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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stratford Festival announces 2016 season

Festival marks Shakespeare 400 with new exploration of Henriad history cycle
and North American première of Shakespeare in Love

2016 season and Forum explore ‘After the Victory’

July 1, 2015… With the world marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare in 2016, Stratford Festival Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino has planned a number of exciting projects in honour of the occasion.

Breath of Kings, a specially commissioned two-part exploration of Shakespeare’s four-play Henriad history cycle, conceived and adapted by Graham Abbey, will have its world première, directed by Weyni Mengesha and Mitchell Cushman in collaboration with Mr. Abbey, at a reconfigured Tom Patterson Theatre.

Shakespeare in Love, staged to great acclaim in the West End, will have its North American première, directed by Declan Donnellan. The Festival Theatre will be home to two great Shakespeares, the beloved comedy As You Like It, directed by Jillian Keiley, and Macbeth, directed by Mr. Cimolino.

The Festival’s 2016 season will explore the theme After the Victory. “We recently marked 100 years since the start of the ‘war to end all wars,’” says Mr. Cimolino, “and 70 years since the even more catastrophic war that followed it. And yet despite these so-called victories for civilization, our world remains mired in brutal conflict.

“Our 2016 season will look at victories of all kinds – military, personal, spiritual, moral – and explore what we mean by victory – over others, over adversity, over our own complex and imperfect human nature.”

The playbill reaches beyond Shakespeare with a number of firsts and world premières. Donna Feore will direct and choreograph A Chorus Line, reconceiving the landmark musical for the Festival’s iconic thrust stage. Bunny, Hannah Moscovitch’s newest work, commissioned by the Stratford Festival, will have its world première, directed by Vanessa Porteous. Carey Perloff will direct the world première of the Festival-commissioned new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman by Paul Walsh. And Keira Loughran will direct a newly commissioned translation of Olivier Kemeid’s adaptation of The Aeneid, by Maureen Labonté.

The season will also feature the outrageous comedy The Hypochondriac, an adaptation of Molière’s La Malade Imaginaire by Richard Bean, directed by Antoni Cimolino; Stephen Sondheim’s haunting musical A Little Night Music, directed by Gary Griffin; the beloved C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, dramatized by Adrian Mitchell and directed by Tim Carroll; and Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, directed by Martha Henry.

“As Shakespeare constantly reminds us, victory and loss are inextricably entwined,” says Mr. Cimolino. “One of the very first lines in Macbeth, ‘When the battle’s lost and won,’ implies not only that someone has to lose in order for someone else to win, but also that every victor pays some kind of price. Macbeth gains the crown – but at terrible cost, both to others and to himself.

“The opposite can be true as well. In As You Like It, Duke Senior’s loss is also his gain: deposed and exiled from his court, he’s living a spiritually richer life in the ‘golden world’ of the Forest of Arden. And Shakespeare’s histories are all about the vicissitudes of fortune: the rise and fall of power seekers. Our two Breath of Kings plays, distilled from some of the greatest of those histories, tell sweeping stories of uprising and betrayal, of one victor inevitably supplanted by another.

“That same duality of victory and loss informs many other works on our 2016 playbill. In The Aeneid, for example, the devastation of Troy leads to a triumphant new beginning: the founding of Rome.  All My Sons is a very direct examination of the human cost of profiting from war. And A Chorus Line shows us the emotional cost that can attend even the most benign of victories: winning a place in a Broadway show.”

The Stratford Festival Forum will explore issues related to the theme After the Victory through more than 200 events, highlights of which will be announced at a later date.

Creative exploration through the Festival’s Laboratory, which was launched in 2013 by Mr. Cimolino, has fostered the development of four projects in the 2016 season: Breath of Kings, Bunny, The Aeneid, and John Gabriel Borkman. Sixteen other works are currently in development.

Tom Patterson Theatre will offer theatre-in-the-round in 2016

For the 2016 season, the Tom Patterson Theatre will be temporarily reconfigured to offer a theatre-in-the-round experience.

“With this reconfiguration of the Tom Patterson Theatre, the Stratford Festival will provide our audience with the unique ability to experience theatre in our own revolutionary thrust stage, in a traditional proscenium and now in the round,” says Mr. Cimolino. “I felt that the plays in our 2016 TPT season would especially benefit from the kind of dramatic crucible that an audience creates when in the round.”


