February 3, 2016… Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is pleased to announce that Stephen Ouimette will be the next Director of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre.
Mr. Ouimette, who will serve a three-year term, will join current Director Martha Henry on March 1. The two will work together during the first year to ensure continuity and a smooth transition.
“Stephen Ouimette is an extraordinary actor and he is deeply committed to actor training,” said Mr. Cimolino. “I am grateful that he has agreed to lead the Birmingham Conservatory at such a prime time in his career. His experience, talent and passion for the theatre will all be invaluable assets as he guides the development of Canada’s next generation of actors.”
The Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory, founded in 1998, trains the most promising young actors in the skills needed to perform the classics, and offers them an unparalleled opportunity to study with the finest coaches in the world inside the Festival’s classical repertory company. All participants are paid for the duration of the training program and offered roles in the subsequent Festival season. To fill 10 to 12 coveted Conservatory spots, the Festival receives more than 1,000 applications and auditions hundreds of young performers across the country.
“The director of the Conservatory serves an essential role within the Festival – designing a program of young actor development, inviting instructors from around the world and searching for the most talented participants. I look forward to working with Stephen and seeing the impact of his efforts on the Festival’s future,” said Mr. Cimolino.
“I am honoured and beyond thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure,” said Mr. Ouimette. “I hope to build on the extraordinary work Martha has done and look forward both to giving back and learning along the way. Learning keeps us young!”
Mr. Ouimette’s wide-ranging career includes more than 50 productions at the Stratford Festival, as well as key roles in Toronto, London’s West End, Chicago and on Broadway. He has appeared in dozens of film and TV productions, and in that realm is perhaps best known as the ghostly Oliver Welles on Slings and Arrows and the voice of Beetlejuice in the animated series. His recent portrayal of Harry Hope in The Iceman Cometh (Chicago and Broadway), with Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, received rave reviews; The New York Times called him “devastatingly good” and the Chicago Sun Times, “pitch-perfect,” while the Chicago Tribune said: “More than anyone else onstage, the terribly sad Ouimette shows us the warm-blooded man that was, or that could still be, if growing old were only easier. It’s a stunning performance.” His Bejart in La Bête (West End, Broadway), with Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley, was also extremely well received.
At Stratford, where he has served as both actor and director for 21 seasons, he has turned in a host of powerful and entertaining performances, including the title roles in Hamlet, Amadeus, Richard III and King John, Subtle in The Alchemist, the Fool to Colm Feore’s King Lear, Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Estragon in Waiting for Godot, Sam in The Homecoming and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. He directed 2002’s Threepenny Opera, with Tom McCamus, and 2004’s Timon of Athens, with Peter Donaldson.
“Stephen Ouimette is one of our greatest artists,” said Ms Henry, whose retirement from the position was announced in December. “He has worked often with the Conservatory and in each case we have seen stunningly original results. You throw away the rulebook when you work with Stephen; he will take these young actors to new heights. I am thrilled that he will move the Birmingham Conservatory into the future.”
Mr. Ouimette will continue to serve as an actor and director with the Festival, just as Ms Henry did during her tenure with the Conservatory. In 2016, he will play Argan in The Hypochondriac and Henslowe in Shakespeare in Love. At the conclusion of her term, Ms Henry will continue with the Festival as an actor and director. Her next project is to direct the 2016 production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.
The Conservatory wraps up its 2015-16 session on February 13, with a production of Richard III, directed by Ms Henry. Participants will have a short break before beginning rehearsals for the 2016 season.
The 2016 season runs from April 19 to October 30, and features Macbeth, As You Like It, Breath of Kings, A Chorus Line, A Little Night Music, Shakespeare in Love, All My Sons, The Hypochondriac, John Gabriel Borkman, The Aeneid, Bunny and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For more information and to order tickets, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 FREE.