May 2016 Article 1 Hero image

The Passionate Art of A Little Night Music

Desire, seduction, betrayal and heartbreak abound in our visually stunning production of Sondheim's brilliant musical.

If the characters in A Little Night Music could give themselves a Facebook relationship status, every single one of them would have to say, "It's complicated." During a break from rehearsals, a few of the cast members each shared a brief snapshot about how his or her character views love and sex in the heady world of fin de siècle Swedish high society.

Ben Carlson on Fredrik Egerman:
Most people either believe that love and sex are inseparable, or that they are - in the words of Noël Coward - "mercifully not the same thing." Fredrik, who is a widower, probably falls into the first camp; and has remarried a much younger woman whom he undoubtedly loves but who is inexperienced sexually and needs him to be patient and wait. I think these lyrics from "Now" show his need, his desperation, his sense of humour, and also his quirky sense of romance: 

"Bow though I must to adjust my original plan,
How shall I sleep half as deep as I usually can,
When now,
I still want and/or love you,
Now as always,
Now, Anne?"

So he waits, and waits, and waits - until his old flame, Désirée, tests his ability to wait any more. Sex may or may not be inseparable from love, but for Fredrik - as for most people - it's a need. 

Juan Chioran on Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm:
Not to be too crass, but my character's motto seems to be, "If it moves, fertilize it." Malcolm's world vision is remarkably narrow, which puts him firmly in the land of farce. However, he is the only character on stage who does not tell a lie. An interesting case study, what? And he really is powerless to feminine charms - a slave to women in spite of his unique vision of them, as illustrated in the song "In Praise of Women":

"Durable, sensible...
Women, women...
Very nearly indispensable 
Creatures of grace."

Gabriel Antonacci on Henrik Egerman:
Henrik is valiantly trying to understand his sexual desires in this show. Secretly, he is deeply in love with his stepmother - who is actually a year younger than he is - and tries to fight that feeling as much as he can. In fact he tries so hard to repress those feelings that they end up coming out in impulsive explosions rather than as healthy social contact. Here are some lyrics from the song "Later" that I think represent the frustration that Henrik is going through:

"Though I've been born, I've never been! 
How can I wait around for later? 
I'll be ninety on my deathbed 
And the late, or, rather, later, Henrik Egerman. 
Doesn't anything begin?"

If the characters in A Little Night Music could give themselves a Facebook relationship status, every single one of them would have to say, "it's complicated."

Alexis Gordon on Anne Egerman:
"Soon, I promise. Soon I won't shy away.… What's one small shortcoming?" Love and sex are probably Anne's most - and, at the same time, least - favourite topics, and this conflict is truly at the core of her complex journey. Though she's clearly enamoured by romance and the fairy-tale concept of love, right from the top of the play we learn that this 18-year-old newlywed virgin has absolutely no experience. And while Anne truly loves her older husband, Fredrik, her insecurities for consummating their marriage - especially after delaying it for the last 11 months - have allowed her fear to completely take over. She is the sweet, uncomfortable youth we all once were; who is discovering her body, her wants, her sexuality, her heart - and as with every first time, quite clumsily so. Only after a whirlwind of self discovery, jealousy, scheming and a weekend in the country is Anne able to finally take a hold of her wants and desires, and learn what it means for her to feel love and loved. It's like a big, scary but exciting rollercoaster, and Anne is giggling and exploring as life keeps on spinning and spinning… as we first hear in the song "Soon":

"Soon, I promise, 
Soon, I won't shy away, 
Dear old - 
Soon, I want to. 
Soon, whatever you say… 
…What's one small shortcoming?"

Rosemary Dunsmore on Madame Armfeldt:
In her mind, succumbing to careless rapture will get you nowhere. Love is simply the lure to sex; you should know that you embody desire, and make magic in your nearness. This artfulness is a skill that can enhance life beyond measure, and for the shrewd practice of it, a woman should be handsomely rewarded. Sexuality is the supreme gift of a woman's animal nature, and you must tame it and train it. Love is a prison; you can either be the warden or an inmate, as she explains in the song "Liaisons":

"Too many people muddle sex 
With mere desire, 
And when emotion intervenes 
The nets descend. 
It should on no account perplex, 
Or worse, inspire; 
It's but a pleasurable means 
To a measurable end. 
Why does no one comprehend?" 

