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Meet the Macbeths

At the heart of Shakespeare’s dark and brooding “Scottish play” lies the marriage of Macbeth and his queen. Ian Lake and Krystin Pellerin share their insights into those roles.

Q: For those who unfamiliar with your backgrounds, tell us a little about where you're from, your training and some of your favourite past roles.

Krystin Pellerin: I was born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland. I did a year of classical voice training at Memorial University of Newfoundland and then went to the National Theatre School in Montreal to study acting. For six years, I played Leslie Bennett on CBC's Republic of Doyle. I loved being on the show, and it allowed me to be at home in St. John's for six months of the year working in television, and for the other half of the year I worked in theatre playing fantastic characters on stage. It was a great balance!

Ian Lake: I grew up in Vancouver. I spent a couple of years studying theatre at the University of Victoria before moving to Montreal to attend the National Theatre School of Canada. From there, I came to Stratford through the Birmingham Conservatory. Outside of Stratford, playing Guy in Once was a highlight, as well as playing Jonny in Hannah Moscovitch's award-winning play This Is War. Here at Stratford, it's harder to choose. Joey in The Homecoming comes to mind, Orestes in Elektra and Mortimer in Mary Stuart.

 

Q: Macbeth and his Lady are one of Shakespeare's best-known couples. How did you feel about being cast?

KP: I was thrilled and a little terrified - but very excited. It's intriguing that Antoni [Cimolino] wanted to cast a young couple, and a treat to be playing opposite Ian. Lady M is a dream role, and I was so happy to be asked to be a part of the production.

IL: Naturally, I'm thrilled about it too - especially being cast opposite someone I really connect with so well, and to work again with a director with whom I share such a long history. It's such a rare opportunity to tackle roles like these, and when you get that chance, you can only hope to be so lucky to have such great people around you.

Q: What have been the largest (and most fun) challenges in preparing for the parts?

KP: I think the most fun and biggest challenge for me has been to get in touch with that dark side within myself, preparing for that leading up to rehearsals, and then working at going deeper and deeper into the darkness of the story and the characters. It is frightening; but once you dive in with both feet, it's a wild ride full of surprises, and there's a lot to take relish in. Going to those places was good for me.

IL: There's something different about playing a role that has been done countless times by countless greats over and over. There are many examples of it to take in, to learn from, and use to study the story and the characters. Some great films to see and books to read. But at the same time, that can make it harder to really be unflinchingly true to your own understanding of it - to really make it my own, while respecting what has come before me. It's also been a fun challenge being back in the Festival Theatre. I've never played any major roles on that stage before. It's such an incredible space, and learning how to really become one with that stage and deliver the story as clearly as we can has been a very interesting (and ongoing) journey. It's a treat to stand out there and get to speak that text - but it ain't easy! 

Q: Antoni Cimolino has given this production an extremely dark and fearful tone. What sort of research did you do regarding the supernatural elements?

KP: As a cast, we met with a spiritualist to get an introduction to the supernatural world we were about to enter into. We researched the history of witchcraft, and there was a lot of play and exploration about how the characters might be affected by the supernatural in the play. Even when they aren't on stage, the witches are ever present in the story.

IL: A standout in preparation was meeting with a medium as a small group. She spoke with us about the spirit world - about benevolent and malevolent spirits. She also spoke about the power we can give to the supernatural with our own beliefs and mindsets, which I think is a huge part of the play.

Q: What do you see as your characters' greatest strengths and weaknesses?

KP: I think Lady Macbeth's biggest weakness is also her biggest strength: her ambition. It gives her the courage and the ferocity to go after what she wants for herself and her husband, but it blinds her. She doesn't think of the consequences of her actions and she underestimates her own humanity. When she does come to realize, it's too late: "What's done cannot be undone."

IL: This might sound cheesy, but I think Macbeth's biggest weakness is his love for his wife. And also his lack of conviction in standing up for what he believes is right, in order to not disappoint her or lose her love. But this is also his strength: his love for her gives him the courage and the will to go through with the most difficult actions. I don't think that's as much a comment on Lady Macbeth as it is a comment on Macbeth's insecurities; his fear of being alone, which is how he ends the play: a poor player alone on a stage. I've been trying to treat this play like a love story, and I find that reveals a lot of humanity within all of the terrible crimes being done.

Q: Just for fun, what are your three top things to do in your downtime around Stratford?

KP: (1) To walk along the Avon River at sunset. (2) Going to see amazing plays. (3) Heading to the Red Rabbit restaurant with friends and family for lovely meals and good company.

IL: Downtime? What's downtime? Kidding. I take a lot of walks around the lake, and usually end up on the back patio at Revel Caffè. Or driving out to Lake Huron for a day at the lake.