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Antoni Cimolino’s recent Shakespeare productions have been greatly celebrated. Now he takes on Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, Macbeth, in which murderous ambition meets the dark forces of destiny as the original political power couple conspire to seize the throne of Scotland. Remembering Mr. Cimolino’s successes with Jonathan Goad’s Hamlet, Colm Feore’s King Lear, Scott Wentworth’s Shylock and Geraint Wyn Davies’s Cymbeline, everyone is wondering who will play the Macbeths.

A Chorus Line
Conceived and Originally Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore

This 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical changed the course of Broadway with a run that lasted 15 years. It features such unforgettable numbers as “What I Did for Love,” “At the Ballet,” “Dance Ten Looks Three” and the spectacular finale, “One (Singular Sensation).” Canada’s top director-choreographer, Donna Feore, reimagines this legendary musical for the Festival Theatre, a not-to-be-missed theatrical event. Ms Feore’s stellar work at Stratford includes a string of hit musicals, most recently The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and Crazy for You.

As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jillian Keiley

Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre, English Theatre, the director behind the Stratford Festival’s inspired productions of Alice Through the Looking-Glass and The Diary of Anne Frank, directs her first Shakespeare on the Festival stage: As You Like It, a beloved comedy filled with music and mirth. Ms Keiley will set this glorious tale of mistaken identity in her home province, infusing it with traditional Newfoundland song and dance. 

The Hypochondriac
By Molière
In a new version by Richard Bean
From a literal translation by Chris Campbell
Directed by Antoni Cimolino

Antoni Cimolino, whose directorial vision has given Stratford audiences a string of memorable classics, including Mary Stuart, The Beaux’ Stratagem and The Grapes of Wrath – as well as the soon-to-be-seen production of The Alchemist – will direct The Hypochondriac. Adapted by Richard Bean from Molière’s La Malade Imaginaire, The Hypochondriac is a fresh take on an outrageous comedy about an egotist who is obsessed with his supposed maladies and falls prey to every quack doctor in Paris.


Schulich Children’s Plays Presents:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
By C.S. Lewis
Dramatized by Adrian Mitchell
Directed by Tim Carroll

Tim Carroll, who entertained countless families with his magical Stratford production of Peter Pan, takes on another family play, the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Never before produced at Stratford, this inspirational tale follows four children who fulfill their destiny in the mythical land of Narnia with the help of the wise lion Aslan. Mr. Carroll, who also directed King John for the Festival, was celebrated for his recent productions of Richard III and Twelfth Night on Broadway.

A Little Night Music
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Suggested by a film by Ingmar Bergman
Directed by Gary Griffin

Gary Griffin returns to the musical that shot him to prominence, A Little Night Music, arguably Stephen Sondheim’s greatest achievement. Featuring the show-stopping ballad “Send in the Clowns,” one of Broadway’s top hits, this ravishing musical delves into the lives of mismatched lovers as they try to balance their passions with their commitments. Mr. Griffin has a sterling Stratford pedigree, directing such hit musicals as West Side Story, Evita, Camelot and 42nd Street.

Shakespeare In Love
Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall
Directed by Declan Donnellan
North American Première
By special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Group and Sonia Friedman Productions

Directed by four-time Olivier Award winner Declan Donnellan, the West End hit romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love will have its North American première at the Stratford Festival. In this imagined biography, young Will Shakespeare, tormented by writer’s block and in desperate need of a new hit, finds inspiration in the guise of passionate noblewoman Viola, who moves him to write the greatest love story of all time. Art mirrors life – and vice versa – as love blossoms for the Bard amid a hilarious riot of chaos, confusion and backstage theatrics.


