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Meet The Music Man’s Harold Hill and Marian Paroo

Festival newcomers Daren A. Herbert and Danielle Wade star in this sparkling musical.

Q: Since this will be your Stratford Festival debuts (welcome!), please tell us a little about where you're from, your training, and perhaps some of your favourite past roles.

Daren A. Herbert: My wife, Jo, and our eight-month-old daughter, Ori, are anxious to settle in and get the lay of the land in Stratford. Jo and I are proud Bermudian-born Canadians, and the journey here has led us from our little island through such places as Philadelphia, Guelph, Los Angeles, Turks and Caicos, Irvine, Montreal, Osaka, Vancouver and Toronto.

Much of my training took place in the U.S., including a summer spent training at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis when I was a graduate student at the University of California in Irvine. I'm also a mentor-in-training and life-long student at Lonsdale Smith & Co. Acting Studios. Why stop training when the work can always get deeper?

Danielle Wade: Stratford is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It's so exciting to think that I will be a resident for the next year! I'm fortunate to be from LaSalle, a tiny little Ontario farm town just south of here - it always smells like campfires. My parents and my two younger sisters still live there, so I'm thrilled that I'll be working so close to home in Stratford.

In high school, we used to take field trips to the Festival. I'm still struggling to get my head around just how neat it is that I will be performing on the same stage where I watched so many outstanding performances! I studied acting at the University of Windsor but had to leave after two years when I was given the wonderful opportunity to play Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz. After a year-long run in Toronto, we travelled across North America, visiting so many fabulous theatres. Past favourite roles include Anne in Anne of Green Gables and Lorene in Tim Rice's new musical From Here to Eternity.
 
Q: What was it like to audition for Donna Feore? Were there any big stand-out or funny moments in the process?

DAH: I had one mission: go in there and charm the socks off the team. Donna was there with [Festival Casting Director] Beth Russell and [Music Director] Franklin Brasz. There was singing, chatting, adjustments, chatting, some scene-reading, chatting - and I think Donna asked me about dancing. I said that I had played Harold Hill at Theatre Under the Stars in Vancouver for a whole summer some years ago, and I remember sweating my guts out and chasing my breath all over the stage. I said, "I'm a bit older now, so I expect more of the same, though I may need a bit more recovery time. Either that, or you'll get me into the best shape of my life!" The others laughed and Donna gave me a very wry smile and an understated nod of the head. I know I'm really in for it this season, and I'm relishing the chance!

 
DW: Auditioning is terrifying but exciting, sweat-inducing and wonderful all at the same time. However, from the moment I entered the room I really felt like Donna was completely on my side. I tend to ramble when I'm nervous, so I cracked a few jokes, did a goofy dance and then got to work. I did my best to make sure every side of me as an actor and a human came across in that room. We made our way through all the scenes and songs, flipping back and forth between each, taking notes and asking questions. Throughout the process, it was so evident to me that the entire panel was rooting for whoever was in the room at the time, whether it was me or the five other girls before me. We had fun and made all the mistakes, but the whole time we were working hard to do our best and just go for it. What did I have to lose?

Q: Have you been doing anything to prepare for your roles over the winter?

DAH: I've been maximizing my time with Ori and Jo because I know my days are about to get very full for the next few months. I'm hoping we can get into a rhythm where they can come and join us for lunch breaks. I had the intention of jumping back into hot yoga and doing some running to get my body prepared, but those plans quickly went the way of the dodo bird.

The holiday season was very good to us. It was Ori's first, and we were in Vancouver introducing her to friends and family who hadn't met her yet. I had the opportunity to play in Onegin at the Arts Club for a week or so before they head out on tour, so it did help to get the musical muscles working before coming out to Stratford.

