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Shakespeare and discounts at center stage, revamped Stratford opens for summer ’13

Submitted by on Jan 4, 2013 – 3:47 pm

Report: Stratford Festival slashes advance ticket prices through January for the 2013 season, and two-for-one Tuesdays will apply all summer as festival refocuses on classical theater. Sales begin Jan. 5.

By Lawrence B. Johnson

Regrouped, rethought and renamed, the Stratford Festival effectively begins a new era on Jan. 5 when ticket sales commence for the company’s 2013 summer season. Starting at 9 a.m. with online sales, the Ontario theater festival will offer a 25 percent discount on all ticket purchases through Jan. 31 – with the option of later exchanges at no additional charge.

And throughout the 2013 season, Stratford will feature two-for-one tickets for all Tuesday performances except opening nights. Student prices for all performances have been lowered to $20 from $25.

That aggressive marketing reflects a wider festival makeover that has seen former artistic director Des McAnuff and his pop-rock stagecraft sent packing, to be replaced by longtime Stratford stage director – and most recently executive director – Antoni Cimolino, who quickly reasserted the company’s founding commitment to classical theater, starting with Shakespeare.

Yet, at the very moment of Cimolino’s appointment, the company hitherto named the Stratford Shakespeare Festival shuffled off that coil to be known henceforth simply as the Stratford Festival.

Still, what the settled dust has revealed is indeed a classical 2013 season with a strong Shakespeare component that extends from “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Merchant of Venice” to “Othello” and “Measure for Measure.”

Other plays will include Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Two musicals are on tap: the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick “Fiddler on the Roof” and the Pete Townshend-Des McAnuff “Tommy,” with McAnuff returning as director.

Also new this summer will be an on-going Forum of more than 100 supplemental events – screenings, lectures, musical performances, tours.

“Our goal is to enhance the Stratford experience in as many ways as possible,” says newly appointed executive director Anita Gaffney.

Adds Cimolino: “The plays and musicals we’re presenting in 2013 are extraordinary creations that explore the human condition in very different ways. These productions will open up lively conversations that can be further pursued through our many Forum events.”

Cimolino will direct “The Merchant of Venice,” with Brian Bedford as Shylock and Tom McCamus as Antonio, and Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” featuring Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock, with Ben Carlson, Brian Dennehy and Geraint Wyn Davies.

Bedford will direct Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” with Ben Carlson, Michelle Giroux, Seana McKenna and Sara Topham.

Dennehy will play Pozzo in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” with Stephen Ouimette as Estragon and Tom Rooney as Vladimir. And Peacock will take the lead in the world première of Canadian playwright Judith Thompson’s “The Thrill,” about two people on opposing sides of the right-to-die movement. 

Festival veteran and favorite Martha Henry returns to direct “Measure for Measure” with Carmen Grant, Stephen Ouimette, Tom Rooney and Geraint Wyn Davies. Henry will also play the Prof in “Taking Shakespeare,” a new play by the Canadian John Murrell that explores another 2013 production, “Othello,” which will feature Graham Abbey, Bethany Jillard and Dion Johnstone.

Rounding out the Shakespeare offerings is “Romeo and Juliet,” featuring Daniel Brière and Sara Topham and directed by Tim Carroll, who returns to Stratford after highly praised productions of “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III” at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Festival fixture Donna Feore will direct and choreograph “Fiddler on the Roof,” featuring Kate Hennig and Scott Wentworth. Miles Potter directs “The Three Musketeers,” with Graham Abbey, Jonathan Goad, Luke Humphrey and Mike Shara.

The 2013 season begins on April 23 and runs until October 20. To order tickets, call (800) 567-1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.  The 25 percent discount will apply to all ticket purchases automatically through Jan. 31.

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Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: The 1,826-seat Festival Theatre is Stratford’s flagship venue. (Photo by Krista Dodson) Descending: The festival’s new logo. Artistic director Antoni Cimolino. Executive director Anita Gaffney. The 260-seat Studio Theatre is home to intimate, often experimental productions. Below: The  Avon Theatre, with its 1,090 seats and proscenium stage, is used for both plays and musicals.  (Photo by Terry Manzo)


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