FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE
Tickets for our spectacular 2017 season are hot, hot, hot! If you don't already have your seats booked, you shouldn't wait any longer. It may seem like a long way off before the curtain rises on our line-up of fantastic plays and musicals - but some performances are already selling out!
That's a big enough reason to book your seats today - but if you hurry and buy your tickets before February 7, you can also save up to 25% on in-season pricing!
2017 Season Partners: BMO Financial Group, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and Union Gas Limited
Q: What is the concept for this production, and how do you think it will appeal to audiences across all age ranges?Lezlie Wade: I'm setting this HMS Pinafore as though it's taking place in 1917 on New Year's Eve in a World War I naval convalescent hospital - which is a re-appropriated manor house. Very Downton Abbey!
One of the first lyrics in the operetta is "We stand to our guns, to our guns all day," so I needed to set it in a time of active duty. I didn't want to do what Brian Macdonald had so successfully done in the past, and since the major theme of the piece is class distinction, 1917 felt like a good fit. It was certainly a big social issue at the time of World War I - well, it still is even today, right?
The manor house seemed like a good way into the piece because it's the perfect backdrop for the upper and lower classes - and if you study the foyers of English manor houses you'll see that some of them, with their double staircases leading to the second-floor landing, do in fact resemble ships.
When I started doing my research, I discovered that G&S was quite popular during World War I. In fact, there are recorded instances of POWs performing entire productions. The material would have been very well known to the men, as the first revival [after the 1878 première] took place in 1887, with other revivals to come in 1899 and 1908. There was also a Broadway revival in 1914.
At least one D'Oyly Carte Opera company of performers - and sometimes as many as three at once - played Pinafore every year between 1878 and 1888, and almost continually between 1903 and 1940. Add to that the English jingoisms (wildly popular during wartimes) and the fact that in times of trouble people want to laugh, and it all seemed like the perfect fit.
I think those who love Gilbert and Sullivan will be pleased with the traditions we are upholding - and at the same time we are discovering new, funny and exciting ways to tell the story. Also, what a cast we've assembled of amazing singers, actors and comedians who can beautifully handle the material!
I loved G&S as a kid, and I guarantee this production will definitely appeal to all ages. My choreographer, Kerry Gage, and I have been working for a year now to come up with exciting moments throughout the play: little gems that will keep the audience enthralled. It's definitely not going to be a "stand-and-deliver" Pinafore.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. Have you directed any G&S in the past?LW: I started out as an actor. I briefly studied at the University of Windsor and then left to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC. I also graduated from the George Brown Theatre School acting program, and then shortly afterwards began directing. I've directed more than 70 professional productions to date; including world premières, musicals, operas, comedies, dramas - the works!
I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the first year of the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction at Stratford, and ended up spending three seasons working exclusively with Des McAnuff on As You Like It, A Word or Two, Henry V and Jesus Christ Superstar - which I also worked on at the La Jolla Playhouse and on Broadway.
I'm also an alumna of the BMI workshop in New York, where I studied the craft of lyric writing for three years. It was an amazing experience, and I learned as much about lyrics as I did about music. Once a week for almost three years, I would fly to NYC from Buffalo, take classes, return to the airport, and fly back. Not only did I learn my craft, but the experience proved incredibly valuable to me as a director.
I now have a collaborator I work with, Daniel Green - I'm Gilbert to his Sullivan, I guess! - and we are currently working on a musical called The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen, which was shortlisted for the Tom Hendry award, workshopped in Chicago at AMTP, and has since been optioned by the Somerled Foundation. This production of HMS Pinafore will be my first G&S.
Q: What is it about HMS Pinafore that makes it so timelessly appealing?LW: First of all, the music is glorious! I cannot get the melodies out of my head - every single one of them is amazing. Secondly, Gilbert knew what he was doing when he wrote these comic operas: there are so many levels of enjoyment. If you're an opera lover, there's the music and beautiful vocal arrangements. If you like wit and satire, there is plenty of that to be had. If you like slapstick comedy, romance and happy endings, you won't be disappointed.
And, of course, the themes are as relevant as ever. One just has to hear about Sir Joseph rising to the top of the British aristocracy without having done a thing to prove himself, and one can't help but think about current events all around the world. And of course, at its core, it's a wonderful love story that proves "love levels all ranks."
Q: Do you have any favourite moments or numbers in the show?