DW: I adore the "homework" part ahead of a production. I have been doing a bunch of character research on who Marian might have been in her time, taking every singing lesson I can fit into my schedule and resting up for what is to come. I know that this rehearsal process is going to be really intense and I can't wait to get started! I have also been spending a lot of time with my family because I know I am headed into a whirlwind of costumes, choreography and words, words, words. The beginning of the new year was spent relaxing with some hot chocolate and a good movie on the most comfortable of couches.

Q: What are your favourite things about your characters, and do you recognize aspects of yourself in them?

DAH: I love Harold! He's a well-practiced hustler of the highest order. He does it all so easily and with such confidence and purpose. At the same time, we don't know an awful lot about why he is what he is or where he came from, so I get to do a lot of research and creation, which I relish. I'm looking forward to discovering a lot more about him while discombobulating my Marian at every turn - that is, until she finds her way to discombobulate me! Danielle and I only met for the first time when we performed a brief musical medley at the Stratford Festival Gala for Eric McCormack last fall, but I can tell I'm gonna have a great time trying every trick in the book to make her smile!

DW: Can we just talk about how cool Marian is? I absolutely love her strength. She's never, ever the damsel in distress: she takes her actions and ideas very seriously, and follows through with everything that she's got. She's intelligent, creative, witty and generally awe-inspiring for her time. It also helps that Daren, my wonderful Harold, happens to be one of the best in the business. I could tell from our first meeting by that mischievous look in his eye that the next few months are going to be filled with belly laughs and goofy grins!

 

Q: The Music Man begins rehearsals in February and runs into October, so it will take a lot of stamina. Have you been in long runs of productions in the past, and how do you pace yourself for the challenge ahead?

DAH: It sure will require stamina, but I feel prepared. I recently did the national tour of If/Then, with Idina Menzel, LaChanze and Anthony Rapp, and I learned a lot about sustaining over a long run. It will be different in that I won't have to be travelling from city to city during this contract, but I've done that too with the Dancap production of The Toxic Avenger Musical, here in Toronto. The main thing will be finding ways to maintain a healthy balance or, as my wife would say, "practising radical self-care."

DW: Self-care is going to be our best friend throughout this run. I have been incredibly fortunate to have experienced a long run before by playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for almost two and a half years, so I feel prepared for what's to come. I try to get a lot of sleep, take care of my body and really fuel myself with the right things. It's so helpful that the Festival has so many accessible programs for wellness and betterment. Sleep is the most important aspect of staying healthy, and I get the napping gene from my mother, so I think I'm in good shape for that!

Q: What are you most looking forward to in your first season at Stratford?

DAH: The local community. I have no idea what I'm stepping into, which is exciting, but theatre folks are the same worldwide. When we work together, we form a family. We'll look out for one another, irritate one another and share laughs and mistakes over the next little while. I can't wait to vibe with the folks we'll get to meet, and I hope they'll enjoy the ride as much as I know that we will.

DW:
I am beyond excited and fortunate to be surrounded by such talented artists and creators. I have had such wonderful experiences with the people I've met already, so I'm positive that it will only go up from here. I'm eager to learn and really dive into everything Stratford and the Festival have to offer. The theatre world is a funny one, because you forge such fast, beautiful friendships: I can't wait to get to know my new "family"!

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin, by the Harkins & Manning families in memory of Jim & Susan Harkins, and by Riki Turofsky & Charles Petersen.

Production Co-Sponsors: RBC, Union Gas

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Tom Patterson Theatre Campaign: The Spirit of the Tent

$100-million campaign has already achieved 70% of its goal.

In January, Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney announced the launch of The Spirit of the Tent: A Campaign for the New Tom Patterson Theatre Centre. The campaign is co-chaired by Ophelia Lazaridis and Dr. M. Lee Myers, with the Honourable Michael Meighen serving as Honorary Chair. At the launch, Ms Lazaridis announced a gift of $10 million.

