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Speaker Bios

Sally Armstrong (Ascent of Women)
Sally Armstrong Forum
Sally Armstrong is an Amnesty International award winner, a member of the Order of Canada, journalist, author, human rights activist and contributing editor at Maclean’s magazine. She has recently been appointed to the International Women’s Commission at the UN. Sally has covered stories in zones of conflict all over the world. From Bosnia and Somalia to Rwanda and Afghanistan, her eyewitness reports have earned her awards, including the Gold Award from the National Magazine Awards foundation and the Author’s Award from the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters. She received the Amnesty International Media Award in 2000 and again in 2002. Her documentary works include They Fell From the Sky and The Daughters of Afghanistan. She is the author of three books: Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor and the newly released Bitter Roots, Tender Shoots: The Uncertain Fate of Afghanistan’s Women. She is the recipient of six honorary doctorate degrees.
Andrew Bretz (Pre-Season Insights)
Andrew Bretz Forum
In 2012, the University of Guelph awarded Andrew his doctorate in English and Theatre Studies, where his dissertation was on the subject of the representation of rape on the early modern stage. His master’s work at the University of Calgary focused on how early modern playwrights dealt with the subject of prostitution. Andrew has presented previously at the Shakespeare Association of America, Renaissance Society of America, the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and is a regular participant in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. Previously, Andrew has worked as dramaturge for The Shakespeare Company of Calgary, Alberta, and dramaturged the first production of The Humorous Magistrate (Marriage Upon Marriage), a previously undiscovered, anonymous play manuscript dated to approximately 1630-50 from northern England. Though early modern drama is his primary area of interest, Andrew is deeply interested in 20th- and 21st-century mediations of early modern texts in audio formats such as the appropriations of Shakespeare on early American radio from 1925-40. He has previously been published in Modern Philology and Interdisciplinary Humanities and has a book chapter coming out in the collection Outerspeares, published by the University of Toronto Press. Andrew has taught courses in the history of Western civilization, poetry, modern drama, as well as Shakespeare and his contemporaries at the University of Guelph, University of Calgary and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Priscilla Costello (Astrology and Shakespeare)
Priscilla Costello Forum
Priscilla Costello, MA, is a counselling astrologer, teacher and writer with a professional astrological practice spanning over 30 years. Formerly a teacher of gifted and enriched students during a 30-year secondary-school teaching career, she taught an archetypal approach to English literature. A lifelong interest in psychology and spirituality is reflected in her multiple-award-winning MA thesis on religious philosophy and Jungian psychology and in her founding of The New Alexandria, a centre for religious, spiritual and esoteric studies. Her book The Weiser Concise Guide to Practical Astrology relates astrology particularly to psychology and esoteric traditions. She is currently at work on a book about Shakespeare and astrology, entitled Shakespeare and the Stars: The Secret Keys to Understanding the World’s Greatest Playwright.
John de Chastelain (Ancient Grudges and New Mutinies)
John de Chastelain Forum
John de Chastelain was born a British subject in Bucharest, Rumania, in July 1937 and was educated in England and Scotland. He immigrated to Canada in 1955 and attended Mount Royal College in Calgary and the Royal Military College in Kingston. On graduation from RMC he was commissioned into the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and over the next 40 years served in four Canadian provinces, England, Cyprus and Germany. In 1989 he was promoted to General and appointed Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). Three years later he transferred to the Reserves and was appointed Canada’s 19th Ambassador to the United States of America. Subsequently he returned to Canada to serve a second term as CDS, retiring from the Canadian Forces in December 1995. He then began a 15-year involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process, including co-chairing the talks that led to the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and chairing the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, whose work ended in 2011. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received decorations from Greece, the United States and Britain. He has also received honorary doctorates from eight Canadian universities and is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall College Oxford. He and his wife, MaryAnn, live in Ottawa and they have two children and five grandchildren.
Mark Fortier (Pre-Season Insights)
Mark Fortier Forum
Mark Fortier is a professor of English and theatre studies at the University of Guelph. He has a PhD from York University and an LLB from the University of Toronto. Among his publications are Theory/Theatre: An Introduction, Adaptations of Shakespeare and Royal Subjects: Essays on the Writings of James VI and I (both with Daniel Fischlin), and The Culture of Equity in Early Modern England. He has also co-written a novel, Viva!, with Graziela Pimentel.
