Performing Arts
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Stratford Festival unveils 2014 season - Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge,
Festival Theatre Plays
Festival Theatre photo by Richard Bain

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino has announced the 2014 season, in which, through the prism of a dozen plays, the Stratford Festival will explore the theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. "What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary places," says Mr. Cimolino. "Extreme stakes lead to great drama."

These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poverty, age, sexuality. In today's fast-paced global community, we are becoming ever more acutely aware of the consequences of such pressures. The issues behind them are interesting in themselves, but what they do to the human mind - to us - is ultimately the most fascinating thing. When the pressures of life become great enough, our minds give way to other realities. The result is often heartbreakingly tragic, but can also be a trigger for comedy."

The season coincides with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, and to mark that occasion, Mr. Cimolino has programmed five Shakespeare productions, including two versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream , a play that revolves around the madness of young love. "For the first time in our history, we will examine a Shakespeare play in two different productions within the same season," says Mr. Cimolino. "The first will be directed by one of Canada's most exciting young directors, Chris Abraham; the second by one of the most highly regarded, internationally acclaimed directors of Shakespeare, Peter Sellars: two very different approaches to Shakespeare's text."

The season will also feature King Lear ; Antony and Cleopatra; King John; The Beaux' Stratagem ; Mother Courage; Hay Fever; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Christina, The Girl King; and the musicals Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha. "I'm very excited about the creative teams who'll be working on this season with me," says Mr. Cimolino. "In addition to Chris and Peter, our lineup of directors includes the great Martha Henry and others whose work has captivated Festival audiences in recent seasons: Donna Feore, Tim Carroll and Gary Griffin. I'm also looking forward tremendously to the Stratford debuts of artistic leaders from other major Canadian cultural institutions - Jillian Keiley from the National Arts Centre, Alisa Palmer from the National Theatre School and Vanessa Porteous from Alberta Theatre Projects-as well as Robert McQueen, whose work in opera and musical theatre has been acclaimed internationally."


At the Festival Theatre

King Lear: by William Shakespeare, Directed by Antoni Cimolino

King Lear: The season will open at the Festival Theatre with the Shakespearean masterpiece King Lear, directed by Antoni Cimolino, whose sold-out production of Mary Stuart has been the runaway hit of 2013. King Lear is the ultimate example of a mind pushed to the edge. When the aging king decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, requiring each in turn to publicly profess how much she loves him, he sets in motion a train of events that will rob him of his home, his status and his sanity-everything except the honest love and loyalty of his youngest daughter, Cordelia. Meanwhile, the Earl of Gloucester is falsely persuaded by his illegitimate son, Edmund, that his other son, Edgar, is conspiring against him. Both these fathers pay for their misjudgments by being driven to the very limits of human endurance.

"King Lear speaks to the simple, naked humanity shared by everyone from a monarch to the poorest of the poor," says Mr. Cimolino. "It's from that essential humanity, not the trappings of wealth or power, that we claim our right to exist. After Lear loses everything, he finds that he is no longer who he thought he was. This loss is liberation. In his subsequent madness he sees his own folly, awakens to empathy and discovers his soul."

Like Mary Stuart this season, Mr. Cimolino's 2012 production of Cymbeline caught the public's imagination, and was twice extended to meet demand for tickets. His production of The Merchant of Venice opened last week to unanimous acclaim. Mr. Cimolino's other Shakespeare credits at Stratford include Coriolanus with Colm Feore and Martha Henry in 2006, As You Like It with Graham Abbey, Stephen Ouimette and Sara Topham in 2005, King John with Peter Donaldson and Stephen Ouimette in 2004, Love's Labour's Lost with Graham Abbey and Brian Bedford in 2003 and Twelfth Night with Domini Blythe, Peter Donaldson and William Hutt in 2001.

Crazy for You: Music by George Gershwin, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Book by Ken Ludwig, Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore

Never before produced by the Festival, Crazy for You will be directed and choreographed at the Festival Theatre by Donna Feore, the force behind a growing list of hit musicals at the Festival, including one of this season's hottest tickets, Fiddler on the Roof, as well as 2012's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 2007's Oklahoma! and 2006's Oliver!

