Bill in Having Hope at Home and Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie at the Globe Theatre, La Fontaine in Molière and Reinhard Wilke in Democracy at Tarragon Theatre.

Bethany Jillard will return for her third season to play Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. After making her Stratford debut playing Cécile Volanges in Dangerous Liaisons in 2010, Ms Jillard was seen this season as Lady Anne in Richard III and Young Kate and Tanya in The Little Years. Her other credits include Miss Julie in After Miss Julie at the MTC Warehouse, My Name is Rachel Corrie at Theatre PANIK and Brooke in How It Works at Tarragon Theatre.

Gareth Potter will play Don John, after taking on the title role in Hosanna and the Earl of Richmond in Richard III this year. His eight seasons at Stratford have included such roles as Ferdinand in The Tempest, Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Malcolm in Macbeth, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Nathaniel in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Edgar in King Lear, Gratiano in The Merchant of Venice, Pierrot in Don Juan and Cromwell in Henry VIII. Mr. Potter is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory.

Birmingham Conservatory member Tyrone Savage will return to play Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing. Mr. Savage made his Stratford debut this season playing Floyd in The Grapes of Wrath. His film and TV credits include Wind at My Back, Instant Star, American Pie: Beta House, Stoked and Goosebumps.

As previously announced, Ben Carlson will play Benedick and Deborah Hay will play Beatrice. The production will also feature James Blendick as Leonato and Juan Chioran as Don Pedro.

Full cast named for Charlie Brown

Stephen Patterson will return for his third season to play Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, directed by Donna Feore. Seen this season in Jesus Christ Superstar and Camelot, Mr. Patterson made his Stratford debut in 2010 in As You Like It. Mr. Patterson played Marius in Les Misérables on Broadway and the U.S. national tour. His other credits include Laurie in Little Women (first U.S. national tour), Bobby Strong in Urinetown for Canadian Stage, Bob in White Christmas for the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Neptune Theatre, Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for Drayton and the North American Tour, and, also for Drayton, Che in Evita, Chris in Miss Saigon, Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Jeff in Brigadoon.

The role of Lucy will be played by Erica Peck. A vocal student of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ms Peck played Mary Maguire in the Really Useful Group/Mirvish production of The Boys in the Photograph. Her other recent credits include Scaramouche in the Mirvish production of We Will Rock You, Penny Pingleton in the C.F.T. production of Hairspray, and Julia in The Wedding Singer at Stage West.

Ken James Stewart will take on the title role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Mr. Stewart comes to Stratford from the Shaw Festival, where he has spent five seasons playing such roles as Mr. Pinsky in The President, Hegarty in Drama at Inish – A Comedy, the Student in One Touch of Venus and Jake in Serious Money.

Andrew Broderick will take on the role of Schroeder. A finalist in the second season of Canadian Idol, Mr. Broderick has played Gilbert in Hairspray, for both Rainbow Stage and the Charlottetown Festival. His other credits include Motown Gold at Stage West, The Producers at Stage West Calgary and Dreamgirls at The Grand Theatre.

Amy Wallis will make her Stratford debut as Sally. Twice nominated for Jessie Richardson Awards, Ms Wallis was seen most recently at Drayton, playing Willie Cagney in Cagney! and the Snow Fairy in Robin Hood. She played the title role in Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival from 2006 to 2009, and during that same period played Belle in Beauty at the Beast at the Arts Club Theatre Festival on the country’s other coast.

Kevin Yee, currently on Broadway in Mary Poppins, will play Linus. His other credits include the Chicago and second national touring productions of Wicked, the Canadian production of Mamma Mia!, and Livent’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Key roles cast for The Pirates of Penzance and 42nd Street

Sean Arbuckle will play the Pirate King in the 2012 production of The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Ethan McSweeny. Seen this season as William Catesby in Richard III and Saturninus in Titus Andronicus, Mr. Arbuckle played Clifford Bradshaw in the 2008 production of Cabaret. Mr. Arbuckle’s credits in 10 seasons at Stratford include Tuzenbach in Three Sisters, Camillo in The Winter’s Tale, Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, Nick in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Dazzle in London Assurance and Théramène in Phèdre. He has performed extensively in New York, both on and off-Broadway, and has a number of film and TV credits to his name, including Anything But Love, Law & Order and Sex and the City.

