The Stratford Festival of Canada celebrates its 50th season of theatre in 2002 with a playbill that includes seven Shakespeare plays, including the previously announced King Lear starring Christopher Plummer.
The prestigious festival, recognized as North America's major classical theatre festival, founded in 1953 by Tyrone Guthrie, will stage the first two plays mounted 50 summers ago: All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III.
The full slate of plays for 2002 was announced Oct. 10. Opening the season on the Festival Stage May 27, 2002, is All's Well That Ends Well, the Shakespearean romantic comedy directed by Stratford artistic director Richard Monette. Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespeare romantic tragedy of two young star-crossed lovers, also will be presented at the Festival, opening May 31, directed by Miles Potter. The flagship Festival Stage also houses King Lear, directed by Jonathan Miller, opening Aug. 24.
The Festival also will complete its cycle of Shakespearean history plays that started with Richard II in 1999 and continued in 2001 with Henry IV, Part 1, Falstaff (Henry IV, Part 2) and Henry V. In 2002, the three plays written about Henry VI's reign will be presented in two parts at the Festival's Tom Patterson Theatre as Henry VI: Revenge in France and Henry VI: Revolt in England. The two productions, opening June 1, will both be directed by Leon Rubin. The saga of the Wars of the Roses continues with Shakespeare's Richard III: Reign of Terror, which will open at the Avon Theatre July 13. Tyrone Guthrie directed Richard III to open the Stratford Festival on July 13, 1953. In 2002, Martha Henry will direct the staging.
The final Shakespeare play is a late-career collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher. The Two Noble Kinsmen, to be presented at the Tom Patterson Theatre and directed by Conservatory Principal David Latham, will feature graduates of the Festival's Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training, now in its fourth year. It is the first time the festival has staged a full production of the work; it opens July 12. The festival will present two musicals in 2002: My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe at the Festival Theatre, directed by Monette (opening May 28); and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill at the refurbished Avon Theatre, directed by Festival alumnus Stephen Ouimette, who makes his directorial debut at Stratford with this production (opening May 29).
The final play at the Avon Theatre will be The Scarlet Pimpernel by Beverley Cross, adapted from the novel by Baroness Orczy. This swashbuckling adventure of concealed identities and heroic rescues set in the time of the French Revolution, is intended as a "Family Experience" show for all ages. It was first written for the Chichester Festival Theatre in England. Directed by Dennis Garnhum, it opens May 30.
The Stratford Festival will also open its fourth theatre space, the Studio Theatre, on July 13, 2002, with six one-act plays — five of them new works by Canadian authors — as well as a new full length play, The Swanne, Part 1: The Death of Cupid by Montreal director and dramaturg Peter Hinton. This play, set in the childhood time of Queen Victoria, is written in verse for a cast of 21. It premieres Oct. 9, directed by the author. The five commissioned one-act plays are High Gravel-Blind by Paul Dunn, directed by Richard Monette; Shadows by Timothy Findley, directed by Dennis Garnhum; Walk Right Up by Celia McBride, directed by Michael Shamata; Eternal Hydra by Anton Piatigorsky, directed by the Festival's Director of New Play Development, Andrey Tarasiuk; and Bereav'd of Light by Ian Ross, directed by Dean Gabourie. The sixth play is three scripts written originally for radio by master filmmaker Federico Fellini.
For information, call (800) 567-1600 or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
— By Kenneth Jones