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Monday, 28 June 2010

2011 Playbill Released: Brian Dennehy, Brian Bedford Return

PRESS RELEASE  June 28, 2010… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that Brian Dennehy (right) will be returning to the Festival stage to play Sir Toby Belch in the 2011 production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff.

“We are delighted to have Brian Dennehy return to the Festival in 2011,” says Mr. McAnuff. “He is perfect for the role of Sir Toby Belch. I first started talking to Brian about Stratford back in 2007, backstage after a performance of Inherit the Wind on Broadway, which he starred in with the great Christopher Plummer. It is particularly gratifying to get to work with him personally as a director, not only because he is one of the great stage actors of our time but also because he is a tremendous champion of this theatre.”

“Brian Dennehy’s performances in Krapp’s Last Tape and Hughie in 2008 were unforgettable and among the most successful productions in terms of ticket sales at the Studio Theatre,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “I know our audiences will be eager to see his portrayal of Sir Toby, a role that is a perfect fit for his wonderful comedic talents.”

Mr. Dennehy will also play the raving patriarch Max in Harold Pinter's The Homecoming at the Avon Theatre, the first Pinter work to be produced at the Festival. It will be directed by Jennifer Tarver. Ms Tarver first directed Mr. Dennehy at Stratford, in the 2008 production of Krapp’s Last Tape. A winner of both the Pauline McGibbon Award and the John Hirsch Director’s Award, Ms Tarver also won a Dora Award for best director and was named Best Director of 2007 by Toronto’s Now magazine. Ms Tarver directed the 2009 production of Zastrozzi and is directing the 2010 production of King of Thieves.

Season to feature four Shakespeares

In addition to Twelfth Night, the 2011 season will feature three other Shakespeare works: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III and Titus Andronicus.

Frank Galati will make his Stratford debut directing The Merry Wives of Windsor, at the Festival Theatre. The production will feature Geraint Wyn Davies (left) as Falstaff. Tom Rooney will play Ford. Mr. Galati is a two-time Tony Award-winner (Best Play and Best Direction) for his production and adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. He also directed the Tony-winning production of Ragtime in 1997. Mr. Galati is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, an associate director at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and a professor of performance at Northwestern University. Mr. Galati adapted the novel The Accidental Tourist for the screen, winning an Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), as well as the UK’s BAFTA Award and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Mr. Wyn Davies is currently playing Stephano in The Tempest, and his one-man show Do Not Go Gentle will open at the Festival on July 13. Mr. Wyn Davies’s extensive career includes film, television and stage work across North America and in the U.K. He has spent seven seasons at Stratford, playing a most memorable Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2009, a season that also saw him play Duncan in Macbeth and the title role in Julius Caesar. His Polonius in the 2008 production of Hamlet received great critical acclaim.

Mr. Rooney (right), who will also play Malvolio in Twelfth Night, is playing Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in the current production of As You Like It and Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale. He will open in For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again in August. Audiences will well remember his turn as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Cassius in Julius Caesar, as well as his stand-out portrayal of the Porter in Macbeth during the 2009 season. He also played Wilbur in the Toronto and Broadway productions of Hairspray and was seen for three seasons on This Is Wonderland playing Crown Attorney David Kaye.

Richard III, directed by Miles Potter, will be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre. Seana McKenna (left) who has played almost every leading lady written by Shakespeare, will now turn her talents to one of the greatest male roles in the canon.

“This is a project that Seana and I have been discussing for some time,” says Mr. McAnuff. “She is one of our greatest players and with this performance she will continue to further our united cause for non-traditional casting. I am thrilled to be able to support her dream to play Richard.”

Ms McKenna has been dazzling Stratford audiences for 19 seasons, most recently as Paulina in this season's production of The Winter's Tale. Other recent Stratford credits include the title roles in Phèdre and Medea, as well as Andromache in The Trojan Women. A multiple Dora Award-winner, Ms McKenna was recently awarded an honorary Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

The fourth Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, will also play at the Tom Patterson Theatre. The director has yet to be announced.

Avon and Festival theatres to offer musicals

Gary Griffin will return for his third season, to direct Camelot at the Festival Theatre. Mr. Griffin has had terrific success at Stratford, with the breakout hit West Side Story in 2009 and the Festival's first rock opera, Evita, in 2010. The book and lyrics for Camelot were written by Alan Jay Lerner, the music by Frederick Loewe.

