The Stratford Festival in Ontario confirmed Sept. 5 what was previously reported in the Canadian press: World premieres of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass and Moby Dick by Morris Panych will be seen in the 2008 season.
The respected festival in Ontario will also welcome Tony Award winner Brian Dennehy to the acting company in 2008. He'll appear in a double bill of one-acts: Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (directed by Stratford co-artistic director Don Shipley) and Eugene O'Neill's Hughie at the Studio Theatre.
Dennehy will also play the King in All's Well That Ends Well, directed by co-artistic director Marti Maraden. (Dennehy recently starred on Broadway in Inherit the Wind with Christopher Plummer, who will also play Stratford in 2008 — in Caesar and Cleopatra.)
In addition to Palmer Park and Moby Dick, two more works are brewing for 2008.
The festival has commissioned actor-writer Simon Callow to write a play inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets. This original creation, to be directed by Michael Langham, is currently being developed for the 2008 season, though its production date is still to be finalized. Playwright and director Peter Hinton has been commissioned to develop the season's fourth new work — part of a new project called "Shakespeare's Universe." This year's presentation of this project features Shakespeare's women. Entitled Her Infinite Variety, it will be presented in a new outdoor space on parkland outside the Festival Theatre.
"Mr. Hinton, who is the artistic director of English Theatre for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, has been hailed for the stunning visual impact of his productions," stated Shipley. "He's ideal for this project, which promises to illuminate the times in which Shakespeare lived and wrote."
Hinton will also direct The Taming of the Shrew in 2008.
Her Infinite Variety "celebrates the women in Shakespeare's plays, as well as the mind and times that created them," according to the festival. "It will combine history, sword-fights, songs and scenes in an outdoor setting and will provide audiences with a prelude to the five Shakespearean productions that anchor the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's 2008 season: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, All's Well That Ends Well, The Taming of the Shrew and Love's Labour's Lost."
"'Shakespeare's Universe' will offer a glimpse into Shakespeare's England, a country on the verge of leaping into the modern world," according to the festival. "It will also explore Shakespeare's place in recording and perhaps helping to create that history. 'Shakespeare's Universe' is part of a vision the new artistic team has to create a true 'festival' ambiance for visitors to Stratford."
Two Canadian plays will premiere at the Studio Theatre in 2008: Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass and Moby Dick by Morris Panych.
The play, set in the late 1960s, concerns the post-race riot neighborhood of Palmer Park, an affluent Detroit neighborhood. The playwright lived in Palmer Park at that time and became "part of an idealistic utopian experiment in integration, which aspired to give black and white neighbors alike the ability to achieve their dream."
"Joanna McClelland Glass's insightful play brings a dynamic era vividly into focus and challenges us to examine where we are 40 years later," Maraden stated.
Moby Dick is Herman Melville's classic novel re-created by acclaimed Canadian playwright Morris Panych, who was co-creator with Wendy Gorling of The Overcoat, a production that won praise internationally.
"Melville's masterful epic set to the music of Debussy will be adapted for the stage using various means of storytelling, including creative movement and dance," according to the festival.
Also planned for 2008 is a reworking of the Festival Theatre lobby "to include a stage where music, programmed by the festival's music department, will play" and where "there will also be opportunities to hear readings and lectures and take part in other events that enhance the Shakespeare experience."
The Theatre Store will be moved to the neighboring Discovery Centre (its original home) to incorporate these changes.
In addition to the five Shakespeare productions, the Stratford Festival has also announced two musicals for 2008: Cabaret and The Music Man. Other classic plays previously announced are The Trojan Women, Caesar and Cleopatra, Fuente Ovejuna and Emilia Galotti. The box office opens to the public on Dec. 1. Members can book in advance beginning Oct. 15.
For more information, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.