Stratford's 2014 Program at the Avon & Tom Patterson Theatres
Avon Theatre photo by Terry Manzo
Hay Fever: by Noël Coward, directed by Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director of the National Theatre School English Section, who makes her Festival debut at the Avon Theatre as the director of Noël Coward's celebrated comedy Hay Fever. As stylish as it is intoxicatingly absurd,
Hay Fever introduces audiences to the Bliss family: a retired actress mother, novelist father and two children, all prone to their own outrageous eccentricities. The family's self-absorbed antics astound and ultimately exasperate the various guests that each of them has invited to their country house for the weekend. Driven to distraction by a comic maelstrom of rousing fights, fevered flirtations and histrionic role-playing, the guests eventually flee, leaving the Blisses happily playing and bickering amongst themselves.
"This is one of the great opportunities for energetic comedy within the theme of madness," says Mr. Cimolino. "Theatre is about taking ordinary situations and pushing them to the extreme - and what could be more delightful than experiencing this through the lives of a theatre family? These people pretend to have an interest in conventional living, in entertaining at their country property. But as we can see by the end, they really are in a world all their own. It's as if they lived only on the stage-sheer madness!"
Ms Palmer is currently collaborating with Ann-Marie MacDonald and Torquil Campbell on a Festival commission to develop a musical reflection on Hamlet. An internationally award-winning director, playwright and producer, Ms Palmer has worked in a range of genres, including classics, contemporary plays, creation projects, musicals and operas. A former Artistic Director of Toronto's
and long-time director at the Shaw Festival, Ms Palmer has directed across Canada, winning seven
for her work, as well as two
for her plays i.d. and A Play About the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. Her Shaw credits include Pal Joey, The Philanderer, The Women, Belle Moral: A Natural History, Sunday in the Park with George and Diana of Dobson's. Her other credits include The Children's Republic and East of Berlin at Tarragon, Cloud 9 for Mirvish Productions, the acclaimed Top Girls at Soulpepper, and Mrs. Warren's Profession and The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
Man of La Mancha: Music by Mitch Leigh, Lyrics by Joe Darion, Book by Dale Wasserman,
Directed by Robert McQueen, Choreographed by Marc Kimelman. Robert McQueen, whose work in music ala theatre and opera has been recognized both nationally and internationally, will make his Stratford debut at the helm of Man of La Mancha, to be staged at the Avon Theatre. Featuring the timeless anthem "The Impossible Dream,"
Man of La Mancha follows the saga of the aging Miguel de Cervantes, playwright, poet and tax collector, who finds himself in a dungeon in Seville awaiting trial by the Inquisition for an offence against the Church. When his fellow prisoners try to confiscate his few possessions, including the uncompleted manuscript of his most famous work, the novel Don Quixote, Cervantes defends his masterpiece by proposing that he present it to them as a play. To this end, Cervantes and his manservant transform themselves into Don Quixote and his fiercely loyal servant, Sancho Panza, recruiting prisoners to take on the roles of other characters. What follows is the stirring tale of the mad Quixote and his obsessive quest to attain the impossible dream. It is the lunatic who sees most clearly in Man of La Mancha, as in King Lear.
"Man of La Mancha is a beautiful contrast to Crazy for You," says Mr. Cimolino. "The source material, Don Quixote, is from the Spanish Golden Age, and you can see that period's theatrical influence on Shakespeare in the Romance plays. Man of La Mancha takes that source material and puts it through the lens of American musical theatre. It depicts a pure, chaste, romantic and mature love - love that elevates the beloved. It is an extraordinary musical because of the story and the characters. Despite dark content, it manages to be inspiring, making us question what is actually the saner choice: to live in filth and despair, or to pursue the romantic ideal."