“Gary Griffin has become one of our principal directors in a very short time,” says Mr. McAnuff. “That is due to the fact that he is not only enormously talented but also highly skilled. He has a terrific feel for this institution and understands exactly how to take us to the limit.”

Geraint Wyn Davies will play King Arthur in the production. Mr. Wyn Davies’s musical roles at Stratford include Henry Higgins in the 2002 production of My Fair Lady and Antipholus Syracuse in the 1986 production of The Boys From Syracuse.

In 2011, the Festival will stage its second rock musical. Artistic Director Des McAnuff will direct Jesus Christ Superstar, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, at the Avon Theatre. In 2009, Mr. McAnuff directed his first Stratford musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was such a success that its run was extended and it was picked up by Mirvish Productions as part of its 2010-11 season in Toronto.

Mr. McAnuff is a two-time Tony winner for Best Musical for his productions of Big River and Jersey Boys and a two-time Tony winner for Best Direction of a Musical, for The Who’s Tommy and Big River. In 2010, he directed the critically acclaimed productions of As You Like It and The Tempest, featuring Christopher Plummer as Prospero. He also directed Mr. Plummer in the 2008 production of Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, which was made into a Gemini-nominated film.

“I have been speaking to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber for some time about doing Superstar, which, along with The Who’s Tommy, I consider to be the greatest rock and roll musical of all time,” says Mr. McAnuff. “The audacious and virtuosic 1970s album had a profound effect on me when I was a budding theatre artist and I’m delighted that I’m going to be allowed to share it with Stratford audiences.”

The production will feature Paul Nolan as Jesus and Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, together again after their enormous success as Tony and Maria in West Side Story. This season, Mr. Nolan is playing Orlando in As You Like It. Ms Kennedy is playing the title role in Evita and Lois Lane in Kiss Me, Kate.

Season to feature classics ancient and modern

General Director Antoni Cimolino will direct The Grapes of Wrath by Frank Galati, based on the American classic novel by John Steinbeck, at the Avon Theatre. Mr. Cimolino directed the widely popular Bartholomew Fair in 2008. His other Stratford credits include As You Like It, with music by Barenaked Ladies; Coriolanus, featuring Colm Feore and Martha Henry; King John, with Stephen Ouimette; Love’s Labour’s Lost, with Brian Bedford; Twelfth Night, with William Hutt; The Night of the Iguana, with Seana McKenna; and Filumena, with Richard Monette.

“I was profoundly moved by Frank Galati’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Our work in El Salvador – where Festival volunteers are helping CUSO with skills training and development work – has reinforced for me the fact that the plight of the tenant farmer and migrant worker has not changed over time. It is our responsibility in this production to let their voices be heard.”

The Grapes of Wrath is a play ideally suited to the directorial strengths of Antoni Cimolino and I was thrilled that he agreed to take the helm of this production following his success with last year’s production of Bartholomew Fair,” says Mr. McAnuff. “Grapes is a play I am very close to. When I was Artistic Director at La Jolla Playhouse, I helped launched Frank Galati’s internationally successful adaptation of it, assisted by Stratford dramaturge Robert Blacker. I am doubly pleased to be using that adaptation and to have Frank with us in our 2011 season directing The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

The production will feature Chilina Kennedy as Rosasharn and Janet Wright (right) as Ma.

Ms Wright will also play Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Ms Wright returns to the Festival for the first time in more than a decade. She is well-known as Emma in the hit TV series Corner Gas, part of her extensive career in film and television. In her six seasons at Stratford in the 1990s, she directed Juno and the Paycock and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and played such roles as Queen Eleanor in King John, Agave in The Bacchae, Aemilia in The Comedy of Errors and Gertrude in Hamlet, with Stephen Ouimette (below), who will also return for the 2011 season.

Mr. Ouimette will play Sam in Ms Tarver’s production of the contemporary classic The Homecoming, which will be staged at the Avon Theatre. As mentioned, Mr. Dennehy will play Max in the production.

Mr. Ouimette will also play Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night.

“Putting Stephen side-by-side with Brian Dennehy as Sir Toby Belch promises to deliver up a comic duo without parallel in my experience,” says Mr. McAnuff. “As can only happen in a repertory company, these two brilliant actors will also step into the roles of Sam and Max in The Homecoming, displaying the depth of their remarkable talents.”

