Welcome to the sixty-first season of the Stratford Festival and my first as its Artistic Director. I am so happy to be presenting this extraordinary season filled with some of the world’s most talented actors, led by such outstanding directors. With so many acclaimed artists returning to us in 2013, every one of these productions promises to be a gem.
I believe that the essential role of theatre is to help us feel and understand. We go to the theatre to enter into the experiences of others – the characters on stage. We hope to be moved to laughter and to tears in the company of others – our fellow audience members. And from that collective experience comes empathetic understanding.
As I put together the 2013 season, I found my thoughts focusing on the idea of communities: the bonds that hold them together and the differences that divide them. I found myself drawn to plays that deal with questions of faith and intolerance; plays that pit individual agendas against those of society; plays that examine personal and political conflicts rooted in family, church or state. Such conflicts drive the plots of dramas as diverse as Romeo and Juliet, Mary Stuart, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice and Fiddler on the Roof – even the swashbuckling adventure of The Three Musketeers.
Our playbill features several characters who are regarded as “other” by the communities in which they live: not only cultural or ethnic outsiders like Shylock and Othello but also those distinguished by some physical disability or special talent, like the title character of Tommy or the wheelchair-bound activist Elora in Judith Thompson’s The Thrill, or who simply don’t quite fit in, like the disillusioned English professor in John Murrell’s Taking Shakespeare (a play whose characters, not coincidentally, explore the world of Othello together). In a lighter vein, even the ghostly Elvira in Noël Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit could be regarded as the ultimate “outsider.”
Many of these plays examine how we as individuals relate to our fellow human beings, to society and its institutions – while a play like Waiting for Godot raises the biggest question of all: what meaning does our existence, with all its hopes, fears and uncertainties, have within the context of the cosmos itself?
Provocative, profound or just sheer fun, the titles on our playbill have been chosen to offer you a wide range of choice, while inviting you to enrich your experiences by seeing multiple productions and drawing your own connections between them. To extend that opportunity even further, we are introducing something new this season: The Forum. Bringing together our audiences, our artists and some of our leading public figures, this extraordinary program of talks, debates, discussions and other ancillary presentations will continue the conversations begun by the performances on our stages.
What happens in Vegas, the catchphrase goes, stays in Vegas. But I hope that what happens to you here in Stratford in 2013 will be something you will want to take home with you, something so wonderful that it will stay with you forever.