Noel Coward's HAY FEVER Begins Previews at Stratford Festival

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Noel Coward's HAY FEVER Begins Previews at Stratford Festival

Last season, the Stratford Festival staged a wildly popular production of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit; this season, another Coward classic will be presented at the Avon Theatre, the outrageously witty Hay Fever. Directed by Alisa Palmer, this hilarious comedy began previews on Wednesday and officially opens on Thursday, June 19.

"Hay Fever reminds me of Seinfeld, a show whose creators, like Coward, pre-empted their own critics by declaring, cheekily, that their show was 'about nothing.' " says Ms Palmer, who is also Artistic Director of the National Theatre School. "Like Hay Fever, it was smart comedy, driven by the absurdity and the passion of relationship, viewed through a markedly unsentimental lens. There are many good plays about family, but few dare to illumine family dynamics as unflinchingly as Coward's does. In this, I find his work arresting and refreshing."

Featuring Festival favourites Lucy Peacock as Judith Bliss and Cynthia Dale as Myra Arundel, Hay Fever introduces audiences to the Bliss family: a retired actress mother, novelist father, played by Kevin Bundy, and two children, played by Ruby Joy and Tyrone Savage, all prone to their own outrageous eccentricities. The family's self-absorbed antics astound and ultimately exasperate the various guests that each of them has invited to their country house for the weekend. Driven to distraction by a comic maelstrom of rousing fights, fevered flirtations and histrionic role-playing, the guests begin to wonder if they've landed in a madhouse - and if they can survive the weekend with their wits intact.

Within this season's theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge, Hay Fever can be described as an example of family drama pushed to the extreme.

"Noël Coward gives us a deliciously entertaining and hilarious take on this season's theme," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. "We all know people like the Bliss family - friends who live in their own world, blissfully unconstrained by social norms. As a study of such characters, brought to life by Coward's laser-sharp wit and dialogue, Hay Fever is a perfectly polished, laugh-out-loud production. In the hands of the brilliant Alisa Palmer, who has such a passionate appreciation for Coward's work, this is one night out at the theatre you won't soon forget."

Ms Palmer makes her Stratford debut with this production. Having trained both in Canada and internationally, she has worn many theatrical hats, including those of multiple-award-winning theatre director, playwright, dramaturge and theatre producer. She is currently collaborating on a Festival commission with playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald and Torquil Campbell to develop a modern musical reflection on Hamlet.

Artistic credits include Set Designer Douglas Paraschuk, Costume Designer Dana Osborne, Lighting Designer Steven Hawkins, Sound Designer Richard Feren and Fight Director John Stead.

Hay Fever Forum Highlights:

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 Hay Fever will be explored through several Forum events, including: Theatre Babies, in which company members Ruby Joy, Tyrone Savage and others come together to talk about what it is like to grow up in a family of artists; Wordplay: The Vortex, in which Geraint Wyn Davies hosts a dramatic reading of Noël Coward's The Vortex, the play that was his first commercial success focusing on sexual vanity and drug abuse among the British upper classes; and Behind the Scenes, a panel discussion in which backstage personnel and technicians offer their insights into the joys and challenges of staging Hay Fever.

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.

Hay Fever runs until October 11. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

Stratford Direct, the daily return private bus service, now offers two routes: Toronto to Stratford and Detroit to Stratford. The Toronto bus costs $20 round trip, departing twice daily until September 21, and once daily from September 23 to October 12. The Detroit bus costs $40 round trip, with Tuesday, Friday and Saturday departures from June 3 to September 28. Both routes run on performance days only.

The 2014 season runs from April 21 to October 12, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream; The Beaux' Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 200 events in The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order):

David Bliss................................................ Kevin Bundy

Jackie Coryton............................................ Ijeoma Emesowum

Myra Arundel............................................. Cynthia Dale

Sorel Bliss................................................... Ruby Joy

Understudy................................................ John Kirkpatrick

Understudy................................................ Claire Lautier

Understudy................................................. Elliott Loran

Clara......................................................... Sarah Orenstein

Understudy................................................ Sarena Parmar

Judith Bliss................................................. Lucy Peacock

Sandy Tyrell................................................ Gareth Potter

Simon Bliss................................................. Tyrone Savage

Richard Greatham......................................... Sanjay Talwar

Understudy................................................. Sophia Walker

Understudy................................................. Jenny Young

Artistic Credits:

Director...................................................... Alisa Palmer

Set Designer................................................. Douglas Paraschuk

Costume Designer.......................................... Dana Osborne

Lighting Designer........................................... Steven Hawkins

Sound Designer.............................................. Richard Feren

Fight Director................................................ John Stead

Producer...................................................... David Auster

Casting Director............................................. Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director................................. Jason Miller

Assistant Set Designer....................................... Nancy Anne Perrin

Assistant Costume Designer............................... Brandon Kleiman

Assistant Lighting Designer................................. Jareth Li

Fight Captain.................................................. Tyrone Savage

Stage Manager................................................ Michael Hart

Assistant Stage Managers.................................... Stephanie Meine, Kristopher Weber

Production Assistant.......................................... Liz King

Production Stage Managers................................. Julie Miles, Maxwell T. Wilson

Technical Director............................................ Elissa Horscroft

Pictured: Cynthia Dale and Lucy Peacock. Photography by Don Dixon; Digital Artist: Krista Dodson.

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