Antoni Cimolino, artistic director of the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Canada, will discuss the 2014 theater season 3 p.m. Nov. 17 at Cleveland’s Reinberger Chamber Hall in Severance Hall. The event is free.
Bill Rudman, of Cleveland’s Musical Theater Project,will explore the new season with Cimolino. Festival actors Cynthia Dale and Geraint Wyn Davies, accompanied by musical director Franklin Brasz, will join them for songs and readings from the Stratford stage.
In 2014, the Stratford Festival will explore the theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge.
“These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poverty, age, sexuality,” Cimolino said. The theme will be examined through the prism of a dozen plays.
“What is extraordinary about Stratford is not that we do 12 plays in one year, but that we do them all at the same time, giving theatre-goers an opportunity to experience one play in light of another,"Cimolino said. Next season, for the first time ever, we will offer a chance for audiences to experience the same title in two very different productions, along with further opportunities for exploration in The Forum.”
The 2014 season coincides with the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, so Cimolino has programmed five Shakespeare productions, including two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that revolves around the madness of young love.
“We will examine a Shakespeare play in two different productions,” Cimolino said. “The first will be directed by one of Canada’s most exciting young directors, Chris Abraham; the second by one of the most highly regarded, internationally acclaimed directors of Shakespeare, Peter Sellars: two very different approaches to Shakespeare’s text.”
The season will also feature King Lear; Antony and Cleopatra; King John; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Mother Courage; Hay Fever; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Christina, The Girl King; and the musicals Crazy for You and Man of La Mancha.
Highlights of the 2014 Stratford Festival season
King Lear by William Shakespeare, directed by Antoni Cimolino.
This masterpiece will open the season at the Festival Theatre, directed by Cimolino, whose sold-out production of Mary Stuart was the runaway hit of 2013.
King Lear is the ultimate example of a mind pushed to the edge. When the aging king decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, requiring each in turn to publicly profess how much she loves him, he sets in motion a train of events that will rob him of his home, his status and his sanity – everything except the honest love and loyalty of his youngest daughter, Cordelia.
“King Lear speaks to the simple, naked humanity shared by everyone from a monarch to the poorest of the poor,” Cimolino said. “It’s from that essential humanity, not the trappings of wealth or power, that we claim our right to exist. After Lear loses everything, he finds that he is no longer who he thought he was. This loss is a liberation. In his subsequent madness he sees his own folly, awakens to empathy and discovers his soul.”
Crazy for You, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Ken Ludwig, directed and choreographed by Donna Feore.
Never before produced by the Festival, Crazy for You will be directed and choreographed at the Festival Theatre by Donna Feore, who directed the 2013 Fiddler on the Roof, as well as 2012’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, 2007’s Oklahoma! and 2006’s Oliver!
Set in the 1930s, Crazy for You is the story of Bobby Child, the scion of a wealthy banking family, whose dream is to be a Broadway dancer. Sent by his mother to foreclose on a struggling theater, he faces a dilemma when he falls in love with a local girl whose affections he will lose if he carries out his mother’s commission. His solution: put on a show and pay off the theatre’s mortgage.
The high-energy romantic comedy is packed with beloved Gershwin songs, including “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” “Embraceable You” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
“Crazy for You presents a joyous view of love and madness,” Cimolino said. “But the story is secondary to the powerful force of the Gershwins’ music. The bedrock of their work is the music of the Russian and Ukrainian steppes, which led the brothers to write brilliant, entertaining, lively music, with an energy and madness of its own.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, directed by Chris Abraham.
Chris Abraham, hot off his production of Othello, will direct his first Shakespeare on the Festival Stage.
This delightful Shakespearean comedy has the madness of love running riot as Hermia flees to the woods with her lover, Lysander, to escape her father’s command that she marry Demetrius. Demetrius follows, pursued by Helena, whose love he spurns. Their romantic problems intensify when the fairy world intervenes.
The Beaux’ Stratagem by George Farquhar, directed by Antoni Cimolino.
Written in 1707, The Beaux’ Stratagem will be the first Restoration comedy produced in Stratford since The Country Wife in 1995.
The tale follows the madly comic antics of two impoverished rakes, who, disguising their identities, arrive in the town of Lichfield seeking to restore their fortunes by wooing wealthy women. As the two connive to relieve ladies of their wealth, they must contend with a suspicious local innkeeper and his band of highwaymen, and with an acquaintance privy to their true identity.
Hay Fever by Noël Coward, directed by Alisa Palmer.
Palmer, Artistic Director of the National Theatre School English Section, will make her Festival debut at the Avon Theatre.
As stylish as it is intoxicatingly absurd, Hay Fever introduces audiences to the Bliss family: a retired actress mother, novelist father and two children, all prone to their own outrageous eccentricities. The family’s self-absorbed antics astound and ultimately exasperate the various guests that each of them has invited to their country house for the weekend. Driven to distraction by a comic maelstrom of rousing fights, fevered flirtations and histrionic role-playing, the guests eventually flee, leaving the Blisses happily playing and bickering amongst themselves.