Glorious music beautifully staged
With lyrics at turns both bitingly witty and deeply poignant, coupled with an achingly lovely musical score, there is so much more to A Little Night Music for audiences to swoon over besides the familiar and brilliant "Send in the Clowns."

Award-winning designer Debra Hanson returns for her 23rd Stratford Festival season to use her magic and create the look of Sondheim's glorious musical; set in a lushly opulent European country estate and populated with the most fashionable of high society. We're sure you'll agree that the stunning costumes alone are worth a round of applause. 

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Production support is generously sponsored by Cleveland Friends of Stratford and by Cec & Linda Rorabeck.

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

May 2016 Scenenotes Article 2 header

A Dog's Life in Shakespeare in Love

Here in SceneNotes, we often profile the performers on our stages. Let's not forget the four-legged ones.

Shakespeare in Love features a few "bits with a dog" - named Spot - that require a live pooch on stage. That role is taken by a local canine, Cole, making his theatrical debut with the Festival. We chatted with Julia Sungaila-Needham, the owner and trainer of Cole and of one of his understudies, Bean.

Q: Tell us a bit about Cole and Bean: who they are, how they came into your life, and if they've had any special training.

Julia Sungaila-Needham: Cole is an eight-year-old Lab/shepherd cross, born in May 2008. It sounds terrible, but he was purchased on a whim as I was driving by a farm one day and saw a "Puppies 4 Sale" sign on their lawn. About two months before, we had lost our beagle at the tender age of two, so puppies were a total soft spot. He was the biggest of the litter and the only one that looked like a Lab - and he and I fell instantly head-over-heels for one another!

Cole has been training in agility since he was six months old. He achieved his Agility Trial Champion of Canada title in November 2015; for those who don't know, the best analogy is that this is like getting your university degree. He has many nicknames, but our favourites are "Coleslaw," "Toley" and "The Freight Train." Cole has many tricks up his sleeve, but his best is his "play dead" routine.

Bean is a three-year-old English shepherd - born December 22, 2012 - and purchased from a truly wonderful breeder from Romeo, Michigan, after five years of serious contemplation on breeds. We met many different breeds and breeders, and determined that the English shepherd was the right dog for our family. We really couldn't have asked for a better dog than Bean!

Bean is also an agility dog, currently working at an advanced level. He absolutely loves a sport called dock diving, and tends to get so carried away waiting his turn that he can be heard "screaming" from a distance! His longest recorded jump to date is 20 feet eight inches. He loves Frisbee and body awareness exercises, and knows a bunch of tricks; his favourite is to wave.

Q: Were you nervous during the casting process?

The process was rather fun. It's always a good time when you can let your dog show himself off! I was terribly nervous walking into the rehearsal hall that day just before Christmas - I had no clue what I was walking into - but I found that a fellow agility lover whom I've known for at least 10 years was to be the person appraising the skills of the dog. I felt instant relief, and everything went smoothly after that - and now here we are!

Q: What "star qualities" make Bean and Cole suited to the spotlight?

I mentioned that Cole is what we affectionately call a "freight train": he runs hard, works hard and is obedient to a fault. And you better not get in his way when he's working because he's coming straight through! Bean is so smart and so pretty - if I can call a boy pretty - and everybody just falls in love when they meet him.

Q: What's it like for a dog in rehearsal?

I think rehearsing is pretty hard on the dogs. They don't understand the artistic process, and you can't really reason with them. There's a lot of waiting for our turn, and they sometimes can tune out if not kept engaged; but having to keep them engaged for long periods tires their minds, so it's tricky. I try to keep them preoccupied with a series of tricks we call "puppy push-ups" or toys. We try to stay out of the way and out of the action as much as possible. There's so much exciting stuff that happens when rehearsing with the full company, it can quickly over-stimulate the dogs. When we're just rehearsing one-on-one with the actors, it is a lot of fun for all involved, but it can get very repetitive; so we try to do those rehearsals often and for shorter stretches.

