2017 season will explore questions of identity to mark Canada 150
June 15, 2016… Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is proud to announce the Stratford Festival’s 2017 season, an exploration of identity as Canada marks the 150th anniversary of its birth as a nation.
“What ultimately determines who we are? Are our natures and actions shaped only by circumstance – or by some inner essence that we cannot deny to ourselves, however successfully we may conceal it from others?” asks Mr. Cimolino. “The 14 productions I’ve selected for 2017 will explore the many questions of identity – how do we prepare our face to the world, deal with our hidden desires or balance our self interests with the environment around us – ideas that we will delve further into through the events of the Forum.”
The season will span the history of Western drama from the ancient Greek classic Bakkhai to two new Canadian plays specially commissioned by the Festival.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Timon of Athens and the Jacobean tragedy The Changeling, by his contemporaries Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, will be complemented by Molière’s 17th-century satire Tartuffe, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th-century comedy of manners The School for Scandal and Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot, a comedy from the 20th century about the conflict between commerce and culture.
“To direct three great and very different Shakespeare plays, I have turned to three exceptional directors who are also actors who excel at Shakespeare,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Scott Wentworth, who has directed Shakespeare across North America and showed such a sense of romanticism in his handling of Pericles last season, will direct Romeo and Juliet; the extraordinary Martha Henry, who played Viola early in her Stratford career, will direct Twelfth Night, a play for which she has such feeling; and Stephen Ouimette, one of our finest directors, will return to Timon of Athens, a play he directed brilliantly in 2004, bringing 13 more years of life experience to it now.
“Joining their ranks are the wonderfully imaginative Jillian Keiley, directing Bakkhai and exploring it from a female perspective; Jackie Maxwell – Shaw’s loss is Stratford’s gain – directing The Changeling, a piece she did expertly at the NAC in 1980, which she will re-visit with what I know will be an extraordinary cast; Chris Abraham, an intensely smart and funny director, taking on Tartuffe, arguably Molière’s greatest creation; and the multi-talented Donna Feore, who has thrilled audiences with her work on both plays and musicals, directing The Madwoman of Chaillot, a hilarious play that I find particularly apt as I follow the Bernie Sanders campaign.”
Mr. Cimolino will direct The School for Scandal himself. “In this age of blogging, tweeting and relentless self-promotion, we need this play more than ever before,” he says.
Guys and Dolls, considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy, will unfold at the Festival Theatre, under the direction of Donna Feore. Sailing into the Avon, with director Lezlie Wade at the helm, is HMS Pinafore – one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular works and the writing duo’s first major success.
“Guys and Dolls – the greatest musical – requires equal strength in dance, song and acting; therefore Donna Feore, because of her balanced and vibrant approach to this dramatic form, is the ideal person to direct it,” says Mr. Cimolino.
“For HMS Pinafore, I am happy to have Lezlie Wade, one of the first participants in the Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Direction, return to the Festival. She was and assistant and associate director on a number of major projects here, including Jesus Christ Superstar. And, of course, she is also a talented lyricist, who will really dig into this irrepressible musical.”
High-seas adventures continue at the Avon with Treasure Island, the Schulich Children’s Play, based on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Mitchell Cushman will direct. “I am excited to see Mitchell tackle this play, injecting it with his buoyant spirit of invention,” says Mr. Cimolino.
The Studio Theatre will present an all-Canadian season. “We have three generations of female Canadian playwrights joining us in this anniversary year,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Sharon Pollock, one of this country’s great pioneer female playwrights; Colleen Murphy, one of the most accomplished mid-career playwrights; and Kate Hennig, a remarkable emerging writer.”
The Festival has commissioned Colleen Murphy to write The Breathing Hole, an epic allegory to mark Canada’s Sesquicentennial, to be directed by Reneltta Arluk. This 500-year saga follows a polar bear from its birth in an Inuit community at the time of First Contact, through a startling encounter with the Franklin Expedition, to a profoundly moving conclusion: a meeting with a 21st-century cruise ship navigating the Northwest Passage in a world now ravaged by climate change.
“This is one of the most ambitious and unique pieces of writing I have seen in years,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Each of the three acts breathtakingly captures a snapshot of this country’s development. We are very fortunate to have an extraordinarily gifted leader for this project, director Reneltta Arluk.”
A second commission is Kate Hennig’s The Virgin Trial. In her continued re-imagining of the Tudor queens, Ms Hennig has crafted an edge-of-your-seat thriller that sees the young Elizabeth navigate the court intrigues that would deny her the throne. “This is the eagerly anticipated companion to The Last Wife, which was a runaway hit last season,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Once again, Alan Dilworth will direct, bringing a deft hand to the second part of what will soon be a trilogy.” The Last Wife was extended several times during the 2015 season and was sold out for its entire run at the Studio Theatre.
Rounding out the Studio season is Sharon Pollock’s The Komagata Maru Incident. Written in 1976, Ms Pollock’s work was the first play to explore the racist immigration policies that led to the denial of entry to hundreds of emigrants, most of whom were Sikhs, from the British Raj when the Komagata Maru arrived at the Vancouver port in 1914. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an apology for the incident last month. “Director Keira Loughran, who has been a leader in the creation of new work in Canada, will work with Sharon Pollock to reimagine this piece – integrating and reflecting the diverse community of Vancouver then, and Canadian theatre now – which will bring even greater insight into this remarkable play,” says Mr. Cimolino.
“In the year of Canada 150 it is important that we not only celebrate but also reflect on what it is to be Canadian. I think these beautiful and powerful plays will help us to re-examine our identity as a nation, and ourselves as individuals.”
Tickets for the 2017 season go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival beginning November 26, and to the public on Friday, January 6 (online) and Saturday, January 7 (by phone).
Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Wentworth
Guys and Dolls
A musical fable of Broadway
Based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling
Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Martha Henry
Directed by Chris Abraham
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Directed by Mitchell Cushman
Book and Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Directed by Lezlie Wade
Choreographed by Kerry Gage
The School for Scandal
By Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
Timon of Athens
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Stephen Ouimette
By Thomas Middleton
Directed by Jackie Maxwell
A new version by Anne Carson
Directed by Jillian Keiley
The Madwoman of Chaillot
By Jean Giraudoux
Directed by Donna Feore
The Virgin Trial
By Kate Hennig
Directed by Alan Dilworth
The Breathing Hole
By Colleen Murphy
Directed by Reneltta Arluk
The Komagata Maru Incident
By Sharon Pollock
Directed by Keira Loughran
The 2016 season runs until November 5, featuring Macbeth, As You Like It, A Chorus Line, Shakespeare in Love, A Little Night Music, All My Sons, Breath of Kings, John Gabriel Borkman, The Hypochondriac, The Aeneid, Bunny and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.