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Production support is generously provided by Jane Petersen Burfield & family, by Barbara & John Schubert, by the Tremain family and by Chip & Barbara Vallis.

Support for the 2016 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein

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Hysterically Funny

Stephen Ouimette discusses his role as the health-obsessed Argan in Molière’s satirical comedy The Hypochondriac.

In theatre, few pleasures equal watching a true pro handle great material. And when you're looking to lose yourself in laughter, a perfectly crafted comedy anchored by actors who really know how to make it sparkle is just what the doctor ordered.

And speaking of doctor's orders, our production of Molière's The Hypochondriac, featuring brilliant comedic veteran Stephen Ouimette as Argan, the fussy, cranky hypochondriac of the play's title, is set to light up the Festival Theatre stage with a tale that resonates with the 21st century just as hilariously as it did with the 17th.

"Everybody has special diets these days," says Mr. Ouimette as he sits down to talk about this classic comedy. The current era of gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free living echoes Argan's own concern with his regime of food and medication. Diet was just as much an obsession (for those who could afford it) in Molière's time as it is today, and people's pursuit of health and longevity just as endless.

Ironically, the play will forever be associated with its author's own demise. Molière himself was playing Argan in the fourth performance of the play's first run when he became ill on stage; he died a few hours later at his home.

Though Argan's wealth allows him to indulge his obsession, Mr. Ouimette feels that his "genuine vulnerability takes the edge off his privilege," making him not just an object of ridicule but also sympathetic. He likens the play to Dickens' A Christmas Carol: "It's about someone who is set in his ways and gets shocked into reality" and ends up with love and redemption he had no right to expect - in this case, through a process that will have audiences hooting with laughter.

Central to the play is Argan's relationship with his frank and fearless maid, Toinette. "In different social circumstances," says Mr. Ouimette, "they would be a couple." Though a servant, Toinette dares to speak to Argan in ways that most of his social equals don't, and audiences identify with her clarity and honesty.

Argan's self-absorption is magnified by the personal dynamics of family as we watch him deal not only with Toinette but also with his grasping wife, his sensible brother and his daughter Angelique, all of whom want different things. Argan is, as his society casts him, a patriarch, and part of the play's tension and humour comes from watching the women around him flatter and manipulate him to circumvent his will and get what they want and need.

"There's a lot of commedia dell'arte work" in this production, says Mr. Ouimette, referring to the classic Italian comedy practices that influenced Molière - here combined with a modern English translation of the text that makes the play particularly timely and accessible. Add to this the fact that The Hypochondriac has a bit of everything - a take on health and mortality that we'll all recognize, battles of wills between the sexes, and the added complexities of class and money - and the play offers something to tickle everyone's fancy.

Mr. Ouimette's top reasons why you should come to see The Hypochondriac?

"It's a classic comedy that's timelessly funny, and it speaks to very modern concerns with health and control," he says - and, without wanting to give anything away, he reveals that its presentation comes with "a twist."

August is coming fast - get your tickets now for a healthy dose of laughter!

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Production support is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, by Dr. Dennis & Dorothea Hacker, by Dr. Desta Leavine, by Drs. M.L. Myers & the late W.P. Hayman and by Dr. Robert & Roberta Sokol.

Support for the 2016 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Claire & Daniel Bernstein

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More Stellar Reviews!

The theatre critics have applauded our three latest openings!

The 2016 Festival season is on a roll. Here are just a few of the raves we've had for our second wave of amazing hit productions.

 

A Little Night Music


"A must-see"
"Absolutely unmissable"
"Music and drama that provides big pleasure" 
-The Globe and Mail


"A romantic romp"
- Toronto Star


"Raw Passion"
"Rank A Little Night Music among the Festival's many other must-sees of the season"
- Postmedia


 

 

The two-play Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Redemption

"★★★½" (out of 4 stars)
"Bold and confident"
"Araya Mengesha is thrilling"
"Geraint Wyn Davies… in a fabulous comic turn as Falstaff"
- Toronto Star

"Breathtaking"
"Energetic"
- The Globe and Mail 

"Impeccably acted"
"Epic"
"Tom Rooney turns in stellar performances"
- Postmedia


 

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Not-to-be-Missed Forum Highlights!

Our Forum heats up in July with more extraordinary events to explore.

The Festival's Forum offers more than 150 events this season. With intriguing guest speakers, exclusive showcases, marvellous meals, dynamic dialogues and fun family experiences, there's something for everyone! 

Here are a few of our top choices for July and August:

Our popular Wordplay series is back! Hosted by Geraint Wyn Davies, these special evenings offer rare opportunities to enjoy readings of large-scale works performed by our talented company in the intimate Studio Theatre.

