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Huzzah! Opening Week Is Here!

Put on your glad rags and join in the fun as our stunning new season gets underway!

Let the fanfares sound! Our gala opening week is almost upon us, and we'd love you to join in the exciting glamour of it all. With all the hot buzz around our preview performances, there are just a few seats left and tickets are selling fast, so be sure to book your tickets today!

Here's how the week will unfold: 

The Tempest starts things off at the Festival Theatre on May 28 at 7:30 p.m.*

(*Please note this early start time for our official season opening!)

The Music Man parades on stage at the Festival Theatre on May 29 at 8 p.m.

Long Day's Journey Into Night begins at the Studio Theatre on May 30 at 8 p.m.

An Ideal Husband takes to the Avon Theatre stage on May 31 at 8 p.m.

The Comedy of Errors  bounds onto the Studio Theatre stage on June 1 at 8 p.m.

Opening week ends with a not-to-be-missed double-bill on June 2:

To Kill a Mockingbird starts its powerful run at the Festival Theatre at 2 p.m.

The Rocky Horror Show will bring down the house at the Avon Theatre at 8 p.m.

Check out our calendar and book your opening week tickets online, or call our Box Office at 1.800.567.1600.

 

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Speaking with Scout: Innocence and Experience

The two actors – adult and child – who share the central female role in To Kill a Mockingbird look at the play from their different perspectives.

To Kill a Mockingbird  frames a specific summer in the life of a young girl, Scout. We see through her eyes as the events of the play unfold; we see her innocent childhood viewpoint on the world shaken by the harsh realities of an unjust prosecution. Meanwhile, Jean Louise Finch - the adult woman Scout has become - is looking back at those same pivotal events of her youth through the eyes of memory, giving us a rich and layered view of her personal history.  

The two actors involved, Clara Poppy Kushnir (playing Scout) and Irene Poole (Jean Louise), are well matched in enthusiasm and imagination. During rehearsals, we had time to chat with them about the play and their shared role in it.

Q: By way of background, can each of you tell us about the origins of your interest in pursuing a life in the theatre? When did you first know you wanted to become a performer?

Clara Poppy Kushnir:  It was all quite recent for me. I started my first acting lessons at the age of 10. (I'm 11 now, turning 12 in December.) I began classes at the Broadway Arts Centre in Toronto in January of 2017, and my teacher, Michael Rubenstein, soon asked me to join his agency M2 Talent. I shot a film - 48 Christmas Wishes  - which is on Netflix everywhere but in Canada! I have always loved English classes and storytelling and language, and with acting you have to step into other people's shoes in different periods in history to tell their stories. It's all so interesting to me. It's very exciting to be on stage here at Stratford, and I plan to continue my studies. 

Irene Poole:  I was probably about 10 as well when I first started getting interested in performance and theatre. I grew up in St. Lewis - a very small place (with a population of 250 people!) in a remote part of Labrador. There was no theatre or film available in our community - not even television. So instead, I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on, and there was also a strong tradition of oral storytelling where I lived. At the age of 12, I was writing my own stories and plays, and I set up a drama club at my school and went into a creative arts festival with a competitive component. I guess it just snowballed from there, and eventually I went on to study theatre at Dalhousie in Halifax. 

A: The play includes some very difficult (and timely) subject matter. How did you prepare for and research the roles?

CPK:  My parents are both very open people, and were always willing to talk with me about the themes and subject matter and able to give me advice and guidance. I have to do some swearing, and I found that a bit hard at first, but the people I'm working with are a really good crowd - very supportive - and we all know it's part of the play and the character, so no one judges me badly for it. I also watched documentaries on black history and read a lot. Research is so important - we are not living in 1935 Alabama, and you need to study different time periods in order to understand them. This play is so tragic but also very beautiful. The messages are good in the story, and I think it opens you up to seeing different points of view. And being attacked in the fight is scary, but I am around such wonderful professional people and always feel safe because I know in advance what to expect - even if it is terrible to watch. 

IP:  First, I returned to and reread the novel, and then I did a great deal of reading about the civil rights movement in America. Although it doesn't clearly state it, it seems that Jean Louise has followed in her father's footsteps and become a lawyer. You can hear the interest in legal matters the way she uses the text, so I made it my quest to learn as much as I could about civil rights. Like Clara, I watched a lot of documentaries about black history, and I also read the brilliant book The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee  by Marja Mills. The author actually moved in next door to the house Harper Lee grew up in and became close friends with the family. Harper and her sister, Alice, were hugely influenced by their dad, who was a lawyer. Alice went on to practise law, and Harper studied law before quitting to become a writer. That background really informs the novel and the play - and the playing of the role.

Q: How do you complement one another as you find insights into the two different ages of your character?

