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September 2 – October 17
Cabaret

VIRTUAL SELECTIONS FROM WHY WE TELL THE STORY

Curated and Directed by Marcus Nance


A CELEBRATION OF BLACK MUSICAL THEATRE

Throughout the ages the African-American community has told stories of life, love, pain and hope through the glorious expressions of musical theatre and poetry. In this update of the sold-out 2019 Meighen Forum concert, Festival artists take you on a journey with the voices of legendary Black poets and the music of the African-American musical-theatre canon, including hits from Aida, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Color Purple, Hamilton, The Lion King, Once on This Island, Show Boat and many more. As Maya Angelou said, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, / I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

Virtual: Selections from Why We Tell the Story - Song & Readings List

House Program: Why We Tell the Story

Virtual Runtime: One hour and 4 minutes

Study Guide: Why We Tell the Story


Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin.


Production Co-Sponsor
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CAST & CREATIVE

    Neema Bickersteth
    Singer
    2021: Singer in Why We Tell the Story. Stratford debut. Canadian soprano Neema Bickersteth is an award-winning singer, actor and maker of multi-disciplinary work. She has performed internationally in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, including having the great honour of performing for the XIVth Dalai Lama, for Shirin Abadi, and for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In recent years, Neema has specialized in contemporary multidisciplinary music projects. neemabee.ca
    Robert Markus
    Singer

    2021: Co-curator of Play On! and Singer in Why We Tell the Story. Fourth season. Stratford: Up Close and Musical (Stratfest@Home), The Rocky Horror Show, Tommy, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof. Elsewhere: Dear Evan Hansen (Mirvish); Lil' Red Robin Hood (Ross Petty Productions); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Theatre Aquarius); Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, Seussical, James and the Giant Peach (YPT); Our Town, Sweeney Todd (Shaw Festival); UnCovered: Queen and Bowie (Musical Stage Company); Dream a Little Dream, Shrek (Grand Theatre); Chicago, Twist and Shout (Drayton Entertainment); Next to Normal (Citadel Theatre/Theatre Calgary); The Rocky Horror Show, A Christmas Carol (Citadel Theatre); Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago (Mayfield); Hunchback (Catalyst). Film/TV: If I Only Had Christmas (Hallmark Channel). Training: BFA, University of Alberta. Online: robertmarkus.com. Instagram: @rjbmarkus. Et cetera: Special thanks to family, friends, TH, and JRS, for their constant support.

    Marcus Nance
    Singer

    2021: Curator and director of and Singer in Why We Tell the Story. 10th season. Stratford (highlights): Up Close and Musical: Voice of a Preacher's Son, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Carousel, Crazy for You, Jesus Christ Superstar, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird, My One and Only. Elsewhere: La Bohème, Jesus Christ Superstar (Broadway); Sweeney Todd, Floyd Collins, Pal Joey (Shaw Festival); Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast (Grand Theatre); Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Mermaid, Mikado (Drayton); Evangeline (Charlottetown); Kismet, Of Thee I Sing (Encores! N.Y.C.); Jesus Christ Superstar (La Jolla); Dark Star Requiem (Luminato); Porgy and Bess (Toronto Symphony); Elsewhereless (Tapestry). Film/TV: Murdoch Mysteries, Departure, Mayday, Prodigal Son, The Producers, Beatrice Chancy. Recordings: The Voice Next Door. Awards: Metropolitan Opera winner, Dora nominee. Training: Fresno State University. Online: marcusnance.com.

    Vanessa Sears
    Singer

    2021: Singer in Why We Tell the Story. Third season. Stratford: Up Close and Musical, Mum in Billy Elliot, Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors. Elsewhere: Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (Bad Hats and Soulpepper); Emmie in Caroline, or Change, Edwina in Passing Strange (Musical Stage Company and Obsidian); Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Young People's Theatre); Flaemmchen in Grand Hotel, Polly Plummer in The Magician's Nephew, Zoe in An Octoroon (Shaw Festival); Nicola in Kinky Boots (Mirvish). Film/TV: Sex/Life, Tallboyz, Too Close for Christmas, Love in the Wilds, Suits. Directing: Talk is Free Theatre, Grand Theatre London, Sheridan College. Awards: Dora Awards: Caroline, or Change, Kinky Boots, The Wizard of Oz. Critic's Pick: Mary Poppins, Passing Strange. Toronto Theatre Critics Award: Passing Strange. Online: Instagram: @vanessa_sears. Twitter: @nessasears.

