Beat the heat with our midsummer sale!

by Lisa Middleton

“My Oberon! what visions have I seen!/ Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.” — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Does this hot weather have you seeing crazy things? Then it’s time to get out of the sun with the Festival’s midsummer sale! What better way to beat this heat than with $39 tickets* to selected shows between now and August 4!

Join us on any of the dates below at this special summer rate!

 Here’s how to place your order!
  1. Log into our website with promotion code 44972
  2. Select any performance from the list above on our calendar
  3. Once you’ve selected a date, ensure you have the “promotion” price type selected from the drop-down menu
  4. Select your seats
  5. Complete your orderOR

Purchase your tickets using Stratford Social Ticketing on our Facebook page!

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances or in conjunction with any other promotion, including SSP, Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Promotion is available through our website and through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Some conditions apply.

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Festival marks anniversary with opening of Henry V

July 9, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival continues to mark its 60th season this week with the world premières of three Canadian plays and the opening of Artistic Director Des McAnuff’s production of Henry V. The Festival has been heralded recently throughout North America as a top destination for travel and culture, giving it even more reason to celebrate.

Henry V, featuring Aaron Krohn in the title role, will open on Friday, July 13, the Festival’s anniversary. Wednesday sees the opening of Wanderlust, a new musical commissioned by the Festival from Morris Panych and Marek Norman, based on the poetry of Robert Service. Daniel MacIvor’s new play The Best Brothers, workshopped at the Festival and directed by Associate Artistic Director Dean Gabourie, opens Thursday afternoon, followed that evening by Hirsch, which celebrates the life and career of former Artistic Director John Hirsch. Developed at Stratford over the past three years, Hirsch was created and conceived by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson.

“One of my proudest achievements at the Festival is to have mounted a celebratory 60th season that features Canadian works in such abundance,” says Mr. McAnuff, who concludes his tenure as Artistic Director at the end of 2012 and was recently appointed to the Order of Canada. “Fully 50 per cent of the productions on our playbill this year are written by Canadians. They represent an enormous range of dramatic genres, showcasing the talent that has developed in Canada’s rich theatrical landscape since the founding of the Festival 60 years ago.”

“This second round of openings heralds the beginning of the summer season in Stratford,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino, who has been named the Festival’s next Artistic Director. “We have recently been showcased as a top destination by a number of influential media outlets, establishing even further the appeal of this idyllic city. We hope people recognize what an ideal vacation spot Stratford is and include a visit to the Festival in their holiday plans. This year’s productions have won critical acclaim across the board and have been delighting audiences since the season began in April.”

Inspired by the success of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, The New York Times visited Stratford this spring and trumpeted the joys of the city and the Festival in its travel section in June. NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. has chosen to include Stratford in a feature of five significant cultural destinations in North America, the only one in Canada. Frommer’s included Stratford as a Top 10 Canadian Summer Vacation Destination; Reader’s Digest featured Stratford in its Top 10 Canadian Road Trips; and Trip Advisor named Stratford one of Canada’s Top 10 Cultural Destinations. Stratford has also been chosen as an iconic Canadian experience for travel writer Robin Esrock’s upcoming book The Great Canadian Bucket List.

Next to open this season is A Word or Two, written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer, which is being presented as a special 60th season event. Directed by Mr. McAnuff, the production, which begins previews on July 25 and opens August 2, is an autobiographical journey through the literature that has stirred the actor’s imagination since youth. Mr. Plummer, who this year won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Beginners, is one of the Festival’s most lauded alumni, first appearing at Stratford in 1956 in the title role of Henry V. This will be the third collaboration between Mr. Plummer and Mr. McAnuff at the Festival; their first two projects, Caesar and Cleopatra, in which Mr. Plummer played Julius Caesar, and The Tempest, in which he played Prospero, have also been captured on film for cinematic release.

The season’s final offering, Sophokles’ Elektra, translated by Canadian poet Anne Carson, will open August 11, featuring Yanna McIntosh in the title role and Seana McKenna as Clytemestra.

In addition to Henry V, the season features two other Shakespeares – Cymbeline, directed by Mr. Cimolino, which is being praised as one of the finest ever productions of this challenging classic, and Much Ado About Nothing. Three musicals are also on stage – 42nd Street, The Pirates of Penzance, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – as well as Thornton Wilder’s comedy The Matchmaker, which is being hailed as the feel-good show of the year. The War of 1812, by Canadian playwright Michael Hollingsworth, opened on Canada Day, and MacHomer, created and performed by Rick Miller, enjoyed a limited engagement at Stratford in May.

The Festival marked its 60th season by publishing Stratford Behind the Scenes, a full-colour book that reveals the complexities of season planning and captures the superb artistry carried out by the Festival’s costumes, props, sets and wigs departments. An ebook of Stratford Behind the Scenes will be launched this summer.

