Stratford Festival

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Stratford Festival
Festival theatre, Stratford.jpg
The Festival Theatre
Genre Repertory Theatre Festival
Dates April to October
Location(s) Stratford, Ontario, Canada
Years active 1953–present
Founded 1952

The Stratford Festival, formerly known as the Stratford Shakespearean, Shakespeare Festival and then Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is an internationally recognized annual repertory theatre festival running from April to October in the Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario.[1] Theatre-goers, actors, and playwrights flock to Stratford to take part — many of the greatest Canadian, British, and American actors play roles at the Stratford festival. It was one of the first and is still one of the most prominent arts festivals in Canada and is recognized worldwide for its productions of Shakespearean plays.

The Festival's primary mandate is to present productions of William Shakespeare's plays, but it also produces a wide variety of theatre from Greek tragedy to contemporary works. Shakespeare's work typically represents about a third of the Festival's offerings.

The success of the festival dramatically changed the image of Stratford into one of a city where the arts and tourism play important roles in its economy. The festival attracts many tourists from outside Canada, mainly those British and American, and is seen as a very important part of Stratford's tourism sector.

Well known actors who have participated in the festival include Alan Bates, Brian Bedford, Jonathan Goad, Jackie Burroughs, Zoe Caldwell, Douglas Campbell, Len Cariou, Brent Carver, Patricia Conolly, Jonathan Crombie, Hume Cronyn, Cynthia Dale, Brian Dennehy, Colm Feore, Megan Follows, Maureen Forrester, Lorne Greene, Dawn Greenhalgh, Paul Gross, Amelia Hall, Uta Hagen, Julie Harris, Don Harron, Martha Henry, William Hutt, Frances Hyland, Charmion King, Andrea Martin, Barbara March, James Mason, Roberta Maxwell, Eric McCormack, Seana McKenna, Loreena McKennitt, Richard Monette, John Neville, Lucy Peacock, Nicholas Pennell, Amanda Plummer, Christopher Plummer, Sarah Polley, Douglas Rain, Kate Reid, Jason Robards, Alan Scarfe, Paul Scofield, Goldie Semple, William Shatner, Maggie Smith, Jessica Tandy, Peter Ustinov, Al Waxman, Irene Worth and Janet Wright.[2]

Alec Guinness and Irene Worth were within the cast of Stratford's inaugural performance of Richard III on July 13, 1953,[3] Tony Award-nominee Scott Wentworth has performed within the festival's stage productions on numerous occasions since 1985, beginning with The Glass Menagerie,[4] the festival has helped Sara Topham found herself with a career in acting, performing from 2000 to 2011,[5] and a young, unknown Christopher Walken appeared in Stratford's 1968 stage productions of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer's Night Dream, portraying Romeo and Lysander respectively.[6]

Female directors at Stratford include Pam Brighton, Zoe Caldwell, Marigold Charlseworth, Donna Feore, Jill Keiley, Pamela Hawthorne, Martha Henry, Jeannette Lambermont, Diana Leblanc, Marti Maraden, Weyni Mengesha, Carey Perloff, Lorraine Pintal, Vanessa Porteous, Susan H. Schulman, Djanet Sears, Kathryn Shaw, Jennifer Tarver.

On 17 February 2015, AP News reported that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival plans to film all of Shakespeare's plays.[7]


A view of the Festival Theatre as seen from the Avon River.

The Festival was founded as the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada, due mainly to Tom Patterson, a Stratford-native journalist who wanted to revitalize his town's economy by creating a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, as the town shares the name of Shakespeare's birthplace. Stratford was a railway junction and major locomotive shop, and was facing a disastrous loss of employment with the imminent elimination of steam power. Patterson achieved his goal after gaining encouragement from Mayor David Simpson and the local council,[8] and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival became a legal entity on October 31, 1952. British actor and director Tyrone Guthrie agreed to become the festival's first Artistic Director. On July 13, 1953, actor Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival, a production of Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York."[9][10]

This first performance took place in a giant canvas tent on the banks of the River Avon. The season lasted six weeks and comprised just two plays: Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well. In the second year the playbill expanded, and included the first non-Shakespeare play, Oedipus Rex. The Festival Theatre was opened in 1957, and was deliberately designed to resemble a tent, in memory of those first performances. The Festival Theatre's thrust stage was designed by British designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch to resemble both a classic Greek amphitheatre and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and has become a model for other stages in North America and Great Britain.[11][12]


The Festival runs from April to October, and has four permanent venues: the Festival Theatre, the Avon Theatre, the Tom Patterson Theatre, and the Studio Theatre. Although the Festival's primary mandate is to produce the works of Shakespeare, its season playbills usually include a variety of classical and contemporary works and at least one musical.

The Stratford Festival Forum runs during the season, and features music concerts, readings from major authors, lectures, and discussions with actors or management.

Long-serving Artistic Director Richard Monette retired in 2007 after holding the position for fourteen seasons. He was replaced with an artistic team consisting of General Director Antoni Cimolino and Artistic Directors Marti Maraden, Des McAnuff, and Don Shipley. On March 12, 2008 it was announced that Shipley and Maraden would be stepping down, leaving Des McAnuff as sole Artistic Director.[13] In 2013 Des McAnuff was replaced by Antoni Cimolino as Artistic Director[14]

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is an industry partner of the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus.[15]

Artistic Directors

Executive Directors/General Managers

2015 season

2016 season (announced)


See also


  1. Canadian Encyclopedia - Stratford Festival
  2. "The Stratford Story". Stratford Festival.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Female directors at Stratford include Pam Brighton, Zoe Caldwell, Marigold Charlsworth, Donna Feore, Jill Keiley, Pamela Hawthorne, Martha Henry, Jeannette Lambermont, Diana Leblanc, Marti Maraden, Weyni Mengesha, Carey Perloff, Lorraine Pintal, Vanessa Porteous, Susan H. Schulman, Djanet Sears, Kathryn Shaw, Jennifer Tarver.
  3. Middleton, Lisa (10 July 2012). "Celebrate our 60th season with 1953 pricing!".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Urquhart, Bruce (25 May 2013). "The challenges and rewards of repertory theatre". The Beacon Herald. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Wilson, Gemma (10 February 2011). "Earnest Ingenue Sara Topham on the Generosity of Gavin Creel and Getting to Know All About Julie Andrews".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Webb, Rebecca (18 February 1998). "Christopher Walken at Stratford".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Kennedy, Mark (17 February 2015). "Stratford Festival plans to film all Shakespeare's plays". AP News. Retrieved 17 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. J. Alan B. Somerset. 1991. The Stratford Festival Story, 1st edition. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-27804-4
  10. Tom Patterson. 1987. First Stage. McClelland and Stewart. ISBN 978-0-7710-6949-9
  11. Tyrone Guthrie. 1959. A Life in the Theatre. McGraw Hill. ISBN 978-0-86287-381-3
  12. Martin Hunter. Romancing the Bard: Stratford at Fifty. Dundurn Press. 2001. ISBN 978-1-55002-363-3
  13. Posner, Michael (March 14, 2008). "All does not end well at Stratford". The Globe and Mail.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Stratford Festival vet Antoni Cimolino to take over for Des McAnuff
  15. "Industry Partnerships". University of Waterloo. Retrieved 24 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Guthrie, Tyrone; Robertson Davies; Grant MacDonald (1953). Renown at Stratford: A Record of the Shakespeare Festival in Canada. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company, Ltd.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ouzounian, Richard (2002). Stratford Gold: 50 Years, 50 Stars, 50 Conversations. Toronto: McArthur & Company, Ltd. ISBN 978-1-55278-271-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Shaw, Grace Lydiatt (1977). Stratford Under Cover: Memories on Tape. NC Press. ISBN 978-0919600676.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sperdakos, Paula (1995). Dora Mavor Moore: Pioneer of the Canadian Theatre. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1550222470.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links