Set in the 1930s, Crazy for You is the story of Bobby Child, the scion of a wealthy banking family, whose dream in life is to be a Broadway dancer. Sent by his mother to foreclose on a struggling theatre, he faces a dilemma when he falls in love with a local girl whose affections he will lose if he carries out his mother's commission. His solution: put on a show and pay off the theatre's mortgage. This high-energy romantic comedy - replete with mistaken identities, plot twists and stunning dance numbers-is packed with beloved Gershwin songs, including "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," "Nice Work if You Can Get It," "Embraceable You" and " Someone to Watch Over Me."

"Crazy for You presents a joyous view of love and madness," says Mr. Cimolino. "But the story is secondary to the powerful force of the Gershwin's' music. The bedrock of their work is the music of the Russian and Ukrainians teppes, which led the brothers to write brilliant, entertaining, lively music, with an energy and madness of its own. It is the music of adversity now finding itself in the new world, in what should be the land of milk and honey." Next year, Ms Feore will celebrate her 20th season with the Festival. To her musical credits, Ms Feore adds the choreography of more than 20 productions here, as well as the direction of the captivating production of Cyrano de Bergerac in 2009. Ms Feore's other credits include directing The Very, Very Best of Broadway with Martin Short and Marvin Hamlisch; the Canadian Stage productions of Rock 'n' Roll and It's a Wonderful Life; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Lecture on the Weather and A Soldier's Tale with F. Murray Abraham; and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Mozart: A Life in Letters. Her film credits include Politics Is Cruel, Mean Girls, Eloise, Martin and Lewis, Stormy Weather and the opera films Romeo and Juliette and Don Giovanni Unmasked.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: by William Shakespeare, Directed by Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, hot off his spell-binding production of Othello, will direct his first Shakespeare on the Festival Stage, A Midsummer Night's Dream. This delightful Shakespearean comedy of unrequited desire is imbued with the same life force that permeates Crazy for You. The madness of love runs riot as Hermia flees to the woods with her lover, Lysander, to escape her father's command that she marry Demetrius. Demetrius follows, pursued by Helena, whose love he spurns. Their romantic problems intensify when the fairy world intervenes.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream explores the madness of young love - intemperate, powerful, blind, rash," says Mr. Cimolino. "It is Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. This young love, however, exists in a male-dominated world where parents want to control their children's natural desires, causing a series of metamorphoses. Even the natural world revolts at man's determination to subvert these desires, putting the climate in disarray."

Mr. Abraham, who is Artistic Director of Crow's Theatre in Toronto, will mark his fifth season at Stratford, where he has quickly established himself as a director of note with stellar productions of The Matchmaker, The Little Years and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again to his credit. He has won numerous awards in his career, including a Dora for The Little Years, which he directed at Tarragon after its Stratford run. He also has received Doras for Eternal Hydra and Easy Lenny Lazmon, and a Gemini for I, Claudia, and was the recipient of the Siminovitch Protégé Award in 2002. His other credits include Someone Else, Seeds and BOXHEAD at Crow's Theatre; The Patient Hour at Tarragon; Blue/Orange at Canadian Stage; Antigone and The Lesson at Soulpepper; and Hedda Gabler, The Glass Menagerie and Salt-Water Moon at the Saidye Bronfman Centre.

The Beaux' Stratagem by George Farquhar, Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Opening later in the season at the Festival Theatre is George Farquhar's brilliant Restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem, directed by Antoni Cimolino. It is the first Restoration comedy produced in Stratford since The Country Wife in 1995. Written in 1707, The Beaux' Stratagem follows the madly comic antics of two impoverished rakes, who, disguising their identities, arrive in the town of Lichfield seeking to restore their fortunes by wooing wealthy women. As the two connive to relieve ladies of their wealth, they must contend with a suspicious local innkeeper and his band of highwaymen, and with an acquaintance privy to their true identity. "In The Beaux' Stratagem, the necessity of coping with the realities of marriage and personal finance give way to a romp," says Mr. Cimolino. "One of the last of the Restoration comedies, it was written by the amazing George Farquhar, who himself was dying and hoped the play would finance his family after his death. It is very funny and I look forward enormously to directing it."

Festival Theatre stage photo by Terry Manzo  Front gardens, photo by Mike Keenan  Gardens, photo by Mike Keenan  Raising the tent sculpture, photo by Mike Keenan  Trumpets, photo by Mike Keenan


Stratford Festival 2013 Season | Making of Visitors Guide

Tommy | "I'm Free" and "Pinball Wizard (Reprise)" | Stratford Festival 2013


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