Q: Any learning curves on the road to performing?

So many! I'm new to theatre, not having done anything prior to a community production last fall in London. We love it: it's been challenging, and definitely a growth period for all of us. I think the two most standout things I've learned thus far are just how good I can be at scheduling and time management, and learning to be mutable. The dogs know their stuff, but they are animals and have minds of their own. I'm really looking
forward to seeing it all come together and watch the dogs doing what they do best.

Don't forget understudy two: Dora!
Besides Bean, Cole has a second understudy: Dora, who was just eight months old when she was adopted from the Stratford-Perth Humane Society by Festival scenic carpenter Mark Smith and his wife, Arlene Pol.

Dora is now eight years old, but her actual breed remains a mystery. "She is way too beautiful to be referred to as a mutt," says Ms Pol. "So my friend has tagged her breed as a 'North American Bitsa' - bits of this and bits of that!" 

Dora has received no formal training, and her audition was remarkably uneventful. "I believe the trainer must have seen a raising star and the potential in Dora," muses Ms Pol. "If not, she got the part mostly on her good looks and sunny disposition."

Though Dora may never actually headline on stage this season, hers is a sweet "rags-to-riches" story - making the leap from shelter dog to stage performer in a few short years!

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Production support is generously provided by Martie & Bob Sachs.

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

May 2016 Article 3 Hero Image

The Sins of the Father in All My Sons

Festival favourite Joseph Ziegler shares his insights into Arthur Miller's tragic American Everyman, Joe Keller.

The plays of Arthur Miller present his audiences with complex moral and societal issues. As a way to effectively give voice to his messages and bring the lessons close to home, Miller creates characters that seem very familiar to us in our everyday lives. The figure of Joe Keller is a classic example.

Returning after his memorable performances last season in The Diary of Anne Frank, She Stoops to Conquer and The Last Wife, Joseph Ziegler is tasked with bringing Keller to life at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

"I first saw All My Sons on stage in London in 1980, and it completely floored me," he says. "Just think: Miller was only 30 years old when he wrote this masterpiece. There are a lot of echoes in it foreshadowing Death of a Salesman. When I played the role of Willy Loman a few years ago, I was struck at the time by the utter perfection of that play. Absolutely everything fits - all of the words, all of the characters' interactions - everything means something. There's nothing there that doesn't count. It's still a bit early on in the process with Keller, but I think I will feel exactly the same way about him once we get into the flow of the run."

One of us
The idea of Keller being an "Everyman" figure resonates strongly with Mr. Ziegler's own approach to playing the character.

"Keller is familiar. He really is one of us, in the sense that his desires and hopes are universal. All he wants is what is best for his family. He wants them to thrive, and he also wants to provide good work for other people. But as the story unfolds, we discover that the bigger picture - the ultimately noble goal to contribute to the greater good - has come at a very steep price. Keller has  found a way to gloss it over. In order to live with the decisions he's made, he has removed himself and taken a kind of, 'I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is' attitude."

Having grown up in Minneapolis just after World War II, Mr. Ziegler finds a lot of common territory in Miller's play, which is set in a mid-sized Ohio town a couple of years after the conclusion of the war as the United States was first emerging as a super-power.

"He perfectly captures that language and tone of working-class America," he says. "People say what they mean, and mean what they say. And I think that still very much holds true: that voice will resonate with the audiences in the here and now."

The meaning of family
In Miller's world, family is the most important thing in the universe. But he also asks the viewer to open up to a broader definition of what family truly means.

"Family is everything," says Mr. Ziegler. "That really is Middle America - both then and now. But Miller is saying that your family is much bigger than you think it is. That's made clear in the very title of the piece, ALL My Sons: in reality, Keller only has two. In one of the final speeches toward the very end of the play, his surviving son, Chris, makes the point: 'You can be better! Once and for all you can know there's a universe of people outside and you're responsible to it.…' The meaning to audiences of today couldn't be any more clear. In a world filled with widespread conflicts and displaced refugees, we all need to open our eyes and hearts. The great playwrights, like Shakespeare and Shaw, force us to see what is really there, and not just what we want to see: Miller makes Joe Keller face the absolute truth."

