- MEDIA RELEASE
March 24, 2018… There were many reasons to celebrate at the Stratford Festival in 2017. Its 65th season, commemorated during Canada 150, was an artistic and financial success – ending solidly in the black – and the year also marked a new beginning for the Festival as it embarked on a $100-million project to build a landmark theatre honouring its founder, Tom Patterson.
“2017 was a year of remarkable achievement,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “We presented an extraordinary range of plays – from the ancient Greeks through to new works – which earned international recognition. We enlarged the identity of our company, bringing in new talents and forging new connections. We even had a visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But as exciting as all of this was, our crowning achievement was the unveiling of Siamak Hariri’s breathtaking design for a new Tom Patterson Theatre.”
At its annual general meeting on Saturday, the Festival reported a surplus of $232,765 on revenue of $60.7 million. Attendance was 456,905 and donations to the Festival increased to a record $14.3 million.
“We ended this celebratory year with a fifth consecutive surplus,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “And it was a record year for fundraising, an accomplishment made all the more remarkable by the fact that we have also raised more than $70 million towards our long-anticipated renewal of the Tom Patterson Theatre. Now as we embark on our 66th season, we prepare to welcome our 28 millionth patron – another reason to celebrate.”
To mark Canada 150, the Festival presented three plays by female Canadian playwrights – The Komagata Maru Incident, by Sharon Pollock, the heartbreaking tale of a group of emigrants denied entry to Canada in 1914 because of systemic racism; The Virgin Trial, the second chilling instalment of the Tudor trilogy commissioned from Kate Hennig; and The Breathing Hole, a gripping exploration of the history of Canada’s Far North, commissioned by the Festival from playwright Colleen Murphy.
“Colleen was a finalist for the coveted international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for The Breathing Hole, which recognizes outstanding new works by female playwrights,” said Mr. Cimolino, “and this was just one of the many projects undertaken as part of our Laboratory to build new skills, new artistic relationships and develop the breadth of our company. Such exploration and growth is extremely energizing.”
The Breathing Hole opened new avenues for the Festival’s education department, with teaching artists travelling to remote First Nations communities to work with students telling their own stories.
The Stratford Festival HD catalogue rose to 10 titles this season, with the filming of Romeo and Juliet and Timon of Athens. The HD initiative has brought the Festival’s Shakespeare work to roughly 450,000 people since its launch in 2015.
Behind the scenes, the Festival welcomed new participants to the Birmingham Conservatory, the Langham Workshop for Classical Direction and the Playwrights Retreat, and expanded theatrical practices through the Laboratory, where another 21 new plays are currently in development.
The Forum completed its fifth year with record revenue and a number of sold-out and marquee events, including The Appeal, presided over by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin one last time before her retirement from the bench.
The season offered a wide variety of opportunities for families to enjoy Stratford, including Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, a wonderful newly commissioned adaptation of Treasure Island and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, resulting in the sale of more than 70,000 tickets to children under the age of 18.
Some rarely produced classics added to the range of the season, creating experiences unique to Stratford: Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, Euripides’ Bakkhai, Molière’s Tartuffe, Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot, and The Changeling, by two of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley.
Guys and Dolls was extended and became one of the top three musicals of the past decade. Three other shows were also extended to meet demand, The Madwoman of Chaillot, The Breathing Hole and The Virgin Trial.
In January, the Festival launched the $100-million Spirit of the Tent Campaign to build a new Tom Patterson Theatre Centre, with 70% of the target already reached. Ground will be broken on the project in the coming weeks. The new theatre, designed by award-winning architect Siamak Hariri of Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini, is scheduled to open for the 2020 season.
“In its new incarnation, the Tom Patterson Theatre will be a place both of entertainment and of education,” said Mr. Cimolino. “It will be a stunning venue for stunning theatre, supporting our artists in a critically important part of our repertoire. And it will be a home for the initiatives we have introduced strategically over the last few years – our Forum and our Laboratory – as well as the activities of our education department. It will stand as an emblem of everything this Festival is about. This Festival excites, it moves, it engrosses, it engages. And from that, there emerges – for artists and for audiences – the possibility of new ideas, new feelings, a new life.”
55 Queen Street | PO Box 520 | Stratford ON | N5A 6V2
55 Queen Street | PO Box 520 | Stratford ON | N5A 6V2
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2018 Season | April to October
The Tempest | The Comedy of Errors | Coriolanus | Julius Caesar | The Music Man
The Rocky Horror Show | Long Day’s Journey Into Night | An Ideal Husband
To Kill a Mockingbird | Napoli Milionaria! | Brontë | Paradise Lost