Mr. McQueen directed Caroline, or Change, the Acting Up Stage musical that took Toronto by storm in 2012. His recent work includes the direction and dramaturgy of the new musical theatre piece Where Elephants Weep, at the Cambodian Living Arts centre in Phnom Pehn, The Light in the Piazza and Strauss's final opera, Capriccio, for
in Victoria. In 2009 he directed a Tokyo-based creative team and acting company in a Japanese-language production of Carousel at the Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo. For the Vancouver Opera he served as director and dramaturge for The Magic Flute. The project, for which he also adapted the libretto, was a collaboration with a 15-member creative team of Canadian aboriginal and non-native visual artists and theatre-makers. His other work includes directing La Bohème for the
Canadian Opera Company
and serving as associate director of the Broadway and national touring productions of Mamma Mia, as well as the direction of the Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires productions.
Alice Through the Looking-Glass: Adapted by James Reaney, Directed by Jillian Keiley. Twenty years after its Stratford première, the Festival is pleased to present Lewis Carroll's wildly inventive fantasy
Alice Through the Looking-Glass, in an adaptation commissioned by the Festival from nationally renowned playwright and poet James Reaney, a native son of Stratford. So popular was the 1994 production that it was re-mounted in 1996 to the great delight of audiences of all ages. Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of English Theatre at the National Arts Centre, will bring her remarkable creative vision to the piece, to be staged at the Avon Theatre and produced in association with the National Arts Centre.
"The underlying material for Alice Through the Looking-Glass is, of course, iconic and examines a fantasy world filled with some of the greatest and most familiar nonsense verse," says Mr. Cimolino. "The characters - the Walrus and the Carpenter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty and the Jabberwock - are the inhabitants of the farthest reaches of a child's imagination." Deciding to explore the alternative world she sees inside her living-room mirror, Alice finds a place that in some aspects resembles her home yet differs from it in ways as delightful as they are surreal.
Ms Keiley won the 2004
for her "startlingly original and radically imaginative" directing style, making her an ideal candidate to take on the sublime nonsense of both Lewis Carroll and James Reaney. She is also the recipient of the
Canada Council's John Hirsch Award
. Her credits include Tempting Providence , which she created in collaboration with playwright Robert Chafe, and which, over a 10-year run, toured across Canada and abroad, as did Afterimage. She and Mr. Chafe, the co-founders of Newfoundland's Artistic Fraud, also collaborated on Oil and Water, at
. Ms Keiley made a big splash with her first project as Artistic Director of the
, Metamorphoses, a play by Mary Zimmerman, which re-imagines 10 classical myths. Set around a giant swimming pool, this theatrical event allowed audiences to experience the consequences of humanity's deepest desires. Ms Keiley's Stratford connection dates back to 2008, when she was selected as a participant in the International Master Directors Summit.
Tom Patterson Theatre
Mother Courage: by Bertolt Brecht, Directed by Martha Henry. Considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century-and perhaps the greatest anti-war play of all time - Bertolt Brecht's
Mother Courage will be directed by one of the Festival's most celebrated artists, Martha Henry, returning for a remarkable 40th season with the Stratford Festival in 2014. Ms Henry's contributions to the Festival include the direction of numerous critically acclaimed productions, including this season's Measure for Measure, 2009's Three Sisters, 2007's Of Mice and Men and 2002's Elizabeth Rex.
Mother Courage was written in 1939 as a response to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Set in 17th century Europe and spanning 12 years, the story follows Mother Courage as she struggles to make a living and to protect her three children during the Thirty Years' War. By the end of the play, having lost everyone she loves and almost everything she owns, she has truly been driven to the edge - yet somehow she finds the will to carry on.
"Mother Courage presents a world in which the madness of war becomes not only day-to-day but something that the people can't live without," says Mr. Cimolino. "It represents profit. It represents the new normal. In that respect it is like our world today. As the characters cynically take advantage of the opportunities for commercial gain that the war provides, they lose anything of real worth, including their souls. They lose their children, they lose their freedom, they lose their self-respect and eventually they lose their lives."
A Companion of the Order of Canada
and a recipient of the
Governor General's Lifetime Achievement Award
, Ms Henry boasts a career without parallel in this country. Her work opposite the great William Hutt was truly the stuff of dreams, beginning with her portrayal of Miranda to his Prospero and also including Mary to his James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night. Her Shakespearean roles include Titania, Lady Macduff, Helena, Luciana, Cressida, Viola, the Countess of Rossillion, Cymbeline's Queen, Lady Anne, Queen Eleanor, Cordelia, Goneril, Rosaline, the Princess of France, Thaisa, Desdemona, Lady Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Isabella, Beatrice, Paulina and Volumnia. As Director of the
Festival's Birmingham Conservatory
, Ms Henry is training a whole new generation of classical actors.
King John: by William Shakespeare, Directed by Tim Carroll. King John, the story of a monarch trying desperately to maintain his grip on power, will be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre in a production directed by Tim Carroll.
King John looks at a mind driven by the dangerous combination of ambition and insecurity," says Mr. Cimolino. "John commits horrible acts to secure a position he rightly holds. There is a wonderful range of characters in this play who navigate, with varying degrees of success, the pressures of politics, ambition, legitimacy and loss. From Hubert the mercenary, asked to commit an atrocity, to Constance, who wishes she were mad to escape the pain of her child's murder, it is the Bastard (a very different bastard from Edmund in King Lear) who comes through the play with the most honour and integrity."
Tim Carroll, who this season gave audiences the opportunity to see a Romeo and Juliet as Shakespeare might have presented it at the
, will transport audiences to the Blackfriars Theatre in a candlelit production of King John. Mr. Carroll, former Associate Director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, directed a sold-out production of Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance, which transferred from the Globe to London's West End, garnering four
this year, and which will open on Broadway in the fall. Mr. Carroll is one of the world's most respected directors of Shakespeare. His Globe credits also include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Tempest and The Golden Ass. For the
he directed The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream. His international credits include Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, The Duchess of Malfi and Victory for the Barka Theatre in Budapest; All's Well That Ends Well for the National Theatre in Craiova, Romania; Amadeus for the National Theatre in Portugal; and A Midsummer Night's Dream for the
Sydney Opera House
. He is a founding member of The Factory, in London, for which he directed three theatre experiments: Hamlet, The Seagull and The Odyssey. Mr. Carroll made his Stratford debut as director of the wildly popular Peter Pan in 2010.
Antony and Cleopatra: by William Shakespeare, Directed by Gary Griffin. Gary Griffin, Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, will return for a fifth season to direct
Antony and Cleopatra at the Tom Patterson Theatre. The play, produced just four times before at Stratford, follows the relationship of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with Mark Antony, who, having defeated
Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, is now one of the three rulers of the Roman republic. Criticized for neglecting his political and military responsibilities - and his wife in Rome - as he dallies in Alexandria with
Cleopatra, Antony attempts to break free of Cleopatra's spell, and returns to Rome to help crush an incipient rebellion. Once there, his wife having died, he agrees to a political marriage, enraging Cleopatra. But Antony cannot long endure his separation from the bewitching Egyptian queen: when war breaks out, he abandons his new wife and returns to Egypt, a choice that leads to his own and Cleopatra's tragic ends.
"Antony and Cleopatra examines older love and the pressures of being madly in love when you know better," says Mr. Cimolino. "This play has some of the most incredibly lyrical and intense love poetry ever written, along with beautiful observations on life that speak to us today, in a world where second and third marriages have never been more common."
Mr. Griffin has a string of hit productions to his credit at Stratford, including 42nd Street, Camelot, Evita and West Side Story. He won an Olivier Award for outstanding musical for his production of Pacific Overtures at the
in London. On Broadway, he was the director of Oprah Winfrey's production of The Color Purple and of The Apple Tree. His Off-Broadway credits include Music in the Air, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pardon My English and The New Moon for City Center Encores!, Saved at
; and Beautiful Thing at the Cherry Lane. He has won numerous awards for his work at
, where his credits include Amadeus, Passion, A Flea in Her Ear, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Pacific Overtures.