Amy Wallis will play the leading role of Mabel Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, in addition to playing Sally in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

The production will also feature Steve Ross as the Sergeant of Police. Seen this year as John Rugby in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Noah in The Grapes of Wrath and Clitandre in The Misanthrope, Mr. Ross is also well remembered by audiences for his musical performances in Kiss Me, Kate, Evita, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha and Camelot. His other credits over eight seasons at Stratford include Ragueneau in Cyrano de Bergerac, Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors and Mr. Gilmer in To Kill a Mockingbird.

As previously announced, Kyle Blair will play Frederic.

Sean Arbuckle has also been cast as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street. He will be joined by Noami Costain, who will play Anytime Annie. Ms Costain is returning for her seventh season, having appeared in Kiss Me, Kate, Evita, Cabaret, My One and Only, Oklahoma!, Don Juan, Oliver!, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gigi, The Threepenny Opera and My Fair Lady.

As previously announced, Kyle Blair will play Billy Lawlor and Cynthia Dale will play Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street.

Funding for the 2012 season has been provided by the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund.

An Elizabethan Sitcom – The Merry Wives of Windsor

By Aaron Kropf

The Merry Wives of Windsor has often been called Shakespeare’s sitcom, and you could come up with any number of reasons why. For me, Cheers is the TV comedy it most brings to mind – you can just imagine how everyone in that show would respond to Falstaff’s entrance, in the opening scene of Merry Wives, through the doors of the local tavern. He was definitely the Norm of his day.

Falstaff, in fact, is an Elizabethan example of what you could call a spin-off: the fat knight proved so popular when he first appeared in the two parts of Henry IV that Shakespeare gave him a show of his own. In Merry Wives, Falstaff sets out to seduce two married women, in order to get his hands on their money. But they immediately see through him and devise their own schemes to teach him a lesson – thereby setting the comic action in motion.

Mistress Page and Mistress Ford – whom director Frank Galati has compared to Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz in the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy – are two high-spirited women married to two very different men. One husband, Master Page (deftly portrayed by Stratford favourite Tom McCamus), is trusting and easy-going. The other, Master Ford (hilariously played by Tom Rooney), is given to jealousy and spends much of the show trying to catch his entirely innocent wife in the act of infidelity. Many of the play’s chuckles result from Ford getting in the way of the tricks the women are trying to play on Falstaff.

Memorable capers ensue, from Falstaff’s concealment in a basket of dirty laundry to his desperate attempt to escape Ford’s wrath disguised as an old woman. But give the big guy his due: despite all that the women throw at him, Falstaff keeps coming back for more – why?

In a video interview with Geraint Wyn Davies – who plays the role with the aid of a lot of padding – General Director Antoni Cimolino explores the character of Falstaff and how he’s portrayed in this particular production. Click on this link for the video:

Sometimes we head to the theatre for a laugh or two, and The Merry Wives of Windsor gives us that in spades. Not all the laughter is at Falstaff’s expense, though (there’s also a comical French doctor with an impenetrable accent), and much of it is ultimately forgiving: at the end of the play, everyone seems ready to share a chuckle at their own foibles and failings, even Falstaff himself.

Shakespeare was a master of all forms of play, and in The Merry Wives of Windsor he sounds the depths of humankind through laughter just as profoundly as he does in tragedies that no one would dream of comparing to a sitcom.

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

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

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

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

Kyle Blair takes musical leads in Pirates and 42nd Street

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

Blendick, Carlson, Chioran return for a season of Shakespeare

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

Ben Carlson, currently playing Feste in Twelfth Night and Alceste in The Misanthrope, will celebrate his fifth season at Stratford playing Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and Fluellen in Henry V. Among the Festival’s finest young classical actors, Mr. Carlson has taken on an impressive list of key roles, including Touchstone in As You Like It, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, Brutus in Julius Caesar and the title role in Hamlet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Rooney and Lucy Peacock together again in Wanderlust

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

Tom Rooney will take on the leading role of Robert Service in Wanderlust, the new musical commissioned from Morris Panych and composer Marek Norman. He will also play Pistol in Henry V. Since joining the company in 2008, Mr. Rooney has fast become a favourite on the Festival stage, most recently with his richly drawn portrayals of Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Master Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He gave standout performances in 2009 as the Porter in Macbeth, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cassius in Julius Caesar. In addition to playing the Narrator in 2010’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, Mr. Rooney played Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It and Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale.