Breath of Kings
By William Shakespeare
Conceived and adapted by Graham Abbey
Directed by Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha with Graham Abbey
World Première: A Stratford Festival Commission

Breath of Kings is a sweeping epic, developed in the Festival’s Laboratory by Graham Abbey, with participation from Daniel Brooks, John Murrell and professors Jane Freeman and Randall Martin. It follows the lives, battles and deaths of kings Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. This distillation of Shakespeare’s history plays, to be performed in two self-contained parts, results in a remarkable, accessible, streamlined story of generations of English royal families, wars and nation-building history. Mitchell Cushman and Weyni Mengesha, two of the most exciting young operatives in Canadian theatre, will direct in collaboration with Mr. Abbey. Mr. Cushman, who recently won a Dora for his work on Brantwood 1920-2020, is directing this season’s Possible Worlds and served as assistant director on The Merchant of Venice and The Beaux’ Stratagem. Ms Mengesha, whose Toronto hits include ’da kink in my hairA Raisin in the Sun, and Kim’s Convenience, directed a captivating production of Rice Boy in 2011. Mr. Abbey, a one of the country’s top classical actors and Artistic Director of Toronto’s Groundling Theatre Co., is assistant director of this season’s The Alchemist, and is also playing Newton in The Physicists.

Rebellion: Richard II and Henry IV Part 1
A nation is plunged into turmoil by the overthrow of King Richard II. Distilled from Shakespeare’s history plays, this deeply human drama raises a fundamental question: what gives a monarch the right to rule?

Redemption: Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V
A new king, Henry IV, is on the throne – but is his reign legitimate? And what is to become of his wayward son and heir? A fast-paced distillation of Shakespeare’s great dramas of kingship – and the ordinary lives monarchs hold in their sway.

All My Sons
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Martha Henry

Based on a true story, this modern classic paints a gripping portrait of a family living in denial – until the emergence of a dark secret unravels their American dream. This production is directed by the doyenne of Canadian theatre, Martha Henry, whose recent Stratford directorial successes include She Stoops to Conquer, Mother Courage and Her Children, Of Mice and Men and Three Sisters.

John Gabriel Borkman
By Henrik Ibsen
Translated from the Norwegian by Paul Walsh
Directed by Carey Perloff
World Première Translation: A Stratford Festival Commission

The celebrated director Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, returns to Stratford to direct Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman, in a new translation commissioned by the Festival from  Paul Walsh. This dark comedy tells the tragic story of a disgraced banker who refuses to accept responsibility for his greed, causing his family to tear itself apart. Ms Perloff was last in Stratford in 2009, directing a devastating production of Phèdre, which later moved on to San Francisco’s ACT.


By Hannah Moscovitch
Director: Vanessa Porteous
World Première: A Stratford Festival Commission

Bunny is an evocative examination of post-feminist sexuality and desire by one of Canada’s most successful young playwrights, Hannah Moscovitch. It tells the story of Sorrell, a young woman who wants to be normal and good, but whose unusual parents, unusual relationships and perhaps not-so-unusual needs put her in conflict with what the world expects from a young woman. This remarkable new play, commissioned by the Festival, will be directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of Alberta Theatre Projects, whose sizzling production of the world première of Christina, The Girl King was a must-see at Stratford in 2014.

The Aeneid
By Olivier Kemeid
Translated by Maureen Labonté
Directed by Keira Loughran
World Première Translation: A Stratford Festival Commission

Director Keira Loughran brings this innovative staging of the legendary tale of Aeneas to the Studio Theatre from the Stratford Festival Laboratory, where it was conceived in 2014. Playwright Olivier Kemeid merges the story of his immigrant grandfather struggling to make his way to Canada with the epic journey of the Trojan hero as he escapes his ruined city and embarks on the adventures that lead him to become the founder of Rome. This world-première English-language translation by Maureen Labonté is an interdisciplinary epic, integrating text with physical theatre and Arabian music. Ms Loughran is the Associate Producer of the Festival’s Forum and Laboratory. Last season she directed an inspired production of Titus Andronicus for Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park.

Tickets for the 2016 season will go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on November, 15, 2015 and to the general public on January 8, 2016. For more information, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca/2016.

The 2015 season continues until November 1, featuring Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Adventures of Pericles, The Sound of Music, Carousel, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Physicists, Possible Worlds, She Stoops to Conquer, Oedipus Rex, The Alchemist and The Last Wife. Visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600 for more information.


Stratford Festival 55 Queen Street PO Box 520 Stratford ON | N5A 6V2
Box Office: Toll Free 1.800.567.1600

2015 Season | April to October
Hamlet | The Taming of the Shrew | Love’s Labour’s Lost| The Adventures of Pericles
The Sound of Music | Carousel | The Diary of Anne Frank | She Stoops to Conquer 
The Physicists | Oedipus Rex | The Alchemist | Possible Worlds | The Last Wife

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