Now that the holidays are behind us and a bleak winter of discontent lies dead ahead, what have we got to look forward to? How about a winter's tale rich with promises of vibrant theatre, made glorious summer by discounted tickets for pre-orders?
One of our favorite winter diversions is to start scheming early about which shows to see at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. If this is your cup of tea (with scones) you’ll be delighted to learn that the Stratford Festival’s box office opens to the public this Saturday, January 5, at 9 a.m., with online advance sales beginning at noon on Friday. And Facebook fans who want to use the Festival’s new social ticketing app will be able to purchase tickets today. In fact, tickets are being offered at up to 25% off until January 31, with an opportunity to exchange dates with no added expense.
This season, the first under Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, features 12 productions, from classical to contemporary, plus a new initiative, The Forum, which offers a series of events to enrich the play-going experience.
“The plays and musicals we’re presenting in 2013 are extraordinary creations that explore the human condition in very different ways,” says Mr. Cimolino. “Presented by an exceptional company of actors and directors, who are among the finest in the world, these productions will open up lively conversations that can be further pursued through our many Forum events.”
Mr. Cimolino will himself direct “The Merchant of Venice,” with a powerhouse cast that stars (insert trumpet fanfare) Brian Bedford as Shylock. Just when we thought Mr. Bedford had no more surprises for us, he gives us a Shylock. We know he’ll be magnificent.
Mr. Bedford will also serve as director of Noel Coward’s classic comedy, “Blithe Spirit” with Ben Carlson, Michelle Giroux, Seana McKenna and Sara Topham.
Brian Dennehy also returns to Stratford, appearing in “Mary Stuart” with Seana McKenna and Lucy Peacock as the two embittered queens and also featuring Ben Carlson and Geraint Wyn Davies. Dennehy will play Pozzo in Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” with Stephen Ouimette and Tom Rooney.
We are also thrilled to see that Graham Abbey is back. He’ll be appearing in “Othello” and also in “The Three Musketeers.”
And although Des McAnuff has officially left all Artistic Director duties to his friend and colleague Antoni Cimolino, he’ll be returning to the Avon Theatre with what is sure to be a big, brilliant production of “Tommy” – the blockbuster musical he created with The Who’s Pete Townshend. Twenty years ago the show took Broadway by storm, winning five Tony awards, including best director and best score. We recommend seeing this revival at Stratford. If it’s half as good as McAnuff’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” we can expect “Tommy” to move back to Broadway for an official revival as soon as the Stratford season concludes.
For a full schedule of upcoming shows, visit the Stratford website or download a free Stratford Facebook app to secure advance tickets. The app allows users to create a Festival Facebook Event, where they can coordinate visits to Stratford with friends and family. It offers a seat selection function through which users can see where their Facebook friends will be sitting and select their own seats accordingly.
The Festival is also introducing a Pre-Season Promise, which allows advance ticket buyers to exchange their tickets without incurring additional costs. Those who order before January 31 will keep their pre-season ticket price while being able to exchange for the same performance type and seating zone without paying exchange fees.
In addition to holding ticket prices at last year’s levels, the Festival is offering the following:
- A new $20 ticket price for students (down from $25).
- 50% reduction in handling fees for all online purchases.
- A two-for-one promotion for tickets to Tuesday evening performances all season long (except opening nights).
- Twice-daily bus service from Toronto at a cost of $10 each way.
“Our goal is to enhance the Stratford experience in as many ways as possible,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “We want people to enjoy not only the productions, but also the many Forum events we have planned.”
With more than 100 events already scheduled, The Forum will address the themes of classical theatre as seen in our world today through music, interactive discussions, comedy, panels, debates, dramatic readings and keynote speakers.
“We are building a festival within our Festival to complement the work on our stages and we’re very proud of the exceptional program for the inaugural Forum,” says Mr. Cimolino. “It includes speakers such as John de Chastelain and Adam Gopnik, musical performances by Cynthia Dale, the ARC Ensemble and others, as well as special presentations by key members of our company, including Seana McKenna, Lucy Peacock and Geraint Wyn Davies.
“Our patrons hunger for opportunities to reflect on the work they see on our stages. They seek out opportunities that provide context, insight and illumination. The Forum is designed to feed that desire and to give people something they can’t get anywhere else: a chance to become fully immersed in theatre and the thoughts and feelings that it provokes.”
The 2013 season begins on April 23 and runs until October 20, featuring “Romeo and Juliet,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “ The Three Musketeers,” “ The Merchant of Venice,” “ Tommy,” “Blithe Spirit,” “Othello,” “Measure for Measure,” “Mary Stuart,” “Waiting for Godot” and two new Canadian plays, “Taking Shakespeare” and “The Thrill.”
To order tickets, call 1.800.567.1600 or visit the Stratford Festival website..