    Franklin Brasz
    Keyboard

    2021: Director of Music for the Stratford Festival. Music director of and Keyboard for Why We Tell the Story and Finally There's Sun. 12th season. Stratford: Billy Elliot, The Music Man, HMS Pinafore, A Little Night Music, Carousel, Man of La Mancha, Pirates of Penzance, Kiss Me, Kate, Funny Thing Happened... (Stratford/Mirvish). In concert: Up Close and Musical (Stratfest@Home), The Fantasticks, Passion, Next to Normal. Elsewhere: Toronto/US tours: Show Boat, Ragtime, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Billy Elliot, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, The Lord of the Rings, Threepenny Opera (Soulpepper); London Symphonia's Enchanting Broadway. Recordings: Carousel, Crazy for You (Stratford cast recordings); The Voice Next Door (Marcus Nance). Training: Vocal Coaching and Accompanying, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dedication: Franklin dedicates this season's performances to the memory of his cherished friend Pablo Keselman, who supported great singers and musicians, and deeply admired cabaret.

    Dale-Anne Brendon
    Drum Kit
    2021: Drum Kit for Why We Tell the Story and Play On! Stratford: Drummer for Tommy (2013), Jesus Christ Superstar (2011), Evita (2010). Elsewhere: Substitute drummer for Come From Away (Toronto), drummer for Randy Bachman's Heavy Blues album and tour (2015), drummer/percussionist for Jeans 'n Classics - North American touring band, percussion for Grey Gardens at Berkeley Street Theatre, Toronto (2016). Endorser of Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, ProMark drumsticks. Online: daleannebrendon.com; youtube.com/daleannebrendon.
    Jon Maharaj
    Acoustic Bass, Electric Bass
    2021: Basses for Why We Tell the Story and Play On! Stratford debut. Jon Maharaj is a JUNO Award-winning bassist who has performed and/or recorded with The Tenors, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Allison Au, Amanda Tosoff and many others. He has toured North America extensively with a variety of artists and has performed overseas, everywhere from Tokyo to Monte Carlo. He is currently playing bass in the Canadian company of the Tony-winning musical Come From Away, a position he has held since January 2018. Jon is also on faculty at Humber College in Toronto, where he has been teaching since 2003.
    Kevin Ramessar
    Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
    2021: Guitars for Why We Tell the Story and Play On! Eighth season. Multi-instrumentalist, conductor, and composer Kevin Ramessar enjoys collaborating on stage, in the studio and in the classroom. He teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University and is a frequent adjudicator and guest instructor. Stratford: Romero in Man of La Mancha, Guitars in A Chorus LineTommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita; onstage musician in Bartholomew Fair, Fuente Ovejuna. Broadway: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, Gettin' the Band Back Together. Elsewhere: Tony Awards orchestra; We're Gonna Die (Second Stage); London Road (Canadian Stage). Recordings: Spanish, classical and fingerstyle guitar recordings available in the Theatre Store (Sojourn, Echoes, Acoustic Christmas). Publications: Musicians Institute Curriculum Series: The Guitar Program, Reading (Volumes 2, 3, 4), WBH MusicWorks. Online: kevinramessar.com. Et cetera: Co-founder of Virtual Broadway (virtualbway.com).
    Marcus Nance
    Curator and Director

    2021: Curator and director of and Singer in Why We Tell the Story. 10th season. Stratford (highlights): Up Close and Musical: Voice of a Preacher's Son, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man, Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, Carousel, Crazy for You, Jesus Christ Superstar, Moby Dick, To Kill a Mockingbird, My One and Only. Elsewhere: La Bohème, Jesus Christ Superstar (Broadway); Sweeney Todd, Floyd Collins, Pal Joey (Shaw Festival); Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast (Grand Theatre); Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Mermaid, Mikado (Drayton); Evangeline (Charlottetown); Kismet, Of Thee I Sing (Encores! N.Y.C.); Jesus Christ Superstar (La Jolla); Dark Star Requiem (Luminato); Porgy and Bess (Toronto Symphony); Elsewhereless (Tapestry). Film/TV: Murdoch Mysteries, Departure, Mayday, Prodigal Son, The Producers, Beatrice Chancy. Recordings: The Voice Next Door. Awards: Metropolitan Opera winner, Dora nominee. Training: Fresno State University. Online: marcusnance.com.

