According to a recent letter to the editor in Stratford's Beacon Herald, the new administration at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has plans to demolish the historic thrust stage, designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch, and replace it with one full of jigs and reels. This article appeared the following day:
What's the next stage for the Festival stage?
by Laura Cudworth
A scenic carpenter at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is speaking out against any plans that may alter the famous Tanya Moiseiwitsch thrust stage.
Walter Sugden is concerned the stage will be changed or "destroyed" if it's modernized to increase the space underneath it. The stage would have to be pulled up for the excavation underneath to allow for larger trap doors and machinery below the stage, he said.
"My basic feeling is I've worked there for 36 years, I can't consciously feel good with myself if I don't speak out," he said. "All I hope to do is make people aware. If they feel like I do, I hope they'll express to the Festival their feelings."
He admits he may be "romantic about it" but he sees the stage as a critical piece of heritage for both the Festival and Canadian Theatre. In his earlier years he worked with Ms. Moiseiwitsch.
"I love the nicks in the stage that have happened in past productions," he said noting the likes of Maggie Smith, William Hutt, Nicholas Pennell and Jessica Tandy have all walked across the oak stage.
The stage is nearly 50 years old, he said.
General director Antoni Cimolino downplayed the possibility the famous thrust stage would be altered. He acknowledged though an assessment of the Festival auditorium is underway but expects it will take about two years to complete.
The assessment includes lights, acoustics and the backstage area.
"Over time stages evolve," Mr. Cimolino said. "Pillars, locations of doors change over time but it's not our intention to change the stage."
However, he acknowledged the trap in the stage is "too small to bury Ophelia" and ways to increase the space below may be looked at. Should the space underneath be increased attempts will be made to preserve the stage and keep the lumber intact, he said.
"The fact is over the years a lot of that stage has changed. It's a living, working stage. I assure you, we'll hold onto all the pieces and keep them and use them when we can."
He suggested the emphasis of the study focuses on aging wiring and lighting systems rather than the stage.
In order to do the work the Festival would have to undertake a fundraising campaign and get government grants. Whatever work is decided on will likely be done over the course of a couple of winters, Mr. Cimolino said.
"We're in the process of a long-term analysis study -- there's lots of time for consideration before anything is done."
Mr. Sugden praised the new artistic team for the "spectacular season" but also stressed "there's a certain amount of stewardship they have to take on."
"In the business world now the popular talk is about the brand. I think that stage is an important part of the Festival's brand."