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A Chat with A Chorus Line’s Cassie

Meet Festival newcomer Dayna Tietzen, who joins us this season as Cassie in A Chorus Line.
Q: Welcome to Stratford! How does it feel to be making your Festival debut? What are you most looking forward to during your time here?

Dayna Tietzen: It is such an honour to be making my debut - made even sweeter by playing an absolute dream role! It is so clear that the Festival draws the best of the best in the theatre field, and I feel very lucky and so excited to be counted among them.

I am most looking forward to building our own version of such an iconic show. I thrive in the rehearsal-room setting, and find the process of creating character, problem-solving and perfecting a production exhilarating.

Also, I'm looking forward to the quiet! I have been living in New York City for the past few years, and I can't sleep without earplugs due to all the honking, yelling and sirens. I get the feeling that won't be a problem here.

Q: Tell us a little about where you're from, your training, and some of your favourite roles in the past.

DT: I grew up in Edmonton, where as early as I can remember I was giving performances with my younger sister for family and friends. I got into dance classes at a very young age, and my first true passion was ballet. At 12 years old I "crossed the pond" to study ballet at Elmhurst School for the Performing Arts in England for three years.

After returning to Canada, I started to branch out a bit more, taking more singing and theatre classes. Two years later, I moved to Toronto to attend Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts, and my focus was solidified on theatre.
My favourite roles include Anita in West Side Story, Morticia Addams in The Addams Family Musical and being a puppeteer of Joey, Topthorn and Goose in War Horse.

Q: When did you first know you wanted to be a stage performer?

DT: I don't remember a specific realization moment: I think I always just sort of knew. But I do remember seeing Phantom of the Opera twice when I was quite young and being struck by an overwhelming desire to get myself on that stage. Since then, my childhood self was wildly disappointed to learn that I am many inches too tall to even audition for one of the ballet girls in that show!

Q: What do you find most appealing about Cassie? Do you share any traits with her in real life?

DT: To be honest, it would probably be easier to discuss the differences between myself and Cassie than speak of our similarities. I remember reading the scenes during auditions and being struck by how much I had in common with her. She finds herself at a point in her career where she really has to decide what she wants, and why she dances. I have asked myself those types of questions a great deal over the last few years.

What I love about Cassie is that she is so complex. Everything involved with her relationship with Zach, along with her fears and insecurities, give her many obstacles during the show - but ultimately she makes a choice, "to do what I love as much as I can and as long as I can." I think that is such a beautiful and honest expression of how dancers feel as they pursue this career - made even more poignant as we age and there is an inevitable end in sight.

Q: What particular challenges do you anticipate from this role?

DT: The pure stamina required by the show itself, but more specifically my big scene, "Music and the Mirror." As far as I am concerned, I am training for a marathon. The number uses everything I've got - emotionally, vocally and physically - and I am so excited about the challenge.

Q: One of the show's more familiar numbers is "What I did for Love." Can you think of a parallel in your own life?

DT: A Chorus Line was written as a showcase for and about real dancers. Each one of us on that stage is playing a character, but we could also be up there speaking about our own lives and experiences. I don't have to look elsewhere to draw a parallel in my own life, because this moment is that already. I feel like all my efforts in dance from an early age, life experiences, training of all kinds, mentors and professional experiences all have brought me to this moment where I get to realize a dream of playing Cassie on the Festival stage. "What I did for Love" is such a powerful and poignant piece - I am sure I'm going to have a hard time holding myself together enough to sing!

Q: On a lighter note, can you tell us three things you absolutely cannot live without?

DT: Well, since I just packed my life into three suitcases to move to Stratford, this should be an easy question! The perfect pillow (I brought two from home); my foam roller - especially for this show; and a well-done Hawaiian pizza with tomatoes and extra sauce!

 

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Production Co-Sponsors: RBC Royal Bank and Union Gas Limited

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin, by Riki Turofsky & Charles Petersen, and by Catherine & David Wilkes

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


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Creating Narnia on Stage

From projections to puppetry, the imaginative designs for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe promise to delight the eye.