Jane Freeman (Pre-Season Insights)
Jane Freeman Forum
Dr. Jane Freeman attended theatre school at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and has completed a BA and a BEd in English and drama at Queen’s University, a master’s degree in English and European Renaissance drama at the University of Warwick and a PhD in Shakespeare’s rhetoric at the University of Toronto. Her areas of specialty are Shakespeare in performance, Shakespeare’s rhetoric, oral/written communication and classical rhetoric. She has worked on numerous theatrical productions in a range of capacities including actress, stage manager, adjudicator and director, and was the production coordinator for Robert Lepage’s production of Macbeth at Hart House Theatre. She taught Shakespeare at Acadia University in Nova Scotia for two years before returning to Ontario to join the faculty at the University of Toronto. She is the founding Director of the School of Graduate Studies’ Office of English Language and Writing Support, a Senior Fellow of Massey College and a member of the Massey Corporation. A frequent guest lecturer for the Stratford Festival and host of the annual Shakespeare Lecture Series at the Toronto Reference Library, Dr. Freeman is a member of the Festival’s Senate, the Chair of its University Task Force and past Chair of its Education and Archives Committee.
Aidan Johnson (Pre-Season Insights)
Bios Default Photo
Aidan Johnson is a lawyer and writer specializing in constitutional law and criminal law. In addition to his work in law, he was a PhD student in English Literature, specializing in Shakespeare, at the University of Chicago. He was selected for the Commonwealth Scholarship for doctoral studies at Oxford University, and was a Fulbright scholar at NYU. Aidan was also the (Governor General) David L. Johnston Scholar at McGill Law School. His writings on culture, politics, and law have appeared in the op-ed pages of the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star and Hamilton Spectator. He has a very fond attachment to Guelph, and has spent a great deal of time in the city. His fiance, Stefan Weber, is a "Guelphie", and an alumnus of the graduate program in ecology at the University of Guelph.
Lois Kivesto (Music With Her Silver Sound)
Lois Kivesto Forum
Lois Kivesto has been presenting Stratford Festival talks since 2005, and also has written program notes. She is a researcher for Canadian Stage and a frequent contributor to Shaw Festival publications. A University of Toronto music graduate (viola), Lois received a PhD in theatre from New York University, with a dissertation on the theatre of James Lapine. Her essay “Comedy Tonight!” is published in Stephen Sondheim: A Casebook.
Barbara Kyle (Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens)
Barbara Kyle Forum
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed, internationally published Thornleigh Saga, historical novels set in Tudor England. Her most recent book, Blood Between Queens, chronicles the deadly rivalry between Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I. Formerly an actress in Canadian theatre, film and television, she now teaches writing at the University of Toronto. She lives in Ontario with her husband and daughter.
Stephen Landrigan (Shakespeare in Kabul)
Stephen Landrigan Forum
Stephen Landrigan is an occasional playwright and former journalist for The Washington Post and BBC Radio. In 2004, he began a six-year stint in Afghanistan, where he met Qais Akbar Omar. Together they worked on staging Love’s Labour’s Lost in Dari, as recounted in Shakespeare in Kabul. While in Afghanistan, Stephen developed a strong interest in Afghan carpets and the issues surrounding their production. With Qais Akbar Omar, he has also written The Carpet Makers, Weaving the Soul of Afghanistan, the first book on Afghan carpets in more than 30 years.
Alexander Leggatt (Pre-Season Insights)
Alexander Leggatt Forum
Alexander Leggatt is professor emeritus of English at University College, University of Toronto, and a frequent contributor of program notes and table talks to the Stratford Festival. He took his BA at the University of Toronto in 1962 and did his graduate work in England at the Shakespeare Institute, leading to a PhD in 1965. From 1965 to his retirement in 2006 he taught English at the University of Toronto. He has written many books and articles on English drama, particularly the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. His books include Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love (1974), Shakespeare’s Political Drama (1988), English Stage Comedy 1490-1990: Five Centuries of a Genre (1998) and Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Violation and Identity (2005). He is editor of The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy (2002). He has given lectures and conference papers in several countries around the world. He has held the Guggenheim and Killam fellowships; in 1995 he was given an Outstanding Teaching Award by the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and in 1998 the Faculty Award in the University of Toronto Faculty Association Awards of Excellence. In 2005 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Stephen Lewis (Disability, Disillusion and Self-Discovery)
Stephen Lewis Forum
Stephen Lewis is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is the board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which is dedicated to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and he is co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization. A member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, he served as a Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV and the Law. The Commission’s Report, Risks, Rights & Health, was launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in July 2012. Mr. Lewis’s work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades. He was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006. From 1995 to 1999, he was Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF at the organization’s global headquarters in New York. From 1984 through 1988, he was Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations. From 1970 to 1978, he was leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, during which time he became leader of the Official Opposition. Mr. Lewis is the author of the best-selling book Race Against Time. He holds 35 honorary degrees from Canadian universities as well as honorary degrees from Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University in the United States. In 2003, Mr. Lewis was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honour for lifetime achievement. In 2007, King Letsie III, monarch of the Kingdom of Lesotho (a small mountainous country in Southern Africa), invested him as Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe. The order is named for the founder of Lesotho; the knighthood is the country’s highest honour. And in 2012, Mr. Lewis was an inaugural recipient of Canada’s Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Qais Akbar Omar (Shakespeare in Kabul)
Qais Akbar Omar
Qais Akbar Omar is a carpet producer and designer whose family, formerly nomads, has been involved in wool and carpet trading for generations. Qais (pronounced “Kice”) has also worked with several carpet-related international development programs. In 2012 he helped cast an Afghan production of The Comedy of Errors, for which he also helped translate the script, that was presented at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. His autobiography, A Fort of Nine Towers, was recently published in Canada and the United States, and will soon appear in 16 other countries.
