Tom Patterson Theatre
Thursdays, July 3 to August 28
9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and special guests lead discussions on themes of the season.
All in the Family
Thursday, July 3
According to Aristotle, the best Greek tragedies were about “a handful of families.” New Comedy in the Hellenistic period wrote about domestic affairs and peopled the plays with stock characters such as stern fathers and thwarted lovers. King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Crazy for You, Hay Fever and several other plays on this season’s playbill reflect a similar concern with family dynamics. Why did the Greeks believe the best drama is family-inspired? What, if anything, do we learn from these plays about how to live successfully within a family unit?
Life Is But a Dream
Thursday, July 10
Dreams are often just fantastic adventures filled with fantastical creatures, as Alice discovers in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. However we do uncover truths about ourselves and our world by interpreting our dreams. What truths are revealed by the dreams of the characters in Alice, Man of La Mancha and A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What real experiences are explained away by reducing dreams to “airy nothings?” Why are dreams often seen as a source of artistic creativity?
“O, that way madness lies.”
Thursday, July 17
Both King Lear and Don Quixote journey into madness. Yet both men gain insight and understanding as they suffer through dementia and illusions of grandeur, finding meaning and purpose before they die. Do we have to travel such a path to discover our own truths or can we discover second-hand what it means to be human by being present at these plays where we witness the characters’ insights through suffering?
Plays Are the Semblance of Reality
Thursday, July 24
The Greek playwright Menander was credited with wondering, “Life? Art? Which is which?” How does art imitate life and vice versa? The central tension of theatre is the fine line between illusion and reality. Although the actors carry the primary responsibility, the art of stagecraft plays a major role in maintaining that tension. An exploration of this issue and how the productions this season navigate the balancing act can help us understand how we, the audience, have an important role to play in maintaining the illusion or accepting its destruction.
A Question of Identity
Thursday, July 31
“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” asks King Lear, who has believed that his socially constructed role defined him. Unlike Lear, Christina in Christina, The Girl King honours her authentic self in abdicating her throne. Cleopatra chooses death in order to be true to herself (or is she)? The Bastard in King John wears whatever identity is offered. Socially constructed roles and our inner sense of identity are often at odds. Do the playwrights this season offer us any guidance in resolving this tension?
Marriage: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Thursday, August 7
Oscar Wilde suggested that since “one should always be in love, one should never marry.” Some of the plays this season seem to support his suggestion. Antony marries Octavia for political expediency and then returns to Egypt and the arms of Cleopatra. In The Beaux’ Stratagem, marriage is an opportunity to acquire wealth and, once married, a miserable existence like Lady Sullen’s. In Hay Fever, the marriage of Judith and David Bliss has become a fractious one. Does love, as Judith Bliss suggests, “wear a little thin” within the confines of marriage or do the other pragmatic reasons for marrying cause the unhappy outcomes?
“Love is merely a madness.”
Thursday, August 14
Romantic love informs many of the plays on this season’s playbill. Antony, in Antony and Cleopatra, abandons reason for passion. The lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream indulge their emotions and then attempt to rationalize their bizarre behaviour. Crazy for You, Man of La Mancha and The Beaux’ Stratagem all contain lovers acting irrationally. Plato, a disciple of reason, claimed that “the madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings.” Was he right, or is reason the best guide to the good life?
Thursday, August 21
Antoni Cimolino in conversation with special guest Rev. Dr. Paul Edmondson, Head of Knowledge and Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
War: Organized Insanity for Power and Profit
Thursday, August 28
In Mother Courage and Her Children, Bertolt Brecht suggests that war is a profit venture where money becomes more important than human beings. In King John, King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra power politics lead to unnecessary conflicts and needless death. Is our seemingly insatiable hunger for wealth and power the reason for the continuation of war? Are we doomed to repeat the pattern no matter the predictable outcome?