C. S. Lewis's iconic children's book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ushers the reader into the fantasy world of Narnia, a frozen land full of strange beings and wondrous sights. But how can that be realized on stage? The challenge is being taken up by very capable hands.

Internationally acclaimed director Tim Carroll is at the helm, following his previous Stratford successes with Peter Pan, Romeo and Juliet and King John, and his staging of Lewis's story is being given physical shape by the production's set designer, Douglas Paraschuk, and costume designer, Dana Osborne.

"It's an exciting opportunity from a design point of view," says Mr. Paraschuk. A Stratford veteran of 22 seasons, he has designed memorable sets for productions such as Carousel, She Stoops to Conquer, Man of La Mancha and Hay Fever. "The transformative nature of the story will make it a lot of fun: the performers will have to be everything - will have to become everything. What the design will do is give them the building blocks for the act of storytelling."

The use of video screen projections will help to create the illusion. "The dynamic nature of the projections means that the content moves and shifts. As we move into the Technicolor land of Narnia from the monotones of Second World War-era London and the countryside setting of the country house, the screens will levitate as the fantasy landscape expands and becomes more lush and colourful."

A storybook comes to life
Reflecting the idea that the plot itself leaps from the pages of a book, the written word has been incorporated into the design. The library of the Professor, in whose house the adventure begins, overflows with stacks of books, which will be moved by performers to become staircases, elements of architecture and fantastical landscapes. "In this way, from the outset, the visual vocabulary begins," says Mr. Paraschuk.

But what of Aslan the lion? Shakespeare may have been the first, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, to ponder the difficulty of bringing a lion on stage, but he certainly hasn't been the last. In this production, Aslan is a wireframe puppet, animated by performers within his huge, diaphanous frame. Built by senior propmaker Ken Dubblestyne, Aslan is literally made up of books from the Professor's library: his magnificent mane consists of pages torn from a storybook.

 



 

Glorious costumes
Elements of the written word also appear in Dana Osborne's costume design, notably in the shirts and aprons of the household staff in the Professor's rambling country house.

"There are five stylistic groupings in the overall costume design concept," says Ms Osborne. "First we have the basic historical 1942 wartime Britain look at the train station and the estate, and as we arrive in Narnia, we are reintroduced to similar characters in a '40s version of an anthropomorphic look. I've also played with medieval, Greco-Roman and pure fantasy concepts in the other costuming."

As with the set and the characters, the costumes themselves will give the illusion of transformation. "The household valets and maids' uniforms will become frosted in Narnia, giving the illusion that they are turning to ice in the perpetual winter landscape."

The White Witch herself will be a "fashion couturier's dream," says Ms Osborne. "The children will find her quite captivating at first, but more and more sinister elements will be added to her look as the plot unfolds. I wanted the effect of her being covered in ice from the ground up, and her hair black at the roots turning into white ice at the tips."

A captivating experience
With its incredible design, wonderful cast and creative team, and the timeless adventure story at its heart, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will be a must-see production for audiences of all ages.

"As theatre craftspeople and artisans, we can only design and create to the capabilities of the organization," says Mr. Paraschuk, "Lucky for us, here at the Stratford Festival, we can literally do almost anything."

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Presented by Schulich Children's Plays

Support for the 2016 season of the Avon Theatre is generously provided by the Birmingham family.


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All My Sons: A Family Under Fire

The themes of Arthur Miller’s searing post-Second World War drama resonate no less powerfully today, says director Martha Henry.

In the intimacy of the Tom Patterson Theatre, audiences will come face to face with complex issues of moral conflict, family loyalty and impossible personal choices. All My Sons, written by Arthur Miller in the aftermath of the Second World War, is very much in keeping with the 2016 season theme, "After the Victory." It's a story of competing pressures - economic and ethical, social and individual - that collide with catastrophic results. 