David Prosser (Lobby Talks)
David Prosser Forum
Before joining the staff of the Stratford Festival in 1994, David Prosser spent 14 years as a journalist with The Kingston Whig-Standard, winning five Nathan Cohen Awards for theatre criticism, three National Newspaper Awards for critical and editorial writing, and a 1986 Centre for Investigative Journalism Award for a series of stories on five Red Army defectors whom he interviewed in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. He later turned those stories into a book, Out of Afghanistan. As Director of Communications, he is responsible for the Festival’s publications, including the Visitors Guide and house programs; he has also collaborated on the books Fifty Seasons at Stratford (2002), This Rough Magic (2007) and Stratford Behind the Scenes (2012). As an occasional actor, he performed with Theatre Five in Kingston, the Kingston Summer Festival and the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque. In 2000 he appeared with Brian Bedford, Richard Monette and William Hutt in a staged reading of The Trials of Oscar Wilde at the Tom Patterson Theatre, and in 2001 he created two one-hour scripts for that season’s Robertson Davies Celebration, performing in one and directing the other. In 2003, he directed a Studio Theatre reading of his own dramatic adaptation of Plato’s Symposium.
Vivian Rakoff (Pre-Season Insights)
Vivian Rakoff Forum
Born in South Africa. Early education: Cape Town, South Africa. Studied medicine in London, England. Completed psychiatric training at McGill University. Was professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry and Director and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Clarke Institute from 1980 to 1990. Has written many papers regarding general psychiatry, adolescence and children of Holocaust survivors. Outside psychiatry: numerous talks for radio and television, book reviews plays for radio and television and occasional – very occasional – poetry.
Graham Roebuck (Pre-Season Insights)
Graham Roebuck Forum
Professor emeritus at McMaster University, Graham Roebuck is a scholar of early modern literature, history and aspects of mathematics and science. He has taught and written on the “Golden Age” of English literature and historiography – the age of Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Jonson, Bacon, Clarendon and other writers and thinkers of that era of astonishing achievement in the humanities and nascent sciences. At the Stratford Festival he has presented Table Talks, foyer talks and program essays on a wide range of the drama produced on Stratford’s stages. As Director of the McMaster Stratford Seminars on Shakespeare and the Theatre, now in its 54th successive season, he conducts lectures and discussions among a gathering of people from varied backgrounds and locations, drawn together by love of theatre and the life of the mind that theatre fosters. In addition to presentations on Shakespeare’s plays, he has discussed works by Aeschylus, Beckett, Boucicault, Wilde, Shaw, Coward, Frayn, Goldsmith, Wycherley and Pinter, among others. A past President of the John Donne Society and of the Toronto Renaissance and Reformation Colloquium, he organizes the John Donne Society’s participation in the Renaissance Society of America. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His work in progress is an edition of the poems and translations of Sidney Godolphin, who died in battle in the Civil Wars of the 1640s – renowned in his own time for his poetic, philosophical and political genius. An essay on Donne’s influence on the philosophy of the Anglican “Great Tew” circle that promoted religious toleration and liberal politics appears in The John Donne Journal, 2013.
Marlis Schweitzer (Breaking with Tradition)
Marlis Schweitzer
Marlis Schweitzer is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre at York University, where she teaches courses on performance and commodity culture, Broadway musical theatre, theatre research methodologies and 19th-century popular entertainment. She is the author of When Broadway was the Runway: Theater, Fashion and American Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) and has published articles in numerous journals including Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, TDR, Theatre Research International, Theatre Research in Canada and Canadian Theatre Review, as well as in the edited collections Performance and the City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, Consumers (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). In 2012, she was named associate editor of Theatre Research in Canada and will take over as editor in 2013. Marlis has held research fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Library of Congress (Kluge Centre), the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her current research focuses on tracking the transnational trade in theatrical commodities between Europe and North America at the turn of the 20th century.
