CHRISTINA, THE GIRL KING Begins Previews 7/29 at Stratford Festival

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CHRISTINA, THE GIRL KING Begins Previews 7/29 at Stratford Festival

The Stratford Festival will present Linda Gaboriau's remarkable new translation of Michel Marc Bouchard's Christina, The Girl King. Written by one of Quebec's most celebrated playwrights, and directed by Vanessa Porteous, Artistic Director of Alberta Theatre Projects, the play makes its English language première at Stratford's Studio Theatre. Previews begin on Tuesday, July 29, and the production officially opens on Thursday, August 14.

Commissioned as a translation by the Festival in 2010, the play tells the story of Sweden's Queen Christina, an extraordinarily modern character who was born just 10 years after Shakespeare's death. The enigmatic ruler showed a passion for philosophy, literature and the arts, but her lifestyle - and her unconventional sexuality - put her profoundly at odds with her culture's expectations of her, both as a monarch and as a woman. Rather than conform to the expectations of others, the 26-year-old queen abdicates in order to be free to pursue her own aspirations.

Jenny Young makes her Stratford Festival debut in the title role, while Graham Abbey plays antagonist, Count Johan Oxenstierna.

"Christina, The Girl King addresses the necessity, and the sacrifices, of being true to yourself," says Ms Porteous. "Freedom is an urgent need for all of us, and yet it has a cost. Like Christina, we are all caught between public, family, or professional obligations, and our inner needs. We are all trapped by the expectations of those around us. But deep inside, under the ice, raging like a northern river in early spring, surges a powerful need to be free, to be who we really are. Michel Marc Bouchard shows us that if this need is dammed up, it will burst forth with unforeseeable, potentially destructive consequences - unless it is sent into a new channel and allowed to run free. The exquisite, terrible ravages of love and the beautiful, dangerous necessity of embracing who you really are: that is what this play is about, to me."

The collision of public duty and private desire lies at the heart of a drama as captivating as it is provocative. Within this season's theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge, Christina's story is one of bringing sanity to an insane world.

"As seen through the eyes of one of our greatest playwrights, Michel Marc Bouchard, and the beautiful words of Linda Gaboriau, Christina, The Girl King helps us understand the situation of the person who does not fit in," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. "Christina made many important decisions over the course of her life - a life that was very much pushed to the edge by the expectations of her society. She is a remarkable figure who went against the grain, refusing to simply be what she was told she must be.

"It's a great honour to present this world première on our Studio stage - a space that has been home to many extraordinary examinations of new work. What a treat for our audiences to be the first to see this brilliant translation of such a riveting play."

Artistic credits include Designer Michael Gianfrancesco, Lighting Designer Kimberly Purtell, Composer and Sound Designer Alexander MacSween, Dramaturge Bob White and Fight Director John Stead.

The Stratford Festival Forum is a series of activities and events, including concerts, debates, talks, comedy and interactive presentations, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve further into the ideas and issues raised by the 2014 playbill and its theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge.

Themes related to Christina, The Girl King will be explored through several Forum events, including: A Question of Identity, in which Antoni Cimolino and special guests lead a discussion on the tension between socially constructed roles and our inner sense of identity, and whether the playwrights this season offer any guidance in resolving such tension; and Love in a Dangerous Time, in which art historian Dr. Rose Marie San Juan explores how the paintings of herself Queen Christina sent to various courts in Europe address rumours of the Queen's sexuality, lesbianism and hermaphroditism, while company members read letters exchanged between Queen Christina and Ebba Sparre.

Sustaining support for the Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and the T.R. Meighen Foundation. Support for the 2014 Forum is generously provided by Nandita & Julian Wise. Selected Forum events supported by Bell Let's Talk. Support for Peer Into the Playbill is provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

Christina, The Girl King runs until September 21. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

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