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Why We’re Obsessed with the Stratford Festival

April 20, 2017 by Anne Berkowitz
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This summer, be sure to check out one of the greatest Canadian theatrical traditions: The Stratford Festival. It’s easily accessible from Toronto and offers an incredible array of shows and events. Outside of seeing some amazing productions like Guys and Dolls, HMS Pinafore, and Romeo and Juliet, here are a few more reasons why we are obsessed with this prodigious event.

1. It was initially a risky venture.

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In 1952, theater was rarely considered as a way to help boost an economy. Luckily, journalist Tom Patterson had the idea that the city of Stratford could be aided by a theatrical festival. Stratford shares a name with Shakespeare’s birthplace, after all.

2. Now, it’s a huge hit.

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Each year, the festival produces at least a dozen productions that attract thousands of audiences members. In fact, last years festival hosted a whopping 512,016 theater-goers!

3. The festival is presented on four beautiful stages.

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Photo Credit: Hubert Ye Hua

The festival began with just one concrete amphitheater. Now, the festival hosts it’s array of shows in four gorgeous state-of-the-art theaters: the Avon, the Festival Theater, the Studio Theater, and the Tom Patterson theater.

4. It lasts for seven months.

The Sound of Music – On The Run 2015
The Sound of Music – On The Run 2015

The Stratford Festival starts in April and runs through October. That’s quite a long time! One month for every von Trapp child, in fact.

5. Stratford is gorgeous.

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Just like it’s British counterpart, Stratford resides upon a shining River Avon. Be sure to take a stroll along the river before or after you see a show. You can also check out the luscious, award-winning gardens on the grounds.

6. More than half of this season is directed by women.

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8 of the 14 productions the Stratford Festival is producing this season are helmed by female directors. Pictured above, from left: Martha Henry (Twelfth Night), Donna Feore (Guys and Dolls, The Madwoman of Chaillot), Lezlie Wade (HMS Pinafore), Jackie Maxwell (The Changeling), Jillian Keiley (Bakkhai), Keira Loughran (The Komagata Maru Incident), Reneltta Arluk (The Breathing Hole).

7. It has helped launch and foster the careers of many great Canadian actors.

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The festival offers incredible opportunities for up-and-coming and seasoned actors alike. The first season alone featured the talents of the great Douglas Campbell (above), Timothy Findley, Don Harron, William Hutt and Douglas Rain.

8. Stratford pays great attention to detail.

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Photo of prop builder Carolyn Horley by Erin Samuell.

The festival is deeply considerate when choosing it’s season of Shakespearean plays, new plays, revivals, musicals, revues, and other special events. The glorious props and costumes that decorate the stages and help to tell the stories are also crafted with care.

9. It offers many educational opportunities.

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The festival sponsors a number of educational opportunities for children, university students, and educators alike. From fun after school programs to intense conservatory training, the Stratford Festival fosters theatrical immersion at every level.

10. It’s tradition.

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For good reason, as you can see, the festival has become a Canadian spring and summer staple. It brings together people of all different ages and backgrounds.

What shows are you excited to see at the festival this year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!