The hardest part about time capsules is remembering to open them after a lot of time has passed. The Stratford Festival in Ontario completely forgot about theirs...until now.
Back in January 1957, Governor General Vincent Massey opened the permanent Festival Theatre building and placed a plaque on its cornerstone. Behind the plaque was placed a stainless steel box -- a time capsule, holding various artifacts taken from the Stratford Festival's first four years of existence.
"This is an occasion which must be profoundly moving to all of us here," said Massey at the time. "We are marking a great moment in the story of an enterprise which began as a local effort with unbelievable ambitions. We now see it as a national achievement winning incredible success."
Back then, Tyrone Guthrie was the Strat's first artistic director, and actors such as Alec Guinness (Richard III in 1953) and Irene Worth performed there -- even though the venue was just a 1,500-seat tent.
Well, it's now 40 years later, and $13 million worth of renovations have begun as part of the Festival Theatre Renewal Project. During the construction and reconstruction, the long-forgotten time capsule was discovered by construction workers and extracted from the wall. Upon discovery of the object, current Stratford artistic director Richard Mon ette, "Perhaps we'll find a lost government grant in the time capsule! Seriously, I think it's tremendously significant that we've found this memento of the past as we renew for the future. It's a kind of connection across the decades: something delivered directly from the founders' hands to ours."
Six days after the capsule's discovery, a ceremony was conducted to open the box, with founder Tom Patterson and company members Cynthia Dale and Tom McCamus leading the honors. Original designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who's assisting the company on their upcoming Oedipus Rex, participated in the ceremony by conference call.
What was in the box? Letters from Patterson to Guthrie convincing the latter to take the position of artistic director; a letter from Guthrie to Guinness; an original piece of canvas from the first Stratford Festival tent; a 1956 good luck penny, the Governor General's speech, and other documents pertaining to the theatre's first four years.
According to press representative Karen Scholz, the theatre will now store the time capsule in its archives -- and create a new time capsule to be implanted in June, around the time of the new theatre's inauguration. A list is already being compiled for objects to go into the box.
For information on the 1997 Stratford Festival, call 1-800-567-1600.
--By David Lefkowitz