Mike Shara to play Cornelius in The Matchmaker

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

Casting continues for the 2012 season.

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

Why The Grapes of Wrath?

The Great Depression is one of the most documented times in human history. The photos from that era are etched in all of our minds: the faces, the destruction, the devastation and, of course, the dust all over the place. If we are all familiar with these people and the struggles they have faced, why should or would anyone want to see this on stage?

On the surface, The Grapes of Wrath is a story about the struggles of people in a difficult time in American history. The Depression is an era that everyone knows about: we’ve seen the photos and heard the stories from parents or grandparents that experienced it. The faces of those people are etched in each of our minds. But The Grapes of Wrath is more than that; it’s a story of perseverance, overcoming obstacles, the strengthening of families and, most importantly, hope. If the Joad family were lacking in any of these traits, this would indeed be a story difficult to swallow and a challenge to watch on stage.

Frank Galati took Steinbeck’s masterpiece and made it into a piece of theatre that maintains the traits mentioned above. Hope, the greatest of these, is evident in Ma (Janet Wright), who, despite the hardships, encourages her family to soldier on and finish the journey to California – and who, once there, provides for the family by bringing their spirits up. Without that hope and determination, I’m sure The Grapes of Wrath would quite a different story.

As part of the rehearsal process, the company had the opportunity to talk to some migrant workers. In this video clip Antoni Cimolino (director), Tom McCamus (Jim Casy) and Evan Buliung (Tom Joad) talk a bit about their time with the migrant workers and what they learned from them:

Why stage The Grapes of Wrath? It’s a story we are all familiar with. It’s relevant to our time. It gives us hope and shows that even when things might look their bleakest, we can still get through. We’ll get through with the help of those we have surrounded ourselves with. Come to Stratford and experience the trials, tribulations and survival of Ma, Pa, Tom and the rest of the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, playing at the Avon Theatre until June 1.

Come see The Grapes of Wrath June 4 or 7 for $39. Include A, B and C seating and the tickets must be purchased online. When ordering include promotion code 38784

Dress Rehearsal ~ Peter Pan

From left: Tom McCamus as Captain Hook, Michael Therriault as Peter Pan and Sean Cullen as Smee. Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Peter Pan

by J. M. Barrie

April 16 to October 31 – Opens June 12

It has been some time since the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has done a show geared specifically to children. The last one, in fact, was Alice Through the Looking Glass in 1996, and many people have felt that it was time for another production of that kid-friendly kind to hit Stratford’s stages. Enter 2010’s Peter Pan – which, like Alice, is actually a play that appeals just as strongly to adults as it does to children.

This Peter Pan isn’t a musical or a pantomime – it’s the original play by J. M. Barrie that made its debut 106 years ago. From the appearance of a strange face at the Darlings’ nursery window to the climatic fight on the Jolly Roger (the most dreaded pirate ship to sail the seven seas), this is a drama guaranteed to delight and inspire. Preview audiences of all ages have been responding tumultuously to Peter’s plea to save Tinkerbell’s life by clapping their hands, and some patrons have been seen to wipe away a tear at the end before jumping to their feet for a standing ovation.

We all know the story of Peter Pan – or at least we know who he is. The question flying through everyone’s head right now may be: why would I want to see this familiar story at Stratford? Well, the reasons are endless, but here are a few why this Peter Pan is not to be missed.

To begin with, there’s the amazing cast. Festival favourite Michael Therriault has returned to Stratford, after stints on Broadway and in the West End, to play the title role – and his arch-enemy, the vile Captain Hook, is brought to sinister, sneering life by another of the Festival’s best-loved performers, Tom McCamus. (Here’s a bit of trivia for you: McCamus played Peter some 20 years ago, in a production at the Shaw Festival.)

As the Darling children, adult actors Paul Dunn, Stacie Steadman and Sara Topham capture the wonder of childhood so authentically you’d think they really were the ages they’re playing, while Seán Cullen, returning to the Festival after last season’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, brings all his comedic skills to his portrayal of Hook’s sidekick, Smee. To see all these great actors on one stage is a treat in itself.