Performing in the round
As most Festival fans have heard by now, the thrust stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre has been reconfigured for the 2016 season to allow audiences to experience productions there in the round. Mr. Ziegler is anything but daunted about the prospect.

"I think that performing All My Sons in the round is the best of circumstances," he says. "The audience completely surrounds the performers. There's no way to hide. You can no longer concern yourself about which way you're facing. It instantly makes the play extremely intimate. These become real conversations between and about people who care deeply for one another. I think it will make the play seem that much more available to the audience."

Mr. Ziegler's passion for the character of Joe Keller and the message of Miller's play is apparent. "It's a true privilege to be in a play like this, written with such skill and style," he says. "I think it's as important now as it ever was."

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Production support is generously provided by Larry Enkin & family in memory of Sharon Enkin, by Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, by Esther & Sam Sarick in honour of Martha Henry and by Jack Whiteside.

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

Corporate Sponsor for the 2016 Season of the Tom Patterson Theatre: BMO Financial Group

May 2016 Article 4 Hero Image

John Gabriel Borkman: A Play That Defies Time

Scott Wentworth takes on the title role in Henrik Ibsen's compelling psychological family drama.

Q: How familiar were you with John Gabriel Borkman before you started working on it? Had you ever seen it produced?

Although it's been staged in recent years in England and Europe - and especially in Norway - it is very rarely produced in North America, so no: I have never seen it on stage. Borkman is one of Ibsen's late plays, and audiences are much more widely familiar with his great middle period, with works like Hedda Gabler and A Doll's House. It's completely appropriate for a classical theatre like Stratford to explore a relatively unknown script, and I think it's a fantastic opportunity for the artists and the audiences to discover this piece.

Q: Have you worked on many Ibsen plays in the past?

I've performed in Hedda Gabler, and subsequently directed a production, and I adapted a version of Ghosts that I also directed at the Indiana Repertory Theatre a few years ago.

One of the best experiences I had with the works of Ibsen was in 2011. Peter Hinton held a three-week intensive on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, called "The Ark: Ibsen on Fogo Island." That was about as close to Scandinavia as we could get and still actually be in Canada. It was a series of master classes and workshops with a company of professional actors and theatre artists, translators, and students. In the mornings, we learned about Norwegian songs, history and films, and had lectures in Norwegian art and philosophy from fantastic experts. In the afternoons, we'd read through a play - so we actually read all of Ibsen's canon together over those three weeks. That was when I first encountered John Gabriel Borkman, and it's a play that's been on my wish list ever since.

Q: What's especially appealing about mounting a production of this play at this point in time?

Ibsen is renowned as the father of modernism in drama. George Bernard Shaw championed him, and his influence is strongly felt in Shaw's own plays. As a young theatre critic, James Joyce actually learned Norwegian so that he could correspond with Ibsen. He was a massive inspiration for Joyce, who in turn gave rise to Samuel Beckett - and the line leads directly to Arthur Miller and his modern realistic drama. Borkman is an excellent companion piece this season to Miller's All My Sons. Both deal with questions of morality, and family relations, and the types of costly fallout from capitalism that still resonate with today's headlines - more than ever. People will recognize themselves and their families in Ibsen's characters. When Borkman's son Erhart talks about how he doesn't want to work - he wants to live, that speaks to today's generational dynamics: there's a young man who simply wants to enjoy life and not take responsibility in most families.

Q: The play will be presented in the round at the Tom Patterson Theatre. How do you think that will contribute to the experience?

It means that the design will be highly stylized. It challenges us - as performers and as viewers - to look at it from a not purely realistic point of view. It will be all about the performance. It's very much an ensemble piece, and we have an extraordinary cast of the calibre that is only possible to assemble at a place like the Stratford Festival. The story consists of a series of truly incredible scenes, and every single role is juicy and interesting.

I think that the "arena-ness" of the Tom Patterson Theatre's new configuration will bring a great benefit to the public discourse. The audience will view and hear the stories from multiple angles. It's very early days and still a work in progress as far as design goes, but overall it's going to have a period look: it will be of its time, but also be somewhat stylized so that it feels like a feverish dream.

