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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Festival adds The War of 1812 to 60th season playbill

Play marks anniversary of key moment in Canadian history

August 17, 2011… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is adding an exciting new production to its 2012 season. The satirical historical drama The War of 1812 will be produced in collaboration with VideoCabaret and presented in an intimate, specially designed performance space. The production has been selected to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812, which coincides with the Festival’s 60th season.

Written by Michael Hollingsworth, The War of 1812 is one segment of a play cycle entitled The History of the Village of the Small Huts, a satirical retelling of the nation’s history, tracing the evolution of the “Canadian identity” as a comedy of manners. The original productions premièred to great acclaim from 1985 to 1999 and have since expanded to 20 plays, honoured by 24 Dora Mavor Moore Awards. The War of 1812 is being reinvented for the Stratford production based on newly available research and new inspiration.

“I have admired Michael Hollingsworth’s work since the 1970s,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “Not only is VideoCabaret’s The History of the Village of the Small Huts a substantial Canadian theatrical achievement, it also represents the life’s work of this extraordinary playwright. We are tremendously proud to be presenting The War of 1812 as part of our 60th season.”

One of the Studio Theatre rehearsal halls will be converted to a performance space with a capacity of 72, designed to accommodate the special staging technique for which VideoCabaret is renowned. The production will run for 55 performances between June 26 and August 12, 2012.

“We are delighted to welcome VideoCabaret to Stratford and look forward to our collaboration on this brilliant satirical work,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “In 1812 Canada and the United States were enemies at war, and now we have perhaps the closest and most trusting relationship of any two nations. Attracting visitors from throughout North America, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival can now offer a truly international audience the opportunity to explore the question: what could we have been fighting about?”

VideoCabaret’s unique staging style moves at a cinematic tempo as colourful scenes are conjured up in a black-box set. Using spectacular quick-change costumes and scene-setting props, seven actors portray about 40 characters, who appear and vanish as if by magic.

“Des McAnuff and his superb team have welcomed our company with open arms,” says Mr. Hollingsworth, who in addition to being the playwright shares the position of Artistic Co-Director of VideoCabaret with Deanne Taylor. “We are honoured to launch a new performance space and thrilled to bring our work to the greatest gathering of theatre-lovers on the continent.”

Mr. McAnuff and Mr. Cimolino have planned the 60th season not only as a milestone in the Festival’s history but also as a signpost to its future. The playbill marries the best of Stratford tradition with contemporary innovation and exploration. With the addition of this latest piece, which opens on Canada Day, the 2012 season includes seven Canadian works – Christopher Plummer’s A Word or Two, Rick Miller’s MacHomer, Michael Hollingsworth’s The War of 1812, Canadian poet Anne Carson’s adaptation of Elektra and the world premières of Morris Panych and Marek Norman’s Wanderlust, Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson’s Hirsch and Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers.

Other works being presented in 2012 are Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Cymbeline, The Matchmaker, 42nd Street, The Pirates of Penzance and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

“These seven Canadian works – two of which are Festival commissions – represent 50 per cent of the 2012 season. These productions demonstrate our commitment to Canadian plays and will provide our audiences with an opportunity to explore the vast complement of Canadian theatre alongside our classical offerings,” says Mr. McAnuff. “Thornton Wilder did much of the writing for The Matchmaker here at Stratford – he adapted it from his own Merchant of Yonkers at the suggestion of Tyrone Guthrie in what we could describe as the Festival’s first playwright residency.”

“With productions like The War of 1812 – and also MacHomer – we are reaching out to other theatre companies,” says Mr. Cimolino, “and at the same time we are providing an opportunity for these artists to connect with a broader audience.” 
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 season runs until November 6, featuring The Merry Wives of Windsor, Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Homecoming, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s Will, The Little Years and Hosanna.


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