The show is stunningly designed by Carolyn M. Smith, whose previous Stratford credits include the Swanne trilogy, The Duchess of Malfi and last season’s Bartholomew Fair. From the Edwardian elegance of the Darlings’ nursery to the fantasy world of the Never Land (complete with dancing dinosaur), this is eye candy at its most delicious. And that’s to say nothing of the spectacular costumes she has also come up with.

Finally, director Tim Carroll – a former Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England – has filled the production with lots of delightfully unexpected touches, most of them springing from his innovative idea of bringing J. M. Barrie himself on stage to make the story up as it goes along. For that reason alone, this is a Peter Pan unlike any you’ve ever seen before.

Barrie originally wrote his play for adults, not children, so it’s full of resonances that will be appreciated by those of maturer years. But of course Peter Pan is also ideal family entertainment, and because the Festival wants as many children as possible to come and enjoy it, there are a couple of special offers available to people with young families.

Children (18 and under) can see Peter Pan for only $36 each when they’re accompanied by an adult, so you could bring the whole family. And if you have a child with a birthday coming up between now and October 31 (when the show closes), and if that birthday coincides with a performance of Peter Pan, you can bring your child to that performance absolutely free!

Peter Pan runs in rep at the Avon Theatre from April 16 through to October 31, with its official opening on June 12. So don’t miss your chance to join us in Never Land – it’s second to the right, and then straight on till morning.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Amazon………………………………………………………………………… Mary Antonini
Mullins………………………………………………………………………… Quincy Armorer
Gentleman Starkey…………………………………………………………….. Oliver Becker
Bill Jukes………………………………………………………………………… Nigel Bennett
Slightly…………………………………………………………………………… Shane Carty
Mrs. Darling…………………………………………………………………….. Laura Condlln
Smee………………………………………………………………………………. Seán Cullen
John………………………………………………………………………………….. Paul Dunn
Lily……………………………………………………………………………….. Martha Farrell
Cecco……………………………………………………………………………… Paul Fauteux
Amazon………………………………………………………………………….. Barbara Fulton
First Twin………………………………………………………………………… Bruce Godfree
Ensemble…………………………………………………………………………… Adrian Griffin
Cookson………………………………………………………………………….. Scott A. Hurst
Amazon…………………………………………………………………………… Bethany Jillard
J. M. Barrie……………………………………………………………………… James Kirriemuir
Curly………………………………………………………………………………….. Cyrus Lane
Nibs…………………………………………………………………………………… Richard Lee
Captain James Hook……………………………………………………………… Tom McCamus
Second Twin…………………………………………………………………………. Trent Pardy
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………….. Jennifer Paterson
Amazon……………………………………………………………………………. Stephanie Roth
Nana……………………………………………………………………………… Jay T. Schramek
Michael………………………………………………………………………….. Stacie Steadman
Mr. Darling………………………………………………………………………….. Sanjay Talwar
Peter Pan……………………………………………………………………….. Michael Therriault
Wendy………………………………………………………………………………… Sara Topham
Tootles………………………………………………………………………………… Ari Weinberg
Liza……………………………………………………………………………………… Brigit Wilson
Noodler……………………………………………………………………………….. Sandy Winsby
One-Man Band………………………………………………………………………. Henry Zielinksi

Artistic Team

Director…………………………………………………………………………………… Tim Carroll
Designer…………………………………………………………………………… Carolyn M. Smith
Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………………. Kevin Fraser
Composer………………………………………………………………………………. Claudio Vena
Sound Designer………………………………………………………………………………. Jim Neil
Video Designer…………………………………………………………………… Sean Nieuwenhuis
Fight Director……………………………………………………………………………… Simon Fon
Movement………………………………………………………………………………. Shona Morris
Assistant Director…………………………………………………………………….. Ken Schwartz
Assistant Set Designer……………………………………………………………….. Scott Penner
Assistant Costume Designer…………………………………………………………….. Joanna Yu
Assistant Lighting Designer………………………………………………………….. Davida Tkach
Assistant Fight Directors…………………………………………. Casey Hudecki, Kevin Robinson
Stage Manager……………………………………………………………………. Maxwell T. Wilson
Assistant Stage Managers…………………………………………. Martine Beland, Anne Murphy
Production Assistant………………………………………………………. Megan Mitchell-Downey
Production Stage Managers…………………………………….. Bona Duncan, Maxwell T. Wilson