Mr. Ouimette had audiences roaring with laughter in 2009, when he played Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Well-known for his portrayal of Oliver Welles in the series Slings and Arrows, Mr. Ouimette has spent 18 seasons at Stratford, directing the hit 2004 production of Timon of Athens and playing the title roles in Hamlet, King John, Amadeus and Richard III, as well as many other leading roles. In addition to Hysterium, he also played Canon Chasuble in 2009 in The Importance of Being Earnest, under the direction of Brian Bedford.

In 2011, Mr. Bedford (left) will return to direct a French classic, Molière’s The Misanthrope, at the Festival Theatre, using the translation by Richard Wilbur. Mr. Bedford will also appear in the production. Ben Carlson will return for his fourth season at Stratford to play Alceste in the production.

Mr. Bedford and Mr. Carlson (right) last shared the stage together in the glorious 2009 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Mr. Bedford played Lady Bracknell and Mr. Carlson played John Worthing. The production of Earnest was so well received that it will be featured as part of New York's Roundabout Theater Company season this winter.

In 2007, Mr. Bedford directed and played the title role in King Lear at the Festival Theatre. This will be his 27th season at Stratford. He has acted and directed in Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Starring in many Broadway productions, he has received six Best Actor Tony nominations and won the award for Molière’s The School for Wives.

Mr. Carlson, who will also play Feste in Twelfth Night, is currently entertaining audiences with his riotous turn as Touchstone in As You Like It. He is also moving them to tears with his portrayal of Leontes in The Winter’s Tale. Mr. Carlson has played the title roles in Macbeth and Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In 12 seasons at Shaw, his roles included John Tanner in Man and Superman, Eustace in The Return of the Prodigal and Andrei in Three Sisters. His portrayal of Hamlet at Stratford in 2008 received great critical acclaim.

Tremblay and Mighton featured at the Studio

The Studio Theatre will feature a production of Hosanna by Michel Tremblay, directed by Weyni Mengesha. Tremblay returned to the Stratford playbill in 2010 with For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. His work had last been seen here in the 1990s.

Ms Mengesha (right) will be making her Stratford debut with this production. She first received acclaim directing Trey Anthony's Da Kink in My Hair and composing its score. Her other directing credits include A Raisin in the Sun (one of Now magazine’s Top Ten Theatre Productions of 2008) and d'bi.young.anitafrika's play blood.claat. Most recently she served as dramaturge on The Africa Trilogy, a highlight of Luminato's 2010 season.

Also playing at the Studio is a new Canadian work, The Little Years, by John Mighton, commissioned by the Festival in 2008. The commission is an expansion of a work from earlier in Mr. Mighton's career. This will be the second of three commissions to come to the stage under Mr. McAnuff’s tenure. The first, King of Thieves by George F. Walker, opens this August. The third, by Judith Thompson, is ongoing.

The Little Years will be directed by Chris Abraham, returning for a second season after directing 2010's For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. Mr. Abraham is known for his bold staging of contemporary classics. He is the artistic director of Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, founding artistic director of Go Chicken Go and co-founder of Bill Glassco’s Montreal Young Company, as well as an instructor at the National Theatre School. In addition to his many theatrical awards, he won a Gemini for his first film, I, Claudia, based on the award-winning play.

New musical commissioned from Drowsy Chaperone team

The Festival announces a fourth commission this year, a musical project from the creators of The Drowsy Chaperone, Bob Martin, Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.

“I have often said that I would love to see new Canadian musicals developed at Stratford,” says Mr. McAnuff. “I am very excited with this first step and we all look forward to seeing what this talented team creates. I think it’s deliciously ironic that members of this group lampooned us here at Stratford so successfully with the hilarious series Slings and Arrows and I’m excited to see what will come of this new partnership.”

“This tremendously exciting lineup of plays for the 2011 season builds on the great strength of the current year’s offerings,” says Mr. Cimolino. “We encourage our patrons to check their calendars now and set aside time to visit Stratford this year and in the upcoming season.”

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2010 season runs until November 6, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; The Tempest; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; Peter Pan; The Winter’s Tale; Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again; Do Not Go Gentle; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; and King of Thieves.


1 comment:

  1. Cannot WAIT to see Seana McKenna as Richard III!!!


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