Stratford Festival set to begin performances July 10

Provincial guidelines will allow 100 people at each show

Stratford, ON… The Ontario government has issued its guidance for attendance at outdoor performing arts events, paving the way for the opening of the Stratford Festival’s 2021 season.

According to these guidelines, the Stratford Festival will be able to accommodate 100 people (or 25% capacity) in each of its new outdoor canopies, where shows will run three times a day from July 10 until the end of September.

Three Tall Women, which was to have begun performances in June, has been moved later in the season. It will now be mounted in the Studio Theatre (as it was to have been in 2020) from August 10 to October 9, assuming the province’s successful transition to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Capacity will be limited to 25 people. The play’s two parts will be presented as separate performances, scheduled to be seen on the same day. Each ticket includes both parts.

“We are thrilled to be able to progress with our 2021 season,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “A season outdoors under canopies is not only fitting for the current conditions but draws parallels to the Festival’s first season in 1953. As we were then, we are under a canopy – and we are starting the performance season in July, just as we did 68 years ago. A relentless spirit of adventure has guided our efforts over the past several months and we can hardly wait to welcome our audiences back both in person and online, which has become a new Stratford Festival tradition during the pandemic.”

The Festival began outdoor rehearsals earlier this month and will be able to move those indoors very soon.

“Rehearsing outdoors comes with challenges,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, “but to see actors and creative teams back at work is a balm for the soul. As we move towards July 10, we are able to bring more artists on board and get more and more staff back to work. It feels good and we are hopeful that there are even better days ahead.”

The 2021 season features six plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, R+J, Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Serving Elizabeth by Marcia Johnson, and I Am William, with text by Rébecca Déraspe, music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry, and English translation by Leanna Brodie.

2021 productions will be filmed and made available digitally beginning in September, to allow greater access to the performances.

The current guidelines allow a daily maximum capacity of 600 people, compared to 7,000 when the Festival is fully operational in all four of its theatres.

The Festival is also announcing a series of events – some in-person, some digital – for the 2021 Meighen Forum. Live events will be held in Lazaridis Hall in the new Tom Patterson Theatre, beginning August 6 and assuming the successful transition to Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan. These include performances of Andrew Prashad’s One Step at a Time and Ryan G. Hinds’s #KanderAndEbb, as well as a new series of play readings called Play by the Book, which features Jessica B. Hill’s The Dark Lady; the Uprising Series, curated by Hannah Rittner; and the REV-elations Series, a co-production with b-current Performing Arts, curated by Sadie Berlin. (Details below.)

The Digital Meighen Forum will include a variety of paid events, including workshops, speakers and panels, as well as the audience favourite Meet the Festival, which will be free of charge and will run on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET, during live-performance weeks. Details of the Digital Meighen Forum are still being finalized.

As in the past, tickets for the 2021 season will go on sale to Members first (beginning July 6), as well as to those who have held the value of their 2020 tickets on account or donated the value of those tickets back to the Festival. After the advance sale period, remaining tickets will be put on sale to the public beginning July 12.

THE 2021 SEASON IN DETAIL

FESTIVAL THEATRE CANOPY

Support for the 2021 season of the Festival Theatre Canopy is generously provided by

Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

R + J

By William Shakespeare

Adapted by Ravi Jain, Christine Horne and Alex Bulmer

Directed by Ravi Jain

Produced in collaboration with Why Not Theatre

Featuring:

Dante Jemmott as Romeo

Eponine Lee as Juliet

Alex Bulmer as the Friar

Beck Lloyd as Lady Capulet and Tybalt

Lisa Nasson as Benvolio

Sepehr Reybod as Mercutio

Rick Roberts as Capulet

Tom Rooney as the Nurse

August 12 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, August 15

They say that love is blind – and with blindness comes the freedom to open the mind’s eye to a world of limitless possibility. Likewise, the challenge of staging the world’s most famous love story in a time of physical distancing brings with it the opportunity to explore modes of theatrical presentation that are both unexpectedly novel and as old as the art of storytelling itself.

Intended for blind, low-vision and sighted audiences alike, this radically reimagined version of Shakespeare’s beloved romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, invites you into an up-to-the-minute modern world of sound and music, a world that challenges the identities we construct when we use only our eyes, a world in which the entrenched hostilities of an older generation are challenged by the passions of young people who only want to love.