Man of La Mancha, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion,| book by Dale Wasserman, directed by Robert McQueen, choreographed by Marc Kimelman.
Featuring the timeless anthem “The Impossible Dream,” Man of La Mancha follows the saga of the aging Miguel de Cervantes, playwright, poet and tax collector, who finds himself in a dungeon in Seville awaiting trial by the Inquisition for an offence against the Church. When his fellow prisoners try to confiscate his few possessions, including the uncompleted manuscript of his most famous work, the novel Don Quixote, Cervantes defends his masterpiece by proposing that he present it to them as a play.
Cervantes and his manservant transform themselves into Don Quixote and his fiercely loyal servant, Sancho Panza, recruiting prisoners to take on the roles of other characters. What follows is the stirring tale of the mad Quixote and his obsessive quest to attain the impossible dream.
It is the lunatic who sees most clearly in Man of La Mancha, as in King Lear.
Alice Through the Looking-Glass, adapted by James Reaney, directed by Jillian Keiley.
Twenty years after its Stratford première, Lewis Carroll’s wildly inventive fantasy returns. This is an adaptation commissioned by the Festival from nationally renowned playwright and poet James Reaney, a native son of Stratford. The 1994 production was so popular it was re-mounted in 1996.
Deciding to explore the alternative world she sees inside her living-room mirror, Alice finds a place that in some aspects resembles her home yet differs from it in ways as delightful as they are surreal.
Mother Courage, by Bertolt Brecht, directed by Martha Henry.
Considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century – and perhaps the greatest anti-war play of all time – Mother Courage will be directed by one of the Festival’s most celebrated artists, Martha Henry, returning for her 40th season with the Stratford Festival in 2014.
Mother Courage was written in 1939 as a response to the Nazi invasion of Poland. Set in 17th-century Europe and spanning 12 years, the story follows Mother Courage as she struggles to make a living and to protect her three children during the Thirty Years’ War. By the end of the play, having lost everyone she loves and almost everything she owns, she has truly been driven to the edge – yet somehow she finds the will to carry on.
King John, by William Shakespeare, directed by Tim Carroll.
The story of a monarch trying desperately to maintain his grip on power will be presented in a candlelit production at the Tom Patterson Theatre.
“King John looks at a mind driven by the dangerous combination of ambition and insecurity,” Cimolino said. “John commits horrible acts to secure a position he rightly holds. There is a wonderful range of characters in this play who navigate, with varying degrees of success, the pressures of politics, ambition, legitimacy and loss. From Hubert the mercenary, asked to commit an atrocity, to Constance, who wishes she were mad to escape the pain of her child’s murder, it is the Bastard (a very different bastard from Edmund in King Lear) who comes through the play with the most honor and integrity.”
Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare, directed by Gary Griffin.
The play, produced just four times before at Stratford, follows the relationship of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, with Mark Antony, one of the three rulers of the Roman republic.
“Antony and Cleopatra examines older love and the pressures of being madly in love when you know better,” Cimolino said. “This play has some of the most incredibly lyrical and intense love poetry ever written, along with beautiful observations on life that speak to us today, in a world where second and third marriages have never been more common.”
Christina, The Girl King, by Michel Marc Bouchard, translated by Linda Gaboriau, directed by Vanessa Porteous.
Commissioned as a translation by the Festival in 2010, the play is the story of Christina of Sweden, an extraordinarily modern character who was born just 10 years after Shakespeare’s death. Hers is a story of bringing sanity to an insane world. The enigmatic ruler showed a passion for philosophy, literature and the arts but her lifestyle and refusal to marry proved sources of great concern at court.
Rather than bow to pressure to conform to the expectations of others, the 26-year-old queen abdicates in order to be free to pursue her own aspirations. Is this an act of madness? Or is Christina’s the story of a modern woman born out of her time – one whom the 17th century simply couldn’t contain?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare, a chamber play directed by Peter Sellars.
Peter Sellars, renowned for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces, comes to the Festival for the first time to stage his reimagined version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
With a cast of four actors playing all the roles, this staging will offer an intensely focused approach to Shakespeare’s examination of the role-playing, mercurial mood swings, delusional fantasy, deep hurt, and forgiveness and release at the heart of human relationships.
“What is extraordinary about Stratford is not that we do 12 plays in one year, but that we do them all at the same time, giving theatre-goers an opportunity to experience one play in light of another. Next season, for the first time ever, we will offer a chance for audiences to experience the same title in two very different productions, along with further opportunities for exploration in The Forum,” Cimolino said.
When you go
Rsvp by Nov. 11 for the Cleveland event 11 to Cathy Kemp at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-561-1233, ext. 5617.
Tickets for the 2014 season of the Stratford Festival go on sale to members Nov. 11 and to the general public on Jan. 4, with a special advance sale on Facebook beginning Jan. 2.