LW: I'm sure this will change as we begin the rehearsal process in earnest, but right now I'm completely crazy about the Act I finale. It's just amazing! At one point, the wonderful music goes into a seven-part harmony, and hearing it just whips you up into an exhilarating state before the intermission.Q:What aspects of this production are you most looking forward to sharing with Festival audiences?LW: I'm excited to see their reaction when the manor house transforms into the ship: I think that's going to be pretty spectacular and magical to witness. We have a lot more visual surprises in store for this beautiful show - but I don't want to give those away!
Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip
"Scott Wentworth wants to use the Festival Theatre stage in the way it was originally intended by Tanya Moiseiwitsch, with minimal props and furniture pieces," says Christina Poddubiuk, designer of Mr. Wentworth's production of Romeo and Juliet this season.
"This gives the performers far more freedom to use the space in the most flexible ways - seamlessly merging inside scenes with outdoors ones. The moment you add in a fancy door, wrought-iron gates or any other set embellishments, that kind of flexibility is greatly diminished."
Costumes - consisting of beautifully detailed period dress - will thus play a central role in the overall look of the production.
"Though the action takes place in Verona and Mantua, we are not making it into an Italian travelogue piece," says Ms Poddubiuk, who has worked on 18 previous Festival productions, including John Gabriel Borkman, Phèdre, All's Well That Ends Well and Hamlet. "So it will have more of an overall English look to it than anything else.
"It also won't be tied to any specific era, but instead will blend several elements to create a distinctly period feel. For instance, there will be ruffs, but Scott didn't want to use what he calls 'pumpkin pants,' so it won't be strictly Elizabethan in style."
The colour palette will tend toward Renaissance tones of blacks and greys, with contrasting pops of rich hot reds, coppers and burgundies for the costumes worn by the upper echelons. Some design details are still in development, but Mr. Wentworth has also expressed great interest in the use of light in this production.
"That doesn't necessarily mean light in the sense of lighting design per se," says Ms Poddubiuk, "but in the quality of light and the effects of various sorts of light sources - like lanterns, candles and candelabra. Different points of light to create that atmosphere of another time and place.
"I don't want to give too much away, but there will be some very strong visual moments throughout the play. Much will be made of the feast, with girls dressed richly to represent and display their father's wealth and status in a kind of marriage market. Use will be made of masks to greatly add to the drama, as well as a kind of choreographed chorus of women in black who will inhabit scenes throughout the play and become part of the action. There will be definite elements of the Gothic about the production."
Mr. Wentworth is interested, she says, in portraying the characters as people who feel as real as those watching from the modern audience.
"Instead of a parade of moving National Portrait Gallery paintings, we want to make it seem as though these are living, breathing humans who actually inhabit their clothing much in the same way we do today: clothes that look lived in, jackets you can take on and off.
"This will present some challenges as far as the actual building of the costumes goes - we won't be able to conceal padding and snaps beneath the clothes the way we usually can - but we're finding ways to give the period look a very authentic feel."
Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert
Hilarious as it is, at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that an 18th-century comedy of manners has little to do with the world of today. But take a closer look, and you'll soon find many parallels that bring Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The School for Scandal provocatively close to home in our own "post-truth" era.
"In 1777, England was arguably at the very centre of the civilized world - certainly of Western Europe," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who's directing this classic comedy with a stellar cast that includes Shannon Taylor, Geraint Wyn Davies, Joseph Ziegler, Maev Beaty and Brent Carver.
"Capitalist and imperialist ways were the order of the day, and the workings of society were rigged heavily in favour of the wealthy few. After the Restoration, a small group of hereditary peers in the House of Lords - about 200 at any given time and only a thousand over the entire course of the 18th century - called the shots and controlled everything. The Lords, not the King, effectively ran the show. These men were a very powerful and wealthy elite who largely made their fortunes in trade through the East India Company."
But, like ours today, it was a world on the cusp of great change and upheaval.
"This was a time of revolution, uprisings, fights for religious freedoms and moral questions about slavery," says Mr. Cimolino. "All of society was at a turning point, questioning its core values. It was a time for people to decide which direction the future and the next generation should take.
"In writing this play, Sheridan asks us to consider what being 'progressive' means. What does that look like? He was a man who made an incredible impact during his lifetime: at 25, he took over the running of London's Drury Lane Theatre. An impresario and financial wizard, he was a greatly gifted orator and intellectual who eventually came to be a notable Whig politician. To him, the idea of being progressive was to abide by the Golden Rule."
The arts have always played an invaluable role in the human journey. Theatre in the 18th century was a wildly popular way to "hold the mirror up to nature" and comment on the follies of the world - and hopefully spark thought and discussion, and point out new directions for society to take.