Though the play is set in its own era of post-war America, many of its themes will seem eerily familiar to audiences of today. "One would hope that - in the nearly 70 years since this play was first presented - we'd have evolved more as a society," reflects director Martha Henry. "Unfortunately, its themes are still extremely resonant in our times." One need only read a newspaper to find many contemporary examples of corporations putting financial greed ahead of human costs or environmental considerations, and of military conflicts being fought over dubious profit-driven causes.

New challenges in a revamped space
When Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino first mentioned All My Sons as a project, Ms Henry leapt at the chance to direct.

"I grew up with Miller's plays," she says, "and I had a chance to meet him when I was performing in The Crucible in the States. I feel a sort of lifelong kinship with him and his work. I've returned to The Crucible again and again over the years. I've played Abigail and Elizabeth Proctor more than once, and I directed a production at the Manitoba Theatre Centre."

This solid grounding and familiarity with Miller's work will serve her well as she takes on the new challenge of staging his play in the round. The Tom Patterson Theatre has been transformed since last season: in 2016, audiences will surround the reconfigured stage and the actors on all sides.

This requires that the production's set, depicting the back yard of the Kellers' home on the outskirts of town, be kept both minimal and adaptable. Some references to trees, for instance - except for one crucial onstage tree - had to be eliminated, with the permission of the Miller estate and without doing violence to the text. "The cuts are very small and unobtrusive," says Ms Henry.

A larger challenge was the porch called for in the script. "Our set designer is Douglas Paraschuk," says Ms Henry, "so we are in good hands. He has the all-important porch on rollers, so that it can be easily moved in and out through the vom. The necessary light in the window upstairs is there, but the house is more of a suggestion than hyper-real. Most of the action of the piece will take place in the yard."

Timeless appeal
While the play's plot is driven by moral questions of individual conscience and social responsibility, a huge part of its appeal springs from its vividly realized characters.

"Miller's characters are always human, real, mercilessly observed - and fascinating." says Ms Henry. "We can lose ourselves in the power of the relationships, the dynamics of family and neighbours. There's also a wonderful feeling of place - like we all know this neighbourhood."

"I'm also spoiled with my entire cast. Everyone is exceptional. Joe [Ziegler] and Lucy [Peacock] as Joe and Kate Keller just work so well together. And it's always a huge pleasure to have members and graduates of the Birmingham Conservatory in my cast - I'll have five altogether."

As last year was the centenary of Arthur Miller's birth, he has been much in the minds of theatre lovers. Ms Henry, who has been reading his moving autobiography Timebends, makes this observation: "Miller says that he wants all of his plays to end with a feeling of hope. That isn't easy when he deals with such dark matters - but somehow it's true. He pushes and pulls his characters through these extreme emotions and situations in order that they gain understanding and discover an ultimate authenticity.

"I think that is very true of All My Sons. In the end, we see that they have found their truth."

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Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip and by Alice & Tim Thornton

Support for the 2016 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney & Laura Dinner.

Sponsor of the 2016 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre: BMO Financial Group

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Experience Stratford Festival HD on a Screen Near You!

Don’t miss the cinema première of The Taming of the Shrew

Excitement is building for the latest Shakespeare films in our groundbreaking Stratford Festival HD series. Tickets for the highly anticipated premières of The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and The Adventures of Pericles are on sale now through Cineplex Entertainment.
 
Our first three films in this series were recognized with nine Canadian Screen Award nominations, and this next round of releases  premièring at Cineplex theatres across Canada this spring - will prove just as spectacular!

The second season of Stratford Festival HD launches with the première of The Taming of the Shrew on Saturday, March 12, at Cineplex theatres across Canada. It returns to cinemas on March 17 for an encore screening.


 

 

Hamlet will première on April 23 - the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death - with an encore on April 28, and The Adventures of Pericles will screen on May 7 and 12.

Good news for our American fans!
We are pleased to announce that screenings will begin in the U.S. this spring. Locations and dates are still TBD.

Hamlet: Premières in April 2016

The Adventures of Pericles
: Premières in May 2016

The Taming of the Shrew
: Premières in May 2016

 

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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 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. 

Canadian cinema screenings will be followed by a broadcast window on CBC-TV, Canada's national public broadcaster.