Production support is generously provided by Dr. M. Lee Myers and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Why We Tell the Story

A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre

Curated and directed by Marcus Nance

Music Director: Franklin Brasz

Featuring:

Neema Bickersteth

Marcus Nance

Robert Markus

Vanessa Sears

July 10 to July 21 | Opening Tuesday, July 13

Throughout the ages the African-American community has told stories of life, love, pain and hope through the glorious expressions of musical theatre and poetry. This update of the sold-out 2019 Meighen Forum concert, takes you on a journey with the voices of legendary Black poets and the music of the African-American musical theatre canon, including hits from Aida, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Caroline, or Change, The Color Purple, Hamilton, The Lion King, Once On This Island, Showboat and many more. As Maya Angelou said: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin.

You Can’t Stop the Beat

The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre

Curated and directed by Thom Allison

Music Director: Laura Burton

Featuring:

Alana Hibbert

Gabrielle Jones

Evangelia Kambites

Mark Uhre

July 15 to July 31 | Opening Sunday, July 18

What is it about musical theatre that captures the hearts of millions of fans? Through wars, disasters, heartbreaks and triumphs, musicals have been there to give us a way to understand the human experience and flourish. Has there ever been a better way to represent our inner lives than in glorious Technicolor and song? This tune-filled ride celebrates why musicals have always been the ultimate tonic for the soul in good or troubled times.

Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip.

Play On!

A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape

Curated by Robert Markus, Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis

Directed by Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis

Music Director: Reza Jacobs

Featuring:

Gabriel Antonacci

Jacob MacInnis

Jennifer Rider-Shaw

Kimberly-Ann Truong

July 29 to August 15 | Opening Sunday, July 31

Shakespeare’s influence on Western culture extends even into your favourite pop hits. Whether it be direct lines from his plays appearing in Top 40 lyrics or whole songs inspired by his plots, whether the borrowers be Taylor Swift, Madonna, Elton John, The Beatles, Prince or Radiohead, Shakespeare is still there, lurking in the mainstream, as cool and as relevant as ever. This lively celebration of terrific tunes affords a great opportunity to introduce a younger audience to Shakespeare’s continuing role in popular culture.

Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert.

Freedom

Spirit and Legacy of Black Music

Curated and directed by Beau Dixon

Music Director: Beau Dixon

Featuring:

Robert Ball

Alana Bridgewater

Beau Dixon

Camille Eanga-Selenge

August 19 to September 5 | Opening Saturday, August 21

From the moment Black people landed on North American soil, their music took root and became the basis for much of the popular music we hear today. There is an endless list of exceptional Black musicians who have been lost to history while their white counterparts gained fame. From church hymnals to the blues, from jazz to rock ’n’ roll, R&B and rap, we owe much of our musical history to Black culture, and it’s time to give credit where it is due.

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin and by Sylvia Soyka.

Finally There’s Sun

A Cabaret of Resilience

Curated and directed by Sara Farb and Steve Ross

Music Director: Franklin Brasz

Featuring:

Noah Beemer

Sara Farb

Germaine Konji

Steve Ross 

September 9 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, September 12

Reflecting on this “great pause” as we move forward and get back to living freely, Finally There’s Sun takes you on a musical journey through a year of enormous change and growth. It explores the isolation, the loneliness, the upheaval and the unexpected silver linings that came out of a time like no other.

Production support is generously provided by Jody & Deborah Hamade and by Dr. Robert & Roberta Sokol.

TOM PATTERSON THEATRE CANOPY

The 2021 season at the Tom Patterson Theatre Canopy is sponsored by BMO Financial Group

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Peter Pasyk

Featuring:

Eva Foote as Hermia, Snug and Peaseblossom

Craig Lauzon as Oberon and Theseus

Trish Lindström as Puck and Egeus

Jonathan Mason as Demetrius, Quince and Mustardseed

André Sills as Bottom

Amaka Umeh as Helena, Flute and Moth

Micah Woods as Lysander, Snout and Cobweb

Bahareh Yaraghi as Titania and Hippolyta

July 16 to August 1 | Opening Thursday, July 22

Spellbound lovers, quarrelling fairies, tradesmen with a fervour for amateur theatricals: they’re all mixed up together in the surreal world of Shakespeare’s great comedy of dreaming and desire.