CPK:  I think that, even as a young girl, Scout shows a lot of depth. She is filled with curiosity about the world around her, and is very intelligent and mature for her age. Not many nine-year-olds sit on the porch with their dads and talk about life the way that she does. I think this all points toward her learning and growing into the adult she becomes.

IP:  The two of us actively interact: it isn't just Jean Louise being a narrator in the play. We share scenes and even finish one another's sentences at times. It very much feels like Jean Louise is actively searching for memories. She badly needs moments to become clear, so she is investigating the past. In the way that Scout always questions and delves into things, we see the beginnings of the questions the adult Jean Louise is asking later on in life. In her search for clarity, she is going back in time and unpacking a series of terribly traumatic events from childhood and seeing how these moments influence her present life. Being an adult gives her a kind of distance, and she can now see more objectively and with better understanding the mistakes being made by the adults around her - even Atticus was not always handling things very well.

Q: Why do you feel this play is especially important to stage in this day and age?

CPK:  I love that Scout is not afraid to show her true colours. She's never afraid of standing out. She's a tough, feisty non-conformist. It's amazing the way she shows a nine-year-old kid can be wiser than a 30-year-old. I think that kids and their intelligence are really underestimated - and that's as true now as it was then. We see it in the States today with how kids are standing up for what's right and showing leadership. People need to see what's going on - both then and now.

IP:  There are horrible moments in the play, and we can't and shouldn't look away. Nigel Shawn Williams is not pulling any punches with his direction.I think there are many, many parallels in the play that resonate strongly with today. We shouldn't be living in times with such terrible racism, and yet here we are. We can't ignore the situation. The way that Tom Robinson is shot 17 times by a white policeman in the play is too eerily similar to the regular shootings we see in the U.S. today - like the Sacramento man shot in his grandmother's backyard for holding a cell phone. I think kids today, if they are raised in good households, think of race and gender and beauty standards much differently than the previous generation. The kids are way ahead of the adults, as we see with the March for Our Lives movement. It gives me hope for the future.

CPK:  I agree that it all comes down to how children are brought up. The new generation needs to change the way things are. In the end, we are all human, even if we have different backgrounds. It's time to stop separating ourselves and let our differences bring us all together.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird  plays at the Festival Theatre from May 4 to November 4. For more information and to book tickets, visit our website or call 1.800.567.1600.

Schulich Youth Plays To Kill a Mockingbird

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Your First Look at Coriolanus!

Robert Lepage’s visionary take on a little-known classic will stagger your imagination.

The trailer for our powerful must-see production of Shakespeare's Coriolanus  is a breathtaking treat for the eyes. Enjoy this visually stunning sneak peek and share it with all of your theatre-loving family and friends. You've never seen anything like this on our stages before! If you haven't already booked your seats, buy your tickets now to avoid disappointment.

 

Production support is generously provided by Larry Enkin & family in memory of Sharon Enkin, by Sylvia Soyka, and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Production Sponsor: BMO Financial Group

Production Support: New Chapter

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A “Virgin’s Guide” to Rocky Horror

First time attending The Rocky Horror Show? Not sure what to expect? No need to be nervous – it’s all about having fun!

If you've never seen The Rocky Horror Show  before, you're what the already initiated call a "virgin." No shame in that - but now that you're about to take the plunge, here are a few pointers to help you make the most of it.

First, don't get strung out by the way some of your fellow audience members might look. Dressing up - to resemble characters in the show or just to look fantastic on your own terms - is a big part of the Rocky Horror  experience. It's not obligatory, of course, but it does add to the fun. Corsets, garter belts, fishnets, heels as high as you dare - all these and more are eminently suitable. (And the same goes if you're female.)

You can dance if you want to - particularly during the Time Warp, the lyrics of which tell you the moves. Of course, the average theatre seat doesn't allow a whole lot of room for a jump to the left or a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight, so do please be careful of your neighbours' feet. But with your hands on your hips and your knees in tight, you should be able to manage a decent pelvic thrust. And if you have an aisle seat, you're really  in luck.

 

Don't be shocked if people around you start heckling the performers. Like British pantomime ("Behind you!" "Oh, no it isn't!"), The Rocky Horror Show  has a tradition of audience partici... ("Say it!!") …pation. A whole subscript of talk-back lines has evolved: gags that audiences can crack ("With a whip!") at specific points in the dialogue. If you know the drill, or if inspiration strikes, feel free to join in. (Just remember, it's all in the timing.)

One thing that's an absolute no-no is throwing anything at the stage. And that means anything: rice, toast, playing cards, anything. Ditto for squirting water. This is live theatre, remember, and those are real people up there. So if anything gets projected through the air toward the stage, the show will be stopped and the perpetrator will be seized by ushers, summarily dismembered and stored in the freezer with the remains of Eddie. 

