Shakespeare, Chekhov, Wilde, Sondheim Will Commingle With Canadian Writers at Stratford

News   Shakespeare, Chekhov, Wilde, Sondheim Will Commingle With Canadian Writers at Stratford
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario announced its 2009 season on Aug. 18, revealing a playbill reflecting the festival's passion for the works of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, plus classical and contemporary repertoire, and works by living Canadian writers.
Des McAnuff
Des McAnuff Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Along with Macbeth directed by Tony Award-winning Stratford artistic director Des McAnuff, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Three Sisters, Julius Caesar, Phèdre, The Importance of Being Earnest and more, a season of Canadian plays will be presented at Stratford's smallest space, the Studio Theatre. Morris Panych's The Trespassers will get its world premiere in 2009.

American playwright Aaron Sorkin (The Farnsworth Invention. TV's "The West Wing") has been commissioned to translate and adapt a classic play to be produced in a future season. A clutch of Canadian writers have also been commissioned for future plays, the festival announced.

"Our approach to creating a season is artist driven," McAnuff stated. "We haven't simply come up with a list of plays and slotted people in. We have encouraged artists to come forward with their own dream projects. We see our responsibility as supporting those artists to help them fulfill their dreams and visions. This is the best way to serve not only them but our audiences. The key to creating transcendent theatre is having passionate people at the helm of each production."

McAnuff has selected four plays from the Elizabethan-Jacobean period, four other classics, and three contemporary Canadian plays, along with two musicals (the previously announced West Side Story at the Festival and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Avon) based on classical works.

A commitment to new play development is central to the festival's new artistic direction (McAnuff is currently in his first season at the Stratford helm). The festival is very excited to announce a series of commissions from three outstanding Canadian playwrights: John Mighton, Judith Thompson and George F. Walker. A fourth commission "from one of Canada's most celebrated writers will be announced at a later date, along with titles and details of these projects." All of these commissions (including the Sorkin project) will be considered for production in upcoming seasons.

"It's important for us, as a classical repertory theatre, to have living playwrights in our midst," McAnuff stated. "It helps keep us honest in our approach to the classics, reminding us that our productions must speak to burning contemporary issues and the important subjects of our own times. Contemporary writers can gain a great deal in turn by having their works produced alongside the great plays of dramatic literature. The classics feed and inform new plays just as our own writers help us to focus on the pertinence of the classics."

From the Elizabethan-Jacobean period, the Festival will be presenting the following plays for 2009, fulfilling its commitment to produce four or five plays from the Shakespearean period every season:

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare, at the Festival Theatre, directed by Des McAnuff.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, at the Festival Theatre (Broadway's Journey's End), directed by David Grindley, making his Stratford debut.
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare at the Avon Theatre, directed by James MacDonald.
  • Bartholomew Fair by Ben Jonson, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, directed by Stratford general director Antoni Cimolino. Other classics in the 2009 season are:

  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, translated and adapted by Anthony Burgess, at the Festival Theatre, directed by Donna Feore.
  • The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, directed by Stratford veteran Martha Henry.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, at the Avon Theatre, directed by Stratford vet Brian Bedford, plus a companion piece Ever Yours, Oscar, a one-man performance compiled by Peter Wylde from the letters of Oscar Wilde, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, directed by and featuring Brian Bedford.
  • Phèdre by Jean Racine, in a new world premiere translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker, at the Tom Patterson Theatre, directed by Carey Perloff (of San Francisco's A.C.T.) "Carey Perloff and Timberlake Wertenbaker workshopped this translation of Phèdre at the Festival last fall," Cimolino said. "We're now proud to be presenting this new version by the internationally renowned author of Our Country's Good."

    The all-Canadian season at the Studio Theatre includes:

  • The Trespassers, a world premiere by Morris Panych, directed by the author, who is known for Vigil and The Overcoat.
  • Zastrozzi by George F. Walker, directed by Jennifer Tarver.
  • Rice Boy by Sunil Kuruvilla. "Des started his career as a Canadian playwright and composer at Factory Theatre Lab, Toronto Free Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille," Cimolino said. "It's fitting that he's now in a position to advance the work of Canadian playwrights at North America's leading repertory theatre. This all-Canadian season at the Studio, together with the plays we have commissioned, will help ensure that this Festival continues to be a major force in the creation and production of new Canadian plays."

    West Side Story by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim will be directed by Gary Griffin and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo.

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, will be directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Wayne Cilento.

    The 2009 season will begin in mid-April and run through October. Dates and casting will be announced later.

    The current season continues until Nov. 9, featuring Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well, Caesar and Cleopatra, The Music Man, Cabaret, Emilia Galotti, The Trojan Women, Love's Labour's Lost, Fuente Ovejuna, There Reigns Love, Hughie and Krapp's Last Tape, Palmer Park, Moby Dick and Shakespeare's Universe (Her Infinite Variety).


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