An archival exhibition, Most Rare Visions: 60 Years of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is open to the public daily at 104 Downie Street, across from the Avon Theatre. It features costumes, unique artefacts and props, plus rare footage and new interviews with key players in the Festival’s history

Since its founding 60 years ago, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has welcomed more than 25 million visitors. Originally conceived as an economic stimulus for the community, the Festival now generates about $140 million in economic activity annually. It employs 1,000 people and creates 3,000 full-year jobs.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season runs until October 28. To purchase tickets, visit www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com or call 1.800.567.1600.

Try something new! Join us for one of our world premières for only $39.

by Christi Rutledge

Some of my absolute best theatre experiences have come out of seeing new shows. Last year, The Little Years absolutely blew me away. I didn’t know a whole lot about the production before I went to see it, but I went into it with an open mind and found it refreshing to see a new work! This year we have the incredible privilege of having not one, not two, but three world premières on our stages, all written by Canadians: The Best Brothers, by Daniel MacIvor; Hirsch, by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson; and Wanderlust, by Morris Panych and Marek Norman. If you’ve never taken a chance on a new play or musical, I want to encourage you to join us this season for one or all three of our world premières.

I’ve been to see all three shows now, so let me give you a little bit more information about each of them!

The Best Brothers
By Daniel MacIvor; Directed by Dean Gabourie.


If you’ve ever had a sibling, mother or dog, or have lost a relative (that’s pretty much all of us), this show will hit home. The Best Brothers follows the brothers Kyle (played by John Beale) and Hamilton (played by Daniel MacIvor) as they cope with the death of their mother, Ardith “Bunny” Best. The two of them are like oil and water, which means that the already difficult task of arranging their mother’s affairs is even more trying. But together, through their struggle (which is coloured with humour), they come to learn more about themselves, each other and the woman who gave them life. The Best Brothers will have you laughing, crying and, more than likely, identifying with Mr. MacIvor’s beautifully imperfect characters.

“Best Brothers was excellent! Definitely in my top three plays of the year at the Festival.” – Facebook

Hirsch
By Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson; Directed by Paul Thompson.


Hirsch allows us a look at the personal and artistic life of past Stratford Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director John Hirsh, with powerful effect. A happy and art-filled childhood ends very darkly for a young John Hirsch, who was orphaned at age thirteen in the Holocaust. After three years wandering alone in Europe, Hirsch finds sanctuary in Winnipeg, Canada. Alon Nashman, who portrays Hirsch, highlights the director’s amazing talent and fiery temperament, which made him a fierce cultural force on the national and international theatre scenes. Throughout the play we are reminded of the painful formative experiences that shaped Hirsch’s life. On more than one occasion I found myself in tears as Mr. Nashman embodied them vividly on the stage of the Studio Theatre. But with the hurt there is also hope, humour and joy – all of which weave into a stunning tapestry of a life that was truly extraordinary.

“Just caught a preview of #ssfHirsch … wow, wow, wow!!! So inspired. Alon Nashman is brilliant!” – Twitter

Wanderlust
Book by Morris Panych; Music by Marek Norman; Based on the poems of Robert Service with additional lyrics by Morris Panych; Directed by Morris Panych.


Wanderlust, a new musical based on the poems of Robert Service, has absolutely captivated me! If you’re expecting a biographical retelling of Service’s life, you might be in for a bit of a surprise. Morris Panych – who adapted and directed Moby Dick (2008) and wrote and directed The Trespassers (2009) – uses the poems of Service to tell a story about imagination and the liminal space between dreaming and doing. Tom Rooney takes the lead as the Bard of the Yukon, Robert Service, and Panych leverages Service’s fictional characters, Louise (played by Robin Hutton), Dan McGrew (played by Dan Chameroy), Mr. McGee (played by Randy Hughson) and Mrs. Munch (played by Lucy Peacock) as his real-life friends and foes. The result is pure imagination! Mr. Norman’s beautiful score is quite literally music to your ears. Unlike some modern musicals there is a beautiful sense of fluidity and use of melody that ties the production together. The set, the staging, and the lighting … well, you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

“#ssfwanderlust was amazing. The best, most innovative staging I have seen this year. Well done again @stratfest!” – Twitter

Try something new this year and join us for The Best Brothers, Hirsch and Wanderlust!  Here’s the best part: if you purchase tickets to any of these shows between today and Monday, July 9, at 11:59 p.m., you can take advantage of our special $39 world première ticket deal!