Others serving as core members of the campaign are: Dan Bernstein (Chair of the Festival's Board of Governors), Sylvia Chrominska, Robert Gorlin, Beth Kronfeld, Rick Orr, Dr. Cecil Rorabeck, Carol Stephenson and Donald Woodley. Mr. Bernstein and his wife, Claire Foerster, have also pledged $10 million to the campaign.

The Festival has also been promised $20 million in funding from the federal government and $20 million from the Ontario government. In addition to the leadership gifts from Ophelia Lazaridis and from Dan Bernstein and Claire Foerster, a further $10 million in pledges has already been received - with details to be announced in coming weeks - so the campaign has already reached 70% of its goal!

The $100-million campaign will provide the capital for a stunning new facility, designed by acclaimed architect Siamak Hariri of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini, along with a fund to support the long-term viability of the centre and the programs it will house.

At the heart of the new centre will be a jewel-box theatre with all of the character and intimacy of the existing Tom Patterson auditorium, but with greatly expanded production and patron facilities.

For 46 years, the Tom Patterson Theatre has been housed in a City-owned facility originally built in the early 20th century as a curling rink. Though a much-loved creative space, the theatre suffered from cramped and uncomfortable seating, poor accessibility and limited production capabilities. The structure has been deemed by the Festival's engineers to be at the end of its viable life.

"The Tom Patterson Theatre is one of our most treasured creative spaces," says Mr. Cimolino, "but one that is woefully inadequate for the calibre of performance and experience our patrons have come to expect. This campaign will allow us to turn it into a facility befitting the founder whose name it bears. Together with our artists, staff and most generous donors, we look forward to rekindling the infectious spirit that Tom Patterson inspired 65 years ago, a spirit that awakened a belief in Canadian creativity and changed the cultural landscape of this country." 

The auditorium at the heart of the new centre will be clad in softly lime-washed masonry and surrounded by a veil of shimmering glass, hung with thin bronze mullions. A two-acre terraced garden, beautiful enough to be a landmark in itself, will stretch from one end of the site to the other. 

The theatre will have a slightly larger capacity and longer season. Together with the expansion of the Festival's Forum, education and digital offerings, it is estimated that the new centre will generate an additional $14 million per year in economic activity, on top of the $134 million already generated annually by the Festival as a whole.

"Just as the creation of the Festival transformed our city 65 years ago, this new theatre will add great depth and opportunity to our community," says Ms Gaffney. "The expanded education and Forum activities will help us to develop new audiences - including the important youth market - and the beautiful auditorium will open wonderful creative avenues, setting us apart from other world-class theatres and helping us to attract visitors from around the globe."

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Martha Henry: From Miranda to Prospero

A legendary actress transforms the role of the master magician in The Tempest, directed this season by Antoni Cimolino.

As Martha Henry remarks, "It's kind of a bookend, isn't it?"

During her first Stratford Festival season, in 1962, Ms Henry played Miranda, teenage daughter of the exiled magician Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. This season, she will return to that same play in Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino's production, this time as Prospero himself - or rather, herself.

As she prepares for the start of rehearsals, we asked Ms Henry how the idea of portraying the iconic sorcerer as a woman came about, and if this is a part she has always had an ambition to play.

"No, absolutely not," she says. "It had never occurred to me - and in fact, when Antoni first mentioned it, I was conflicted. I've always thought Shakespeare wrote what he wrote - and he wrote a father and a daughter, and everything that implies. However, I realized that if this was a challenge, I'd better take it on. No point sitting back and not daring to confront your own beliefs.

"Now, as I work on the play, I'm beginning to see that Shakespeare was greater than even I had given him credit for. There are fascinating things about the play and the role that shift when Prospero becomes a woman. Antoni has already been fabulously helpful about this, giving me things to read and endless ideas to challenge me. 

"Seana's Lear, too, made me think differently about this cross-gender casting thing." (In January, Festival favourite Seana McKenna portrayed the title role in Groundling Theatre's LEAR, directed by Graham Abbey.) "She and Graham made King Lear into a play about a mother going gradually mad. I began to realize that Shakespeare's plays were huge enough to take any kind of revised thinking, really, as long as it's done with real, true investigation."