Wolf Hall
Set at the height of Tudor England, this thrilling epic, based on the books by Hilary Mantel and adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton, follows the rise of Cromwell and the accession of Anne Boleyn to the throne in Part 1 and focuses on Anne's downfall and execution in Part 2. Don't miss either of these gripping plays, fresh from their highly acclaimed run at the RSC and on Broadway.

Part 1: Wolf Hall
Wednesday, August 10

Part 2: Bring Up the Bodies
Thursday, September 1

The Victory Cabaret 
Sunday, July 10
Company members Sara Farb and Steve Ross investigate the themes of victory and its aftermath through songs, speeches and scenes. Victory in love, victory in war, victory among family. A remarkable special one-time event with members of the company and other special guests.

CBC Ideas speakers series returns to the Forum!

Ideas at Stratford: The Challenge of Science 
Saturday, July 23
Science has given us great gifts, but the social consequences are less clear. We live longer and better, and we know more about ourselves, our world and the cosmos - but to what end? Massey lecturer Neil Turok, Director of Perimeter Institute, discusses the future of scientific research with Mark Kingwell, philosopher and social theorist at the University of Toronto, and Margaret Wertheim, author of a series of books that consider the role of theoretical physics in the cultural landscape of modern Western society.
 
Ideas at Stratford: The Challenge of History
Saturday, August 6
Margaret MacMillan, Massey lecturer, award-winning historian and author of the acclaimed book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, headlines a discussion with veteran politician Bob Rae and journalist Brian Stewart about the ways in which our ever-changing understanding of history shapes our future. Moderated by Ideas host Paul Kennedy.

Ideas at Stratford: The Challenge of Peace
Saturday, August 13
Massey lecturer Jennifer Welsh, UN Special Envoy on the Responsibility to Protect, headlines a discussion with celebrated humanitarian Roméo Dallaire and Arne Kislenko, professor of history and international relations at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, on the future of international relations: How do we make it a world for everyone? Moderated by Ideas host Paul Kennedy.

Ideas at Stratford: The Challenge of Words
Saturday, August 20
Award-winning novelist, poet and short-story writer Jane Urquhart headlines a discussion with author Monia Mazigh, wife of Maher Arar, and writer and visual artist Shani Mootoo on literature and language: How do words shape who we are, and the societies we create? How do the ideas they contain shape our future? Moderated by Ideas host Paul Kennedy.

Don't miss this fun interactive showcase!

An Undiscovered Shakespeare
Wednesday, August 31-September 2
The award-winning Rebecca Northan and her team of top Canadian improvisers return with their unique style of long-form improv. A willing audience member is invited to contribute his or her real-life story to the spontaneous creation of Shakespeare's "lost play." You, your friend or the stranger in the next row could be chosen for the full "mistaken-identity-rhyming-couplet-iambic" treatment - because every life is Shakespearean!

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Support for WordPlay is generously provided by The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

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

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Stratford Festival HD Comes to CBC This Summer!

Missed our Stratford Festival HD screenings earlier this year? Not to worry: all three films will soon be broadcast on CBC television.

The second year of our exciting Stratford Festival HD project was a hit in cinemas around the world. Now our glorious 2015 productions of The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and The Adventures of Pericles are coming to a television screen near you!

Each broadcast will begin at 3 p.m. and will be shown in two parts with a short interval and no commercial breaks.

Tune in to CBC-TV on the following dates: 

July 31: The Taming of the Shrew
★★★★ (out of 4) "Remarkable pair of performances" - The Globe and Mail

August 28: Hamlet
"The most complete, most fulfilling, most satisfying production of Hamlet in decades" - Toronto Star

September 4: The Adventures of Pericles

"Moving and fun from beginning to end" - Broadway World

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Stratford Festival HD is sponsored by Sun Life Financial as part of their Making the Arts More Accessible™ program.

Support for Stratford Festival HD is generously provided by Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, the Jenkins Family Foundation, the Henry White Kinnear Foundation, Ophelia & Mike Lazaridis, Sandra & Jim Pitblado, the Slaight Family Foundation, and Robert & Jacqueline Sperandio.

The Festival also acknowledges the generous support of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

Canadian cinema distribution is through Cineplex Events, which specializes in bringing world-class events and performances to the big screen. U.S. and international distribution is through SpectiCast Entertainment, the fastest-growing event cinema marketing and distribution company in the world.

 

 

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Stratford Summer Music: More Shakespeare and Sondheim

Stratford Summer Music offers much to delight Festival fans. Plan ahead, and add beautiful music to your Stratford experience.

Stratford truly is a Festival city in the summertime. Not only does the Stratford Festival attract thousands of theatre fans every season, but Stratford Summer Music also provides the perfect soundtrack for our flocks of visitors. For six weeks, from July 18 to August 28, live music from every genre is presented at venues all around town.

Starting off with a literal bang, Stratford Summer Music opens on Monday, July 18, with a spectacular fireworks display. This free event at Lower Queens Park by the Avon River features "Music for a Midsummer's Night," composed by former Stratford Festival Director of Music Berthold Carrière.

For theatre enthusiasts, here are a few musical events of extra-special interest.

Illustrated Music Lectures with Robert Harris
CBC Radio host and producer and Globe and Mail music critic Robert Harris returns for his fourth year, presenting five informative and entertaining musical lectures. Two of these will showcase William Shakespeare and Stephen Sondheim.

Music and Shakespeare
Wednesday, August 3, at 11:15 a.m.
You could say there is music in virtually every line that Shakespeare wrote. Between the music of the words themselves, the many references to music in his texts, and the actual songs that appear so often in his work, it's not much of a stretch to say that music was central to his art - and that he was as much a musician as a playwright.

The Music of Stephen Sondheim

Friday, August 5, at 11:15 a.m.
It's now clear that Stephen Sondheim represents the end of an era - the last practitioner of the Great American Songbook, ending a tradition that began in the late 19th century, starting with Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin, continued with the Gershwin brothers and Cole Porter, and hit its high point with Rodgers and Hammerstein. This tradition flowered back to life with Sondheim in an Indian summer of poignant beauty. Sondheim's triumphs and failures are the highs and lows of an entire body of work, not just his own.

Choir of the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Thursday, August 4, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, August 6, at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, August 7, at 5 p.m.
Who could be more welcome to help us musically honour the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare than the choristers from the Warwickshire parish church of Holy Trinity - where the Bard himself was baptised, worshipped, and was buried - in Stratford-upon-Avon, England! Taking time out from an active year of Shakespearean celebrations in their own community, the Holy Trinity Church Choir will perform three concerts at St. James Church under the musical direction of Benedict Wilson, accompanied by their vicar, Rev. Patrick Taylor.

The Best of Sondheim - Jazzed Up Just a Little
Saturday, August 6, at 9 p.m.
This is a very special show presented in the lovely Revival House by A Sondheim Jazz Project - an exceptional quintet specializing in the music of one of the greatest music theatre creators of the 20th century, Stephen Sondheim. Featuring songs from a remarkable range of Broadway musicals including Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and Follies.

The Stratford connection
This season, Stratford Summer Music Artistic Producer John Miller is especially pleased to be welcoming the performers from Shakespeare's hometown.

"In this special Shakespeare 400 year, it seemed important for us to include some music to celebrate the Bard," says Mr. Miller. "Having the wonderful Holy Trinity Church Choir take time out of their crazy-busy year to join us here in the 'other' Stratford is just glorious. Not only will they present music saluting Shakespeare and his texts, but they will also be performing in the finest British choral tradition. It will give a marvellous historical context for the work of Shakespeare."

Reinforcing the decades-long bond of friendship between the two cities, Mr. Miller will invite the British guests to attend a special tree-planting ceremony in Stratford's beautiful Shakespearean Gardens.

"Later this year, a tree will be planted in our name on the grounds of Holy Trinity," he says. "Decades ago, it was the Rotary Club of Stratford-upon-Avon who sponsored the arrival of the sundial for our Shakespearean Gardens as a sign of friendship, and now it will be the Rotary Club of Stratford (Ontario) supporting Stratford Summer Music to plant these two copper beech trees. It is a great way to cement this ongoing relationship between our two communities."



Win a trip to Shakespeare's England!
Stratford Summer Music offers you a chance to win a trip for two to England! Thanks to the Aeroplan company, you'll fly international business class from Toronto to London, enjoy two nights at a Central London hotel and then transfer for three nights at Church Street Townhouse in Stratford-upon-Avon. You'll enjoy tickets to the Royal Shakespeare Company and be welcomed as a special guest at Holy Trinity Church. 
Draw to be held on Saturday, August 27, at 12:30 p.m. at the MusicBarge on Veterans' Drive. Only 350 tickets will be available, at $50 per ticket. All proceeds support the music and activities of Stratford Summer Music. Lottery licence number: M735589.

For tickets, call 519.271.2101 or visit Stratford Summer Music's office at 25 Ontario Street, 2nd floor. You must be in Ontario at the time of your raffle ticket purchase. Travel arrangements must be made by the end of 2016.

Offered with the generous support of Aeroplan.