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

  1. Log into our website at www.stratfordfestival.ca with promotion code 44722
  2. Select any performance of The Best Brothers, Hirsch or Wanderlust in July (excluding their openings)
  3. Select your own seats
  4. Complete your checkout
  5. Enjoy the show! 🙂

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances or in conjunction with any other promotion, including SSP, Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Offer is not available on A+ seating. Promotion is only available online through our website or through Stratford Social Ticketing on the Festival’s Facebook page. Promotion excludes the July 11 performance of Wanderlust and the July 12 performances of The Best Brothers and Hirsch.

It’s official – we’ve started our 60th season!

By:Lisa Middleton

After five months of darkened stages, empty lobbies and frosty evenings, we’ve started our 60th season!  Yesterday 42nd Street took the stage for its first preview, and it was amazing! What a celebratory way to kick things off —a perfect show for our diamond jubilee (sparkle included!). We know that the rest of the season will be just as thrilling. Here are some things to watch for while you plan your visit and some activities and shows you won’t want to miss!

P.S.  Shakespeare’s birthday is just around the corner – 448 years young – and we’re celebrating with a special gift to all our fans. Find out more next week!

Des McAnuff to be honoured with a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

March 6, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival extends heartiest congratulations to Artistic Director Des McAnuff, who is the recipient of the National Arts Centre Award of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments over the past performance year.

“Des is very deserving of this recognition,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “He has indeed had an extraordinary year, directing two large-scale productions at the Festival, filming one and taking the other on to La Jolla and then to Broadway. This is all in addition to his international accomplishments, which in themselves required super-human strength to complete. We all congratulate him on his achievements and this very great honour.”

At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Mr. McAnuff directed a celebrated production of Twelfth Night starring Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette. His acclaimed production of Jesus Christ Superstar enjoyed an extended run at Stratford, moved to La Jolla Playhouse in California, and is set to open on Broadway this month with its Stratford cast.

Mr. McAnuff opened the second North American tour of Jersey Boys in Philadelphia. He directed a new musical production of Doctor Zhivago, which played in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, Australia, and is now being performed in Seoul with an all-Korean cast. He directed Gounod’s Faust for the Metropolitan Opera starring Jonas KaufmannRené Pape, and Marina Poplavskaya. Mr. McAnuff’s achievements over the past year also include film, with his production of Faust shown in cinemas worldwide and his production of The Tempest, starring Christopher Plummer released in cinemas. (His production of Caesar and Cleopatra, which also features Christopher Plummer, enjoyed a similar release in 2009, while Twelfth Night is scheduled for cinema release this week).

The year 2011 also saw Mr. McAnuff planning Stratford’s 60th anniversary playbill, half of which are Canadian works, including three world premières – Morris Panych and Marek Norman’s WanderlusThe Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor, and Hirsch by Alon Nashmon and Paul Thompson, about the former Stratford artistic director and legendary theatre artist John Hirsch. Mr. McAnuff will also be directing Shakespeare’s Henry V and Christopher Plummer’s one-man show A Word or Two.

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards will be presented in Ottawa in early May.

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Happy Birthday, Frederic!

By: Lisa Middleton

If any of you know the story of The Pirates of Penzance, you’ll know that February 29 is a very important date in the show! Frederic, one of the title characters, was apprenticed as a child to a band of tenderhearted pirates. Upon turning 21, Frederic rejoices that he has finally fulfilled his indentures and is now free to return to respectable society. But it turns out that he was born on February 29 – a leap year – and he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday. What will poor Frederic do?

To celebrate leap day, we have a special one-(and a bit)-day deal for you!

We’re offering $29 tickets to any performance on the 29th day of any month of the season. Hurry, though – this promotion is only available for 29 hours from February 28, 2012 at 7 p.m. to February 29, 2012 at 11:59 p.m.!* To redeem this online promotion, log in to our website using promotion code 42603.

What’s playing on the 29th? 
May 29: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Cymbeline and 42nd Street
(PROMO PRICE SOLD OUT)
June 29: 42nd Street (PROMO PRICE SOLD OUT), You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Matchmaker, Wanderlust and Hirsch
July 29: Much Ado About Nothing, Elektra and Hirsch
August 29: Much Ado About Nothing, The Pirates of Penzance (PROMO PRICE SOLD OUT), Hirsch, Cymbeline and The Best Brothers
September 29: 42nd Street, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Elektra, Henry V and The Pirates of Penzance (PROMO PRICE SOLD OUT)


Find out more about our 2012 playbill and take a look behind the scenes on our YouTube channel and our Flickr page!

Fun fact: Did you know that 2012 will be the fourth time that The Pirates of Penzance will appear at the Festival?  Take a look at some photos of past productions of this much-loved Gilbert and Sullivan show!

*Promotion is not available on special 60th season performances, including A Word or Two and The War of 1812. Promotion is not available on already discounted tickets, including Family Experience, TiXX and PlayOn. Tickets are non-refundable, subject to availability and only available online in A, B and C seating zones.

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!