John Gabriel Borkman is a play that defies time: it is universal, timeless and extremely accessible. Ibsen's modernity still speaks to us - he inspires us continually, as we re-encounter his modernism and scope of vision.

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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 and Laura Dinner.


Corporate Sponsor for the 2016 Season of the Tom Patterson Theatre: BMO Financial Group

May 2016 Article 5 hero

Honouring Gordon Pinsent: A Night of Celebration

Join us for the 2016 Stratford Festival Gala at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel and help us pay tribute to a national cultural treasure.

Actor. Director. Playwright. Screenwriter. Raconteur. Gordon Pinsent is surely one of the most recognizable and beloved figures on Canada's creative scene. Now his extraordinary contribution to the arts in this country will celebrated at the sixth annual Stratford Festival Gala this coming September.

Born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Gordon Pinsent began his professional stage career in Winnipeg in 1957, under the direction of John Hirsch. The first of his two seasons at the Stratford Festival was in 1962, when he performed in Macbeth (with Christopher Plummer and Kate Reid), The Taming of the Shrew and Cyrano de Bergerac (also with Christopher Plummer). He returned to the Festival in 1975 to play the leading role of Captain Plume in Bertolt Brecht's Trumpets and Drums.

Beginning in the early 1960s, he has also had an extensive television and film career. In addition to the series A Gift to Last, which he created, and the title role in Quentin Durgens, MP, his TV credits include The Red Green Show, Due South, Wind at My Back, Power Play and Republic of Doyle. His many acting awards include an ACTRA Award for his starring role in Sarah Polley's acclaimed film Away from Her and a Canadian Screen Award for The Grand Seduction. Other film credits include John and the Missus (for which he wrote the screenplay, based on his own stage play), The Rowdyman (which he also wrote, and for which he won a Canadian Film Award for Best Leading Actor), Who Has Seen the Wind and The Shipping News.

Multi-award winner
Other awards include the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement in television, and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award. The recipient of several honorary degrees, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2007, he received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

Join us in celebration!
The 2016 Stratford Festival Gala will celebrate Gordon Pinsent's outstanding career on Monday, September 26, at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto. This unforgettable gala evening - which in past years has honoured Christopher Plummer, Maggie Smith, William Shatner, Martha Henry and Colm Feore - will include tributes, music and entertainment presented by Stratford Festival artists and special guests. We'd love you to join us!

For information about tickets call 1.800.561.1233, extension 2402 or email us.

A lasting legacy
All proceeds from the gala evening will support the Stratford Festival's key initiatives of creating thought-provoking productions for an increasingly diverse audience, and to foster and develop the very best of Canadian theatre practitioners.



May 2016 Article 6 Hero Image

Stratford Festival HD: The Adventures of Pericles is Here!

The wait is over for our third great HD film release of 2016.

 

Here at the Festival, we are buzzing with excitement as this season's fabulous offerings begin preview performances. In anticipation of your visit to our theatres, why not whet your appetite by heading out to the movies for a screening of our newly released film of Shakespeare's The Adventures of Pericles - in magnificent HD?

Lose yourself in this epic journey as a storm at sea brings love into the life of Pericles, Prince of Tyre - only to have another cruelly snatch it away. Many years must pass before fate guides the wandering hero to a poignant reunion with the family he thought he had lost forever.

The Adventures of Pericles premières in Canadian Cineplex theatres on May 7, with an encore screening on May 12. U.S. screenings will begin at selected cinemas beginning on May 8. Please note that times, dates and locations may vary from region to region in Canada and the U.S. 

American fans take note!
Mark your calendars! Check this link for the U.S. première of Stratford Festival HD's The Taming of the Shrew, and find a time, date and location nearest you!

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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.

May 2016 Article 7 hero

TIFF's Books on Film

Kathryn Hunter on A Midsummer Night's Dream - June 6, 7pm

On June 6, stage director and Olivier Award-winning actor Kathryn Hunter takes us behind the scenes of Julie Taymor's innovative production of Shakespeare's immortal fantasy as part of TIFF's Books on Film series. Hosted by CBC's Eleanor Wachtel, the series explores the intersection of cinema and literature. Tickets on sale now!