The practice of assigning traditionally male Shakespearean roles to women (though far from new) has not been without its critics. While Ms Henry can empathize with those who are reluctant to embrace the idea, she recognizes that it can open up a play to reveal new and through-provoking insights. And in the context of the news headlines of the past year, the time seems riper than ever to explore women's power and its place in the world.

"I know some of our long-time Stratford patrons have expressed doubts about this kind of casting," says Ms Henry. "I hardly blame them; I had doubts, too. But when I finally got it through my head that I had been denying the possibility that Shakespeare might have written something that could be looked at differently and would still be his, and thrillingly his - that he might well relish such a look at his story - the possibilities began to pour through the text in a way I hadn't remotely envisioned. And I realized it will still be The Tempest. As a playwright, he's limitless.

"Antoni has been reading The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, and he referred me to the section about Hypatia, an acknowledgedly brilliant woman in Alexandria who held huge public and personal influence. A member of the ancient world's pagan intellectual elite, she was eventually branded a witch, pulled from her chariot, stripped and murdered - ostensibly for siding with the faction that fought the removal of Jews from the city. Our Prospero, of course, was not murdered, but [her enemies] put her and her daughter on an old boat that they assumed would sink with her on it.

"The fact that nowadays women are gaining - and demanding - a voice in quite new ways lends this story of jealousy and betrayal a timely cast in 2018. We can look at the story through a modern lens and still thrill to Shakespeare's insight and compassion and magic. I'm becoming more and more taken with a point of view I never thought I would honour as I study and re-study this play."

As Prospero, Ms Henry will be sharing the stage with an incredibly talented and diverse cast - including a few former Birmingham Conservatory participants. She is greatly looking forward to rehearsing and performing with this particular ensemble, and feels it is one of the best aspects of this production.

"Well, of course, this - the wonderful cast - is the true glory of working at this remarkable Festival. You get to play with some of the greatest actors in the world. Lucy Peacock, playing Juno, for heaven's sake? It's a company to revel in. If I fall down, they'll pick me up."

Production support is generously provided by Jane Petersen Burfield & family, by Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, by Dr. M.L. Myers, by The Westaway Charitable foundation, and by Jack Whiteside.

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Music Lovers Rejoice!

The Forum offers glorious live concerts to delight your heart and soul.

Our exceptional Forum series of exclusive events and presentations includes a line-up of some of Canada most outstanding musical performers. Here's a taste of what we have in store for you this season:

Steven Page and Art of Time | July 13

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

Brent Carver and Art of Time | August 25

The Art of Time Ensemble returns to the Avon Theatre stage with Brent Carver for an uplifting concert featuring timeless musical favourites and some delightful new selections.

Eric McCormack: The Fantasticks in Concert | Date TBA

Watch for further details on this concert, featuring our 2017 Legacy Gala honouree and star of television's Will and Grace, Eric McCormack.

Expand your experience! For a full list of Forum events and to book your tickets, please visit our website.

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Discover Flexi-Groups – and Save!

Here’s a hassle-free way to bring your group to the Stratford Festival.

If you're planning a theatre visit for a group of ten or more, but you don't want the responsibility for collecting everyone's ticket money, we have the perfect solution for you with Flexi-Groups!

We'll provide a special promotion code for each member of your group to use online or by phone to purchase tickets at the group rate. That way, everyone gets their perfect choice of seat, and the group leader gets to relax and enjoy!

It doesn't get any easier than that.

For bookings or enquiries, please contact Heather Martin, Groups and Schools Sales Manager, at 1.800.561.1233, extension 2262, or by email at hmartin@stratfordfestival.ca

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A Piece of Paradise

Anastasia Warner, a student at Mercy High School in Michigan, tells us what Stratford means to her, why Shakespeare matters and what she learns from fellow audience members.

I first visited Stratford when I was eleven years old. My grandparents brought my sister and me to see Camelot, and it was the first professional play I had ever seen. I loved its music and jokes, and for the next few years I always asked to go to Stratford for my birthday.

In the following years, we saw a number of shows, including The Taming of the Shrew, my first Shakespeare play. At that point, I had just finished my first year of high school, and I hadn't yet studied any Shakespeare. I was amazed at how I could understand what the actors were saying, even though their words almost seemed to be a foreign language. That play is what sparked my interest in Shakespeare. I found it so funny and vibrant and was especially intrigued by the ambiguous ending. It proved to me that Shakespeare plays have so much to offer and so much to analyze.

So, following that summer, when I studied Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing in my literature class, I absolutely loved them. Much credit goes to my amazing teacher in inspiring our entire class to love 400-year-old works! This prompted many of us to take a Shakespeare-focused class the next year, in which we studied A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Henry IV, Parts I and II. Now, as a senior, I'm studying Twelfth Night.

What has been particularly exciting is the chance I've had to actually see some of these plays with my classmates and teachers in the past two years. In a simple way, driving to Stratford to spend the day with my classmates is an adventure. Every time we visit, it becomes one of the best days of the year. My classmates and I are always in awe of the beautiful grounds, river and gardens; the theatre looks like it was built atop a small wedge of paradise. I also love the Festival itself: the plays always make creative use of the unusual stage, and to me, the performances are perfect.

Whenever I take a seat in the audience, I can't help being excited. The lights dim, and I forget everything else - it seems the theatre is the entire world. The play is more engaging than watching a movie, because you're seeing the real action right in front of your eyes. Being an audience member means you're really part of the performance itself. For example, hearing the whole theatre laugh together makes the entire show more personal.

After the play ends, we walk out excitedly, sharing our praise for and impressions of the performance. Being able to exchange insights with my peers makes the experience more meaningful. Comments like "Lady Macbeth is so much younger than I expected! That makes her character seem doubly evil" are part of the post-play conversation. We reiterate the humour, remark on the violence and realize new depth together. Overall, sharing my love of Shakespeare with classmates allows for more appreciation and a more complex analysis of the play we saw together.

That's what makes theatre so important in my life, especially with Shakespeare's plays. As much as we read and study them, the text can't come to life like it does in the performance. These plays were meant to be performed. In watching them, we can have the same experience that the groundlings (or more dignified visitors) at the Globe had!

Several times during our annual visits, I've sat next to seniors and had the chance to talk to them. I've found that older audience members have a wider appreciation for the plays and often a better understanding of each, which makes it easy to learn from them. They always tell me that coming to Stratford is a very special tradition - they're regulars there, like my grandparents. That's how I want my life to be when I'm older.

Photos from top: Anastasia and her friend Celia, 2016; Anastasia and her classmates, 2017. Photo by: Clarisa Russenberger.

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Stratford Festival HD: Tickets to Canadian Cinema Screenings On Sale Now

Revel in the dramatic power and spectacle of Shakespeare on the silver screen!

Don't miss out: book your tickets today to experience two of our glorious Shakespeare productions in spectacular HD at a movie theatre near you.

Romeo and Juliet  premières on March 3 and Timon of Athens premières on April 22 in select movie theatres across Canada. 

 

 

Visit stratfordfestival.ca/HD to find a cinema near you. Tickets can be purchased through Cineplex cinemas.
U.S. dates will be released shortly - stay tuned!

Exciting award news!
We're pleased to announce that our 2017 film of Macbeth was recently nominated for Best Variety or Entertainment Special at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards coming up in March!

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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 The John and Myrna Daniels Charitable Foundation, 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.

Support for Stratford Festival HD has also been provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

Canadian distribution is through Cineplex, which specializes in bringing world-class events and performances to the big screen.

Screenings are followed by a broadcast window on CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster.