That a group of Stratford business people got together, pitched a tent in the centre of a field in the middle of South Western Ontario, and invited world class talent to perform in it, is indeed something of a miracle. So to that, 61 seasons on, the Festival has become an august and revered institution, renowned the world over for its professionalism and standard of excellence.
In 60 years they’ve produced, by rough estimate, six hundred some–odd plays. That’s a staggering amount of theatre for a rural small town, and as brilliant a parade of plays and players as anyone could want to join, be they audience or artist.
My personal bets for the most awesome of awesome at Stratford in 2014 are as follows; The four hander Midsummer Night’s Dream chamber play cannot be other than a prodigious display of thespian stamina and team work, and directorial ingenuity.
The casting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream indicates some license–taking of the best kind. The most intriguing is the melding of Oberon and Titania and splitting it between two men, which may be a first (it is to me, and to the festival surely). My personal proposed compound names for rehearsal period: Oberania and Titeron. Will they be a gay male couple? Will one of them be in drag? Lysander, a male role, will be played by Tara Rosling who is biologically female, but may be playing Lysander as a lesbian woman, or perhaps as a straight man. Does any of it matter at all? The point is that they all end up happy and in love. The Forum Discussion on The Aesthetics of gender — Homosexuality, Bisexuality and Love – as Portrayed on Stage in Shakespeare’s Time sounds amazing.
And the Forum is seriously hitting its stride! Stratford will be bursting with unmissable talks, intriguing options and essential play context that would bear as much analysis and promotion as the play line up: A Shakespeare First Folio on view, a sing through of Next to Normal, Margaret Trudeau’s first person survivorship testimonial, and a panel consisting of a PTSD survivor, a parent who lost children, and a woman subjected to rape. In the words of Moxy Fruvous, “this kind of life makes that violence unthinkable” for those of us who haven’t seen it firsthand. There is so much to be said, and it is being said in Stratford.
Seanna McKenna has her work cut out for her this season, as Queen Constance in the play King John, a demandingly emotional role, and Brecht’s Mother Courage. If there is a Hamlet for mature women, this would be it. The play will be a wringer, and it’s entirely appropriate that there is a Forum workshop on Music as Medicine.
In what looks to be a fantastic fusion of theatre and rock musicianship, Hawksley Workman and Christian Barry bring forth a concert play based on Euripides’ The Bacchae in early September. A solo piece, it is entitled The God That Comes. Enough said.
Last, but certainly not least, the Feore Lear. If his Lear is as moving as his Cyrano is charming, and his Oberon magnetic, it will be a King Lear to remember.
Oh, and Dione Johnstone as the White King in Alice Through the Looking Glass? Awesome. V