Otherwise, please let yourself go like you've never done in a theatre before. Above all else, this show is meant to be fun  - so shed those lingering inhibitions and enjoy!

 

 

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Talking with the Tyrones

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a tale of self-deception, denial, addiction, lost dreams and – ultimately – a broken family’s love.

Working together on both Julius Caesar  and Long Day's Journey Into Night, Seana McKenna and Scott Wentworth are rehearsing together every day. Exploring Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning magnum opus is, they agree, an intense, almost obsessive process - but it is also very much a labour of love.

Depicting a single day in the life of the troubled Tyrone family in August 1912, the play is deeply autobiographical. When O'Neill completed it in 1941, he intended it never to be produced. 

"This work is such a miracle," says Scott Wentworth. "It came so close to never being seen. The mere fact of it is a Rosetta Stone of sorts - underpinning all of O'Neill's writing, and arguably the basis of 20th-century American theatre. It is a huge gift."

"Though this is the first time either actor has been in the piece, both have wanted to play their respective roles since their teens."

"It's wonderfully humbling to be in a production. I have always wanted to play Mary Tyrone, ever since I was 17," says Seana McKenna. "You could say I've had a bit of a long wait. I remember doing one of Mary's monologues back in theatre school, and I was once offered the role of Cathleen in a very fine small theatre company's production, but was unable to do it in the end."

For Mr. Wentworth also, his role as James Tyrone represents the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. "During my high school years," he says, "when I was first interested in theatre, I was given a biography of Laurence Olivier for Christmas. He'd just played James, and there were some great dramatic photos of him with his playing cards. I said to myself, "One day, I'm  going to play James Tyrone too.'"

Long Day's Journey Into Night was produced - to great acclaim - at the Festival before, first on the Avon Theatre stage and then at the more intimate Tom Patterson Theatre. This production is being mounted in the even closer environs of the Studio Theatre.

"I think this small space suits the play very well," says Ms McKenna. "It's only a cast of five - a small family and one servant -and as a result, it is a very intimate piece, very much like Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. That sort of family dynamic calls for creating our own bonds in the rehearsal process, and they become very intense."

"I agree," says Mr. Wentworth. "The small size of the theatre is a great gift and asset to both the actors and the audience. The stage itself is just about the exact size of the actual room where the story is set. In fact, I think we may be closer than any other previous productions in replicating how it must have felt to spend a day in that room with those people."

"Since the play was meant only to be read, its stage directions were written in a very narrative way, almost like a novel. That means the footprints exist for working out the movements - for looking, touching, interacting. And we don't have to abandon those directions as we would in a larger theatre, where we'd all be pushing in one direction." 

"I find we are constantly referring back to O'Neill's written stage directions," adds Ms McKenna. "They force you to examine closely and discover the 'why' behind everything you do - again, very much like in Tennessee Williams, you ignore these directions at your peril. You may reject something at first, but then you find yourself revisiting and reconsidering. Everything in that text is there for a reason.

"And producing the show in such a small space will give the audience a sense that they are eavesdropping or watching someone's private diary being played out before their eyes."

"At the heart of things is the looming spectre of addiction - a difficult subject matter both then and now."

"Zoe Dodd, a Toronto activist and harm-reduction worker, came to speak with us about her work with the safe needle exchange site program, and it was very enlightening," says Ms McKenna. "She talked about the pleasure people find in using drugs - which is something we don't often think of - and this is why people turn to them: to fill an emptiness, remedy their pain and cope with lives that seem overwhelming to them."

"One thing that is clear is that the harsh judgment and the strong sense of shame have not changed. There is a sense that one has failed, and that getting over the addiction is a mere matter of willpower."

"As a society, I think we may have come to view alcoholism in a slightly more enlightened way over the years, in that we now understand the dangers of it more clearly," adds Mr. Wentworth.

"Here in the play, you have three male problem drinkers constantly judging Mary for her morphine use," says Ms McKenna. "As with today's prescription opiate crisis, back then many middle-class women - mothers - struggled with addiction and suffered its stigma."

"Even Mary's own son, James Jr., says he 'always thought only whores took dope,' " adds Mr. Wentworth. "Unlike the men's drinking, Mary's addiction was imposed on her by her doctor, and yet she is the one being blamed."

Despite the relentless misery and hopelessness that afflicts its characters, the play is full of a life force that is uplifting to witness.

"Everyone in the audience will find something deeply recognizable in the characters' isolation and denial and lack of self-awareness," says Ms McKenna." And there is a wicked humour that runs through the whole thing - a black Irish humour."