    Franklin Brasz
    Music Director

    2021: Director of Music for the Stratford Festival. Music director of and Keyboard for Why We Tell the Story and Finally There's Sun. 12th season. Stratford: Billy Elliot, The Music Man, HMS Pinafore, A Little Night Music, Carousel, Man of La Mancha, Pirates of Penzance, Kiss Me, Kate, Funny Thing Happened... (Stratford/Mirvish). In concert: Up Close and Musical (Stratfest@Home), The Fantasticks, Passion, Next to Normal. Elsewhere: Toronto/US tours: Show Boat, Ragtime, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Billy Elliot, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, The Lord of the Rings, Threepenny Opera (Soulpepper); London Symphonia's Enchanting Broadway. Recordings: Carousel, Crazy for You (Stratford cast recordings); The Voice Next Door (Marcus Nance). Training: Vocal Coaching and Accompanying, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dedication: Franklin dedicates this season's performances to the memory of his cherished friend Pablo Keselman, who supported great singers and musicians, and deeply admired cabaret.

    Kaileigh Krysztofiak
    Lighting Designer

    2021: Lighting designer of Why We Tell the Story, You Can't Stop the Beat, Play On!, Freedom and Finally There's Sun. Ninth season. Stratford: Lighting designer, Othello, The Comedy of Errors. Assistant lighting designer, six seasons (2011-2016). Selected credits: A Chorus Line, Tommy, A Word or Two, Jesus Christ Superstar. Studio Theatre technical director, 2013. Elsewhere: Honour Beat (Grand), After the Fire, The Particulars (Punctuate, The Theatre Centre); Kinky Boots, Newsies (Drayton Entertainment); Salt-Water Moon (Mirvish, Factory, Why Not); Wildfire (RARE, Soulpepper); The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely, The Breath in Between (Crow's); Superior Donuts (Coal Mine); Laurier (Charlottetown Festival, TNB); Beaver (Storefront); Noises Off (Soulpepper); A Line in the Sand, The Crackwalker (Factory Theatre); Hana Hashimoto (Carousel Players). Training: National Theatre School of Canada. Et cetera: Course Lecturer at Ryerson University, Instructor at the NTSC, General Manager of Lights On Stratford, a two-time Dora nominee and a 2020 Pauline McGibbon Award nominee.

    Peter McBoyle
    Sound Designer
    2021: Sound designer of Why We Tell the Story, You Can't Stop the Beat, Play On!, Freedom and Finally There's Sun. 26th season. Stratford (selected): Over 60 productions including Billy Elliot, Little Shop of Horrors, The Music Man, The Rocky Horror Show, Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, Shakespeare in Love, Crazy for You, A Word or Two. Elsewhere: Peter has worked at most major Canadian theatres and in US cities such as New York, Las Vegas, Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. Broadway credits: Come Fly Away and Barrymore. Tours include Sister Act, Catch Me If You Can, Come Fly Away, Legally Blonde and West Side Story. Recent projects include Little Canada (Toronto), Immersive Van Gogh (Canada/US), Battle of the Blades (CBC). Training: Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Music (McGill). Awards: Suzi (Atlanta), Come Fly Away; Dora nomination, Caroline, Or Change, Fire. Et cetera: Thanks to Meghan, Ella and Beatrice for their unending support.
    Michael Hart
    Stage Manager
    2021: Stage manager of Why We Tell the Story. 25th season. Stratford: 24 seasons at the Stratford Festival including Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show, Timon of Athens, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Adventures of Pericles, Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit, The Tempest starring Christopher Plummer, The Importance of Being Earnest, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, The Duchess of Malfi, The Swanne Trilogy, amongst others. Theatre Credits (selected): Heisenberg, Liv Stein (Canadian Stage); Constellations (Centaur/Canadian Stage); Body Politic (Buddies); The Death of the King (Modern Times); The Winter's Tale (Groundling); Bombay Black (Factory); Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary (Pleiades); Saint Carmen of The Main (NAC/Canadian Stage); Romeo and Juliet (NAC); Mother Courage and Her Children (NAC/MTC); Real Live Girl (MTC); Fully Committed, Silence, Einstein's Gift (Grand Theatre); Wit (Centaur); Hamlet (Neptune).
    Cynthia Toushan
    Production Stage Manager

    2021: Production stage manager of the Festival Theatre Canopy and Studio Theatre. 25th season. Stratford: Shows include Chicago (interrupted by COVID), Billy Elliot, A Chorus Line, Crazy for You, Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot, Oklahoma!, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Hello, Dolly!, The King and I and others. Elsewhere: Over 40 years as a stage manager in live entertainment including gala events, music concerts, opening ceremonies and fundraising events including A Christmas Carol for the Stratford Hospice. Over 25 years with the Canadian Opera Company as a stage manager; production stage manager and resident director of Jersey Boys, Toronto; 25 years as a singer/dancer and choreographer in Canadian theatre; associate director/choreographer to her mentor, Alan Lund. Et cetera: Love to Paul, daughters Stephanie and Jennifer, son-in-law Andrew, and her grandchildren, Kennedy, Koston and Connor. I am so grateful to be back at work.

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