This deep dive into the sometimes unsettlingly dark and dangerous realms of the subconscious famously culminates in a play within the play: a hilariously inept performance by Nick Bottom and his fellow would-be actors. But even as we laugh at the ham-fisted efforts of these “rude mechanicals,” we are won over by their heartfelt belief in the power of the imagination.

Taking its cue from that insight, this production deploys the most fundamental techniques of theatrical art in a magically inventive staging of a play that is itself a celebration of the imagination at its most extreme.

Production support is generously provided by the Harkins & Manning families in memory of Jim & Susan Harkins.

The Rez Sisters

By Tomson Highway

Directed by Jessica Carmichael

Featuring:

Jani Lauzon as Pelajia Patchnose

Brefny Caribou as Zhaboonigan Peterson

Lisa Cromarty as Marie-Adele Starblanket

Christine Frederick as Veronique St. Pierre

Nicole Joy-Fraser as Annie Cook

Kathleen MacLean as Emily Dictionary

Tracey Nepinak as Philomena Moosetail

Zach Running Coyote as Nanabush

July 23 to August 21 | Opening Wednesday, July 28

They have their dreams and their difficulties, these seven women. One yearns for a singing career; another for a white porcelain toilet. One grieves for her lover, killed in a motorcycle accident; another harbours the memory of a horrific sexual assault. The cancer that afflicts one of them is not the only malignancy they confront.

But one dream they hold in common is that of winning “the biggest bingo in the world” – and one day, accompanied by the transformative spirit guide Nanabush, they leave their Manitoulin Island reserve and set out for Toronto to do just that.

Ribald, harrowing and mystical, this seminal work of Indigenous drama celebrates the spirit of resilience and the powerful beauty these women bring to the tough world in which they live.

Production support is generously provided by Karon C. Bales & Charles E. Beall and by M. Fainer.

Schulich Children’s Plays

I Am William

Text by Rébecca Déraspe

Music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry

English translation by Leanna Brodie

Book, lyrics and score developed at Théâtre Le Clou

Directed by Esther Jun

Choreographer: Alyssa Martin

Music Director: Njo Kong Kie

Featuring:

Shakura Dickson as Margaret

Landon Doak as William

Allan Louis as John and the Earl of Leicester

Shannon Taylor as Mary and Queen Elizabeth I

August 10 to September 12 | Opening Saturday, August 14

Margaret Shakespeare has a dazzling talent for writing, which she yearns to put to serious use. But in an age lethally suspicious of female intellect and literacy, how can she find a way to fulfil her authorial ambitions yet still survive? Fortunately, she has a brother, William, who isn’t much of a writer but who wants to make it as an actor – and friends in high places have just the role for him.

Tapping into our fascination with the enigma of William Shakespeare’s life and how he came to write those plays – and the seemingly endless speculation in some quarters about whether he really did – this light-hearted yet genuinely passionate interweaving of comedy, song and poetic fancy spins a playful and witty yarn that will delight younger audiences and adults alike.

Serving Elizabeth

By Marcia Johnson

Directed by Kimberley Rampersad

Produced by special arrangement with Thousand Islands Playhouse

Featuring:

Sean Arbuckle as Talbot and Maurice

Arlene Duncan as Mercy and Patricia

Cameron Grant as Montague and Steven

Virgilia Griffith as Faith and Tia

Sara Topham as HRH Princess Elizabeth and Robin

August 28 to September 26 | Opening Thursday, September 2

In Kenya in 1952, Mercy, a restaurant proprietor, is hired to cater the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth, soon to be Queen. In 2015, another story unfolds in London, England, where a young Kenyan-born Canadian, Tia, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family, while also pursuing a writing project of her own. These parallel narratives seem only coincidentally connected ­– until a surprising twist reveals a deeper relationship between the two. Audiences are certain to enjoy this ingenious contemporary drama that keeps us guessing as it explores issues of colonialism, nationalism and the question of who gets to have a voice.

Production support is generously provided by John & Therese Gardner and by the Tremain Family.

STUDIO THEATRE

Edward Albee’s

Three Tall Women

Directed by Diana Leblanc

Featuring:

Martha Henry as A

Lucy Peacock as B

Mamie Zwettler as C

Andrew Iles as The Boy

August 10 to October 9 | Opening Thursday, August 19

By turns acerbic, anguished and sarcastically funny, an old woman known to us only as “A” lays bare her inner life in sometimes shocking detail to two others: a middle-aged caregiver identified only as “B” and a young legal professional, “C.”

Originally programmed for the 2020 season, Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which he called an “exorcism” of his own troubled relationship with his adoptive mother, is a profound meditation on aging, death and the very nature of the self: who are we really, and how do we become who we are?

In keeping with pandemic precautions, the play’s two parts – the second of which brings a startlingly different take on its characters – will be presented as separate performances, scheduled to be seen on the same day. Each ticket includes both parts.

Production support is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, Sylvia Soyka, The Westaway Charitable Foundation and by Jack Whiteside.

THE MEIGHEN FORUM

Supported through an endowed gift from Kelly & Michael Meighen and the T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.

LIVE IN LAZARIDIS HALL

Be among the first to experience a performance in the new Lazaridis Hall, designed as the home of The Meighen Forum in the new Tom Patterson Theatre.

One Step at a Time

August 10 to August 1

Using monologues, original songs, improvisational tap dance and multimedia video, Andrew Prashad shares his and his wife’s journey of caring for a son with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, while raising two daughters – all while maintaining his career as a professional actor, singer and dancer.

#KanderAndEbb

September 14 to September 18

Ryan G. Hinds’s #KanderAndEbb is a tour through the music of Broadway songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, set against entertaining and touching real-life stories from the fan who managed to get semi-close to the legendary writers’ fabled world. Featuring a fabulous four-piece band led by music director Mark Selby, the show is a hilarious, personal and sincere tribute that leaves audiences with a new and deeper appreciation of the music and lyrics they thought they knew.

Support for #KanderandEbb is generously provided by Sandra Ratman in honour of Louis Applebaum through The Louis Applebaum Visiting Artists Program.

Play By the Book

Dramatic, intimate readings complementing the season’s playbills and performed live.

The Dark Lady

By Jessica B. Hill

August 6

Emilia Bassano, the probable Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, was a published poet in her own right. She was also trilingual, multiracial, and a talented musician. The Dark Lady brings these two poets intimately together as they wrestle with artistic collaboration, ambition, envy and love: an entanglement that will profoundly shape both their lives and their work. Shakespeare in the Ruins is planning a full production of The Dark Lady for 2022.

Uprising Series

Curated by Hannah Rittner

August 18 to August 21

This series features readings of The Courage to Right a Woman’s Wrongs by Ana Caro Mallén de Soto, The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret by Susanna Centlivre, When Ladies Meet by Rachel Crothers and Wedding Band by Alice Childress.

Support for the Uprising Series is generously provided by the Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

REV-elations Series

A co-production with b current Performing Arts

Curated by Sadie Berlin

August 25 to August 28

REV-elations brings to light older and rarer plays by Black playwrights for audiences to discover, including The Escape by William Wells Brown, Collected Plays by Zora Neale Hurston, Parallel Hands by Frantz Fanon and How Now Black Man by Lorris Elliot.

ONLINE EVENTS

The Digital Meighen Forum brings expert commentary and artistic insights directly to your device.

Digital Workshops

Poems by Playwrights

In these three workshops led by Monice Peter, delve into the poetic journey of Afro- and Caribbean-Canadian and American playwrights and discover how their culture and experiences are layered within the devices of their poetry.

Creating Costumes

In these workshops led by members of the Stratford Festival Wardrobe, learn practical costume-building techniques in order to begin to create your own pieces at home.

Shakespeare’s Speeches

Through discussion and acting exercises, explore the intricacies of some of Shakespeare’s great speeches in these workshops, led by actors, past and present, who have brought the words of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life on stage.

Original Dance

Learn original choreography from some of the Stratford Festival’s professional dancers and choreographers.

Playwriting

Learn some creative writing strategies and exercises directly from Marcia Johnson, playwright of Serving Elizabeth. Discuss the particular styles and techniques employed in each of their plays and engage in some active writing exercises yourself.

Building Props

In these workshops led by Stratford Festival prop-builders, learn practical prop-building techniques in order to begin to create your own pieces at home.

The Stillness Room

Founded by Toronto theatre director and teacher Alan Dilworth, The Stillness Room is a coming together to experience the centring and quietly transformative qualities of stillness, silence and connection. Since May 2020 The Virtual Stillness Room has been available free for all, in partnership with Necessary Angel Theatre Company.

Meet the Festival

July 10, 17, 24, 31; August 7, 14, 21, 28; September 4, 11, 18, 25

Fun and informal digital Q&A sessions with Festival artists and staff.

For more information call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

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