"These are people fighting for their lives," says Mr. Wentworth," and ultimately it is a love story between Mary and James. The thing to keep in mind while you are watching is that, no matter what terrible things are said and how badly they hurt one another, they are all going to have to get up the next day and come down to face one another across the breakfast table. The Tyrones are a family of survivors. Life will go on."

"Here at the Festival, there seems to be a group of plays that culturally we want to return to every so often and have a big conversation about them. This piece is so timeless and has a lot to tell us about people and families. There have been a lot of revivals of it over the past few years - collectively, we seem to need to examine again what it has to say. We really have not changed that much as human beings. There is something so vigorous and vital and modern at work in this piece."

"I agree wholeheartedly," says Ms McKenna. "There is much more of love than there is of hate between the family members -and especially between Mary and James.But it is a modern tragedy. Our director, Miles Potter, said the other day in rehearsal, 'It's like the end of Hamlet, but everyone is still alive."

Long Day's Journey Into Night  runs at the Studio Theatre from May 5 to October 13.

Production support is generously provided by Alice & Tim Thornton.

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Win a Lifetime of Great Theatre!

One lucky patron will win Festival season passes for life.

Now here's a die-hard theatre lover's dream come true! When we welcome our 28 millionth patron, that lucky individual will win a lifetime double pass to future Festival seasons. Imagine attending every one of our productions - including magnificent Shakespeare, spectacular musicals, sparkling comedies, modern classics and innovative new plays - free for the rest of your days! 

All you need to do for your chance to win the ultimate theatrical prize is to book seats to any one of our brilliant 2018 line-up of shows. Who knows? It could be you!

Good luck, everyone!

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New in 2018: Electronic House Programs

You asked, we listened! Electronic house programs are now available.

This season, we're introducing an exciting new innovation for our audiences. Many patrons have requested that our house programs be made available in electronic format.

Not only is it more environmentally friendly to have a paperless version, but being able to access the program online will enable you to read up on a production in advance of your theatre visit, or to go over all of the information at your leisure after seeing the show. House programs will be available on the individual production pages on our website.

Don't worry - if you prefer a traditional paper version of our house programs, they'll still be available at all of our theatres for you to enjoy. After the performance, you can recycle your paper programs onsite, or take them home and treasure them as a souvenir.

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Forum Launch Highlights

Our always fascinating Forum series is back. Check out these exciting events, and expand your experience!

Coming to the Festival for fabulous theatre? Join us for the 2018 Forum! With a wide range of special performances, intriguing guest speakers, musical delights, delicious dining events, interactive workshops and much more, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Here's just a sample of this season's Forum highlights: 

Just added! 


In Conversation with Stephen Greenblatt  | June 1

The Stratford Festival Forum is thrilled to welcome Stephen Greenblatt, one of the world's most renowned Shakespeare scholars. A humanities professor at Harvard University and the author of 13 books - including Shakespeare's FreedomWill in the World: How Shakespeare became ShakespeareHamlet in Purgatory  and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Swerve: How the World Became Modern - Dr. Greenblatt releases his newest work, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, in May 2018.

Not to be missed! 


Assassinating Thompson  | June 17 and June 24

Art, politics, ambition, love and murder are intertwined in this one-man tour-de-force, which delves into the mysterious death of famous Canadian painter Tom Thomson and the subsequent rise of the Group of Seven. Creator and performer Bruce Horak, a legally blind painter, actor and playwright, paints the audience's portraitlive on stage as he explores the facts and fictions surrounding the death of one of Canada's greatest artists, and shares the unique way he sees the world.

Steven Page and Art of Time  | July 13

Steven Page teams up with the virtuosic Art of Time Ensemble in a concert of songs by Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Radiohead, Barenaked Ladies, Elvis Costello and others, reinvented by some of the greatest minds in classical, pop and jazz and delivered by a defining voice in contemporary rock.

Get behind the scenes with a Set Changeover Tour.

See the magic unfold before your very eyes! Watch the stage crew dismantle one production's set and put another one in place, ready for the next performance. This is a general-admission tour, but for safety reasons you'll be asked to sit in specific zones in the theatre. Tours take place most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when The Music Man  is scheduled: check the website for exact times and dates.

Free Events:
Meet the Festival
and Lobby Talks

Due to space limitations during next season's anticipated building works, we've had to reduce the number of some Forum events, and introduce ticketing for Meet the Festival and Lobby Talks. Don't worry: both these popular events will still be free of charge; we just ask that you book a ticket in advance, as we'll have limited numbers of seats available - particularly for events in the Chalmers Lounge - and we need to be sure no one who wants to attend will be disappointed. 

By the way, a particular highlight of our Meet the Festival series will be a talk with Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino on August 22. We hope you'll be able to join us!

So much more Forum to discover!

For a comprehensive list of events, dates and details and to book your tickets, please visit us online at What's On