Walker is internationally known for such plays as Zastrozzi, Nothing Sacred and Suburban Motel. Under artistic director Des McAnuff, Stratford has been aggressive about committing to new Canadian plays, as well as its traditional mandate of Shakespeare, world classics and modern works.
A second commission made under McAnuff's tenure, The Little Years by John Mighton, will be produced in 2011, and a third by Judith Thompson is ongoing. A new commission from the creators of The Drowsy Chaperone was announced last month.
"We want to send a clear message to Canadian playwrights and theatre makers that new work of varying scope can be done at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and we hope it will play a large part in our future," McAnuff said.
Directed by Jennifer Tarver, King of Thieves features original music by Dora Award-winner John Roby, with lyrics by Walker.
The first of the Festival's recent commissions to reach the stage, King of Thieves is "loosely based on the widely popular 18th-century classic The Beggar's Opera," according to Festival notes, "with songs takes the audience back to one of the smoky, sexy speakeasies of the roaring '20s." It tells the story of a famous thief named Mac, played by Evan Buliung. "I met George F. Walker when I was 19 and I have been a great fan of his work ever since," artistic director Des McAnuff said in a statement. "It is extremely gratifying to be able to produce as our first commission under this team's leadership a play by this great Canadian writer. It is even more satisfying to have Jennifer Tarver at the helm of this production following the success of George's play Zastrozzi last season. I can't think of a better director to shape this new work for the stage."
The play is further explained this way: "Caught up in a life of crime, Mac is surprised when his disapproving father-in-law Peachum, played by Jay Brazeau, a fellow thief and master criminal, summons him to play a key role in a plot to take down a group of corporate bankers who plan to crash the market and reap the financial rewards. The production also features the talents of Seán Cullen as Vinnie, owner of the speakeasy at the centre of the action."
The cast also includes Mary Antonini, Oliver Becker, Nigel Bennett, Shane Carty, Laura Condlln, Paul Fauteux, Scott A. Hurst, Cyrus Lane, Richard Lee, Nora McLellan, Trent Pardy, Jennifer Patterson, Stephanie Roth, Jay T. Schramek and Sandy Winsby.
King of Thieves runs until Sept. 10. To purchase tickets call the box office at (800) 567-1600 or visit the Festival online at www.stratfordshakespearefestival.com.
The 2010 Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, runs until Nov. 6, featuring As You Like It; Kiss Me, Kate; The Tempest; Dangerous Liaisons; Evita; Peter Pan; The Winter's Tale; Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again; Do Not Go Gentle; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; and King of Thieves.