"Some of the great work coming out of this time - like Tom Jones, The Beggar's Opera and The School for Scandal - are part of an artistic movement urging society to push back against the long-established and over-sophisticated ways of the rich and powerful, who were only interested in validating and upholding their own greed.
"In Shakespeare's King Lear, there is a line that says, 'Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say,' and that sentiment is echoed in Sheridan's writing. In the play, Sir Peter Teazle is interested in a simpler, more straightforward way of life. He yearns to get back to the basics - to speak his mind and genuinely care about others and society as a whole. No more frivolity and fashionable distractions: he wants to get to what really matters - and he struggles with his young wife's flightiness and her relationship with gossip-mongers."
Of all the play's parallels with today's world, it's the use of scandal and gossip to quash one's enemies whilst bolstering one's own reputation that perhaps resonates the most. Then as now, for those who wished to be in power, notoriety and fame were of paramount importance.
"In Sheridan's day, newspapers were not curated or overseen," says Mr. Cimolino. "There were lots of scandal sheets in circulation. Reputations could be made or broken in a few well-aimed sentences. Political satirical cartoons - some of them quite lurid - were very, very popular. The wealthy manipulated this 'social media' to their own advantage: they used it for societally regressive purposes in order to keep their place and power.
"Fake news is a distraction, the opiate of the people: a way to keep their eyes averted from what is really going on. The gossip and scandal sheets were a kind of 18th-century Twitter: the rich elite used them to build up the reputations of people who worked to their benefit and to degrade those who opposed them.
"In transitions between scenes in the production, we're going to use projections to visually suggest the impact of the 'social media' of the time - there will be a sense that the press and the gossip are continually humming."
Production support is generously provided by M. Fainer, by Drs. M.L. Myers & the late W.P. Hayman and by the Tremain family
When you're planning your visit to Stratford, why not add a delightful meal to your theatregoing experience?
The Forum's popular Table Talk dining series offers a fascinating line-up of guest speakers who will share insights about the play you are about to watch. Before the talk, you'll enjoy a delicious buffet lunch in our beautiful Paul D. Fleck Marquee overlooking the stunning parklands and Avon River. A cash bar will be available. Please book at least 48 hours prior to the talk.
Table Talks run from July 13 to August 31. For a full list of dates, topics and speakers, please visit our website. Ahoy there, maties!
Young theatregoers can join us for adventure-filled lunches before selected performances of Treasure Island.
To prepare for the adventure, kids collect their packed lunches in the Paul D. Fleck Marquee at the Festival Theatre. Then - with the aide of a clue-filled map - adventurers will plunder their way through downtown Stratford, gathering their booty along the way to the Avon Theatre in time for the matinée. X marks the spot!Treasure Hunt Lunches take place on selected dates between June 18 and July 23. For more information and to book, please visit our website.
Don't miss out: book your tickets now to experience two of our glorious Shakespeare productions in spectacular HD at a movie theatre near you.
Our 2016 films were recently recognized with six Canadian Screen Award nominations - and now, tickets for our new 2017 films can be purchased through Cineplex cinemas.Macbeth premières on March 18 and Love's Labour's Lost premières on April 29 in cinemas across Canada.
To book your tickets now, visit stratfordfestival.ca/HD. U.S. dates will be released shortly - stay tuned!
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, The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Sandra & Jim Pitblado, the Slaight Family Foundation, Robert & Jacqueline Sperandio, and an anonymous donor.
The Festival also acknowledges the 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. Cinema screenings are followed by a broadcast window on CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster.
U.S. and international distribution is through SpectiCast, the fastest growing event cinema marketing and distribution company in the world.
Last September, the 2016 Stratford Festival Gala paid tribute to Gordon Pinsent at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel. At about the same time, the Toronto International Film Festival premièred a new documentary, The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent, directed by Academy Award winner Brigitte Berman.
The film covers 70 years of Mr. Pinsent's fascinating life and multi-faceted career. A veteran of some 140 television and film projects - not to mention his countless stage appearances - he is not only an extraordinary actor but also an acclaimed writer, poet, playwright, painter, director and screenwriter. Lovers of Canadian culture won't want to miss this portrait of a living national icon.Toronto:The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent runs at the Hot Docs Festival at the Ted Rogers Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West, from Friday, January 27, to Tuesday, January 31. Ottawa:
A special public screening of the movie will take place at Ottawa's National Arts Centre on Wednesday, February 15, as part of the ongoing celebrations of Canada's 150th Birthday.
Other screenings will soon follow across the country at Cineplex Odeon theatres in such locations as Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver.