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THE SCOOP | Stratford Festival Comes Full Circle With 68th Annual Summer Season

By Michael Vincent on July 13, 2021

Photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival
Photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival

On July 13, 1953, the Stratford Festival staged its inaugural performance in a tent. At the time, Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Alec Guinness, had to be produced in a tent due to the lack of venues in Stratford, Ontario.

Opening today, the Stratford Festival comes full circle, kicking off the 2021 season in a tent with the formal opening of the year’s first piece, Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre.

“July 13 has been an auspicious date for our Festival and now that we are back in tents again, we hope that day will herald a wonderful reawakening of live theatre,” said artistic director Antoni Cimolino.

The Festival has set up large tents that can accommodate 400 patrons outside the Festival and Tom Patterson Theatres, but due to health protocols, can only seat 100 patrons (25 per cent of capacity).

“While we introduced the canopies in response to the public health crisis, the outdoor setting alludes beautifully to our first season and provides a magical setting in which to experience theatre,” said Stratford Festival’s executive director Anita Gaffney. “Preparing for the 2021 season has been an adventure, forging new paths, reshaping old ones and responding to the ever-changing conditions. After 15 months of planning and re-planning, I can hardly wait to welcome audiences back.”

This year’s festival Metamorphosis theme weaves loosely amid six plays and five cabarets. Launching today, Why We Tell the Story is curated and directed by Marcus Nance, who also performs in the cabaret, along with Neema Bickersteth, Robert Markus and Vanessa Sears. The musical director is Franklin Brasz.

Season Highlights

  • You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre (July 15 to July 31)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 16 to August 1)
  • Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters (July 23 to August 21)
  • Play On!: A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape (July 29 to August 15)
  • R+J (August 12 to September 26)
  • Freedom: Spirit and Legacy of Black Music (August 19 to September 5)
  • Finally There’s Sun: A Cabaret of Resilience (September 9 to 26)
  • I Am William (August 10 to September 12)
  • Serving Elizabeth (August 28 to September 26)
  • Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women (August 10 to October 9).

This year marks the return to live theatre after the Festival was forced to postpone its 2020 season due to the epidemic.

Tickets are now on sale at www.stratfordfestoval.ca.

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Michael Vincent
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