Christina, The Girl King: by Michel Marc Bouchard, Translated by Linda Gaboriau, Directed by Vanessa Porteous. The Festival is delighted to present Linda Gaboriau's translation of Michel Marc Bouchard's
Christina, The Girl King. Written by one of Quebec's most celebrated playwrights, the play will make its English-language première at the Studio Theatre, directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of
Alberta Theatre Projects
. Commissioned as a translation by the Festival in 2010, the play is the story of
Christina of Sweden, an extraordinarily modern character who was born just 10 years after Shakespeare's death. Hers is a story of bringing sanity to an insane world. The enigmatic ruler showed a passion for philosophy, literature and the arts but her lifestyle and refusal to marry proved sources of great concern at court. Rather than bow to pressure to conform to the expectations of others, the 26-year-old queen abdicates in order to be free to pursue her own aspirations. Is this an act of madness? Or is Christina's the story of a modern woman born out of her time - one whom the 17th century simply couldn't contain?
"Michel Marc Bouchard has such a great gift for helping us understand the situation of the person who does not fit in," says Mr. Cimolino. "In Christina, The Girl King, he has beautifully brought to life the story of a historical figure who had the courage to step outside of the society that attempted to bind her in. As the daughter of a Protestant warrior king-himself one of the driving forces of the
Thirty Years' War depicted in Mother Courage-she was expected to get married, have children and adhere to the Spartan values of the Swedish nation as it was then. Instead she introduced foreign, and then radical scientific and philosophical ideas, and strained to remain unmarried and independent." "Bouchard examines the pressures inherent in her sexual and personal self-discovery in a highly compelling play. The pressures in her life push her to the edge. Rather than give over to madness, which would be the only outcome of staying on as queen, she leaves her throne and her country, moving to Rome where she is free to live outside of marriage as a patron of the arts." Ms Porteous makes her Festival debut with this production.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: by William Shakespeare, A Chamber Play Directed by Peter Sellars. Peter Sellars, renowned for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces, comes to the Festival for the first time to stage his re-imagined version of
A Midsummer Night's Dream. With a cast of four actors playing all of the roles, this staging will offer an intensely focused approach to Shakespeare's examination of the role-playing, mercurial mood swings, delusional fantasy, deep hurt, and forgiveness and release at the heart of human relationships.
"What is extraordinary about Stratford is not that we do 12 plays in one year, but that we do them all at the same time, giving theatre-goers an opportunity to experience one play in light of another. Next season, for the first time ever, we will offer a chance for audiences to experience the same title in two very different productions, along with further opportunities for exploration in The Forum," says Mr. Cimolino. "I look forward to welcoming Peter to the Stratford Festival," he adds. "I have greatly enjoyed his work in opera and Shakespeare for its beauty, vulnerability and intelligence. When Peter spoke to me about his ideas for Dream, I sensed an opportunity to create not only an exploration but a celebration of this great play."
Mr. Sellars has worked with an extraordinary range of creative artists over the past three decades. His landmark staging of Sophocles' Ajax, set at the Pentagon, was invited to tour Europe and ignited his international career. Other noteworthy theatre projects include a 1994 staging of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice set in southern California with a cast of black, white, Latino and Asian-American actors; a production of Euripides' The Children of Herakles, focusing on contemporary immigration and refugee issues and experience; and, in 2009, Othello, inspired by and set in the America of newly elected President Barack Obama. Desdemona, Sellars's recent collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traore, has been performed in Vienna, Brussels, Paris, Berkeley, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam and Naples, and was presented in London as part of the
2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Tickets for the 2014 season of the Stratford Festival go on sale to Members on November 11, 2013, and to the general public on January 4, 2014, with a special advance sale on
Facebook beginning January 2.
"I Don Quixote" Man of La Mancha
Linda Eder - Man of La Mancha