Philippa Sheppard (Pre-Season Insights)
Philippa Sheppard Forum
Philippa Sheppard received her BA with an English specialization and a French minor with high distinction from the University of Toronto. She then did her MA in Shakespeare studies at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-on-Avon. After that, she received her DPhil in English Renaissance drama from the University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar. Since then, Dr. Sheppard has taught both Renaissance drama and modern drama at the university level for 15 years. She has taught at Memorial University in Newfoundland, University College Dublin, and now with the Department of English at the University of Toronto. She is currently completing her book on film adaptations of Shakespeare. She has published chapters in the books Approaches to Teaching Renaissance Drama, Latin American Shakespeares, Renaissance Medievalisms, Faithand Fantasy in the Renaissance, Who Hears in Shakespeare and in an upcoming collection of essays on Macbeth to be published by Arden. She has articles about Shakespeare and adaptation printed in the journals The Shakespeare Bulletin and Literature/Film Quarterly. Dr. Sheppard also writes for the popular press (The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Quill and Quire) and has appeared on television and radio discussing literature.
Alisa Solomon (Fiddler’s Fortunes)
Alisa Solomon Forum
Alisa Solomon is a teacher, writer and dramaturge in New York City. She is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, where she directs the Arts & Culture MA program. Her theatre criticism, features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Nation,Theater, American Theater, TDR, the Forward, guardian.com, killingthebuddha.com and in the Village Voice, where she was on staff as a reporter and theatre critic for 21 years. Alisa is the author of Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theater and Gender, winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. She is the editor of The Reverend Billy Project: From Rehearsal Hall to Super Mall with the Church of Life After Shopping, by Bill Talen and Savitri D.; of a special issue of Theater Magazine on Theatre and Social Change; and co-editor, with Tony Kushner, of Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. As dramaturge, her most recent project was Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy. Alisa is currently working on a new book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, due out from Metropolitan Books next fall.
Stanley Wells (Sex and Love in Verona, Venice and Vienna)
Stanley Wells Forum
One of the world’s foremost Shakespearians, Stanley Wells is a life trustee and former Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (1991 to 2011), emeritus professor of Shakespeare studies of the University of Birmingham and Honorary Emeritus Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, of which he was for many years Vice-Chairman. He holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham and honorary doctorates from Furman University, South Carolina, and from the universities of Munich, Hull, Durham and Warwick. His books include Literature and Drama; Royal Shakespeare: Studies of Four Major Productions at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre; Modernizing Shakespeare’s Spelling; Re-editing Shakespeare for the Modern Reader; and Shakespeare: The Poet and His Plays. He edited A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II and The Comedy of Errors for the New Penguin Shakespeare and King Lear for the Oxford Shakespeare. He was for nearly 20 years the editor of the annual Shakespeare Survey, and writes for the New York Review of Books and many other publications. He has edited The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies and is General Editor (with Gary Taylor) of The Complete Oxford Shakespeare and co-author of William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion. His most recent books are Shakespeare in the Theatre: An Anthology of Criticism; The Oxford Dictionary of Shakespeare; The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (edited with Michael Dobson); Shakespeare For All Time; Looking for Sex in Shakespeare; Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Coffee with Shakespeare, both co-authored with Paul Edmondson; Shakespeare & Co.; and Is It True What they Say About Shakespeare? His Shakespeare, Sex, and Love appeared from OUP in 2010. He is married to the writer Susan Hill and has two daughters. Stanley Wells was elected the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s first Honorary President in June 2011.
William Whitehead (Language: Powers and Comic Perils)
William Whitehead Forum
William Whitehead was born in Hamilton but grew up and was educated in Saskatchewan. Leaving behind his prairie home and a career in academia (he holds an MA from the University of Saskatchewan in arachnology) to become an actor, he moved eventually to Ontario. Working in the theatre gave way to working at the CBC as a writer, most notably for The Nature of Things and the radio program Ideas. For 40 years, he lived with the novelist and playwright Timothy Findley.
Ann Wilson (Pre-Season Insights)
Ann Wilson Forum
Ann Wilson is the Associate Dean, Academic in the College of Arts and a member of faculty in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. Her academic work focuses on representations of gender and sexuality, with a particular focus on Canadian theatre and works produced in Edwardian England. Additionally, she has directed a number of productions in the Theatre Studies program at the University of Guelph, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
2014 Playbill List King LearCrazy for YouA Midsummer Night's DreamThe Beaux' StratagemMan of La ManchaAlice Through the Looking-GlassHay FeverKing JohnMother Courage and Her ChildrenAntony and CleopatraChristina, The Girl KingA Midsummer Night's Dream - a chamber play2014 Season

Sustaining support for the Forum
is generously provided by
Kelly & Michael Meighen and
the T.R. Meighen Foundation

Support for the 2014 Forum is
generously provided by
Nandita & Julian Wise


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