Stratford Festival's 2020 Season Goes on Sale Today
After a Members advance sale so busy it prompted the early extension of two productions, tickets for the Stratford Festival's groundbreaking new season go on sale to the public today. The 2020 season is one of the biggest ever and includes the much-anticipated opening of the new Tom Patterson Theatre. With the $100-million fundraising goal a hair's breadth away from completion, the bespoke theatre is one of North America's most significant new arts builds in decades.
The centrepiece of the season, Shakespeare's Richard III - the production that started it all for Stratford back in 1953 - is already in such demand that new performances have been added to the schedule. Directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and featuring stage and screen star Colm Feore in the title role, Richard III will open the new Tom Patterson Theatre in May.
An official dedication of the new theatre to the memory of Stratford Festival founder Tom Patterson will be held on June 11, the 100th anniversary of his birth.
And there's lots more excitement in 2020! Over at the iconic Festival Theatre, Donna Feore will direct and choreograph the hit musical Chicago, in the first major production outside of Broadway and London's West End in more than 30 years. It features Dan Chameroy, Chelsea Preston and Jennifer Rider-Shaw. With book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse and music by John Kander, Chicago is Broadway's longest running American musical. This production will be unlike anything you've seen before, entirely re-imagined by Donna Feore for the Festival's glorious thrust stage.
Donna Feore will also direct one of the season's most important premières, the brand new Steven Page and Daniel MacIvor musical Here's What It Takes at the Tom Patterson Theatre. Featuring Sean Arbuckle, Scott Beaudin, Dan Chameroy and Robert Markus, this toe-tapping, gut-wrenching, joy-inspiring musical follows fictional rock duo Walker Rhodes to super stardom and beyond, as the musicians experience the heartbreak, hardship and reward that is all part of what it takes to be a successful artist.
Another world première, Frankenstein Revived, a movement piece adapted and directed by Morris Panych, will also grace the Tom Patterson Theatre, featuring Jonathon Young as Doctor Frankenstein, Laura Condlln as Mary Shelley and Marcus Nance as The Monster.
And the always-fresh, always-new An Undiscovered Shakespeare will open the TPT's Lazaridis Hall. This incredible feat of theatrical virtuosity, sees a group of six actors, directed and led by Rebecca Northan, tell an audience member's love story as a Shakespearean play - all improvised on the spot in iambic pentameter.
At the Avon Theatre, two North American premières. Wendy & Peter Pan is a breathtaking retelling of the beloved J.M. Barrie novel by Ella Hickson, directed by Keira Loughran and featuring Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks and Jake Runeckles. Wolf Hall is the hit U.K. play about Tudor gossip and intrigue, adapted by Mike Poulton from the Hilary Mantel novel, which also inspired the Golden Globe-winning Best Miniseries. It's co-directed by Ted Witzel and Geraint Wyn Davies, who also plays Thomas Cromwell in the production.
Also heating up during advance sales is Monty Python's Spamalot, book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John Du Prez and Eric Idle. This hilarious Tony-winning Best Musical, directed by Lezlie Wade and choreographed by Jesse Robb, features Jonathan Goad as King Arthur.
There's lots of Shakespeare on the playbill. As in the Festival's inaugural season, Richard III will be accompanied by All's Well That Ends Well. It will be directed by Scott Wentworth, featuring Danny Ghantous, Jessica B. Hill and Seana McKenna, at the new TPT. Opening the 2020 season at the Festival Theatre is Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Chris Abraham and featuring Graham Abbey and Maev Beaty. Also on the main stage, Amaka Umeh makes her Stratford debut in the title role of Hamlet, directed by Peter Pasyk.
Inspired by Shakespeare's masterpiece, award-winning author and playwright Ann-Marie Macdonald has written a new play that will have its world première at the Studio Theatre. Hamlet-911, based on an idea by Alisa Palmer, who will direct the production, features Mike Shara as actor Guinness Menzies, who has landed his dream role: playing Hamlet at the Stratford Festival.
Also at the Studio Theatre is Tomson Highway's comedy The Rez Sisters, directed by Jessica Carmichael and featuring Jani Lauzon as Pelajia Patchnose, who strikes out with six family members to get to "the biggest bingo in the world."
One of the most anticipated productions is Edward Albee's Three Tall Women with Martha Henry, Lucy Peacock and Mamie Zwettler, directed by Diana Leblanc. The production is already in such demand that additional performances are being added to the schedule.
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Colm Feore team up again for Molière's hilarious comedy The Miser. Like their wildly successful 2014 collaboration on Shakespeare's heart-rending tragedy, King Lear, and the Restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem, 2020's pairing offers an outstanding opportunity to see one of the country's finest actors take on two vastly different classical roles in repertory - a rare delight in today's world of theatrical performance but one that is the raison d'être of the Stratford Festival.
The new Tom Patterson Theatre allows the Festival a new canvas on which to explore audience engagement, and to this end, it has doubled the offerings at the Meighen Forum. Advance sales for the more than 300 supplementary events are booming:
· Don't miss out on engaging talks by the journalists of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and CBC, Canada's national broadcaster.
· Get a glimpse behind the curtain with exclusive backstage tours.
· See Margaret Trudeau's new one-woman show, Certain Woman of an Age, and Yolanda Bonnell's bug, an exploration of two Indigenous women fighting the effects of colonialism on their bodies.
· Enjoy an Elizabethan Feast with commentary by Jeffrey Pilcher, professor of food studies at the University of Toronto, or a taste of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine with the team from celebrated Chef Mark McEwan's restaurant Diwan.
· Be entertained at a Drag Brunch or a Gospel Brunch or a Franken-Brunch.
· Hear the remarkable strains of Marcus Nance at In the Eyes of My People: The Power of the Black Experience in Song as part of the expanded Night Music series.
· Listen to Rambles of Creative Women, a program of solo piano music by 19th century female composers with anecdotes from the travel writings of Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft.
· Be inspired by panels discussing The Power of Money, Sex and Shakespeare, Humour for Wellbeing, The Desire for Influence, Ethical Science?, The Superpower of Satire - and dozens of other topics exploring the season theme of Power and more.
Tickets for the landmark 2020 Stratford Festival are available at stratfordfestival.ca or by calling the box office at 1.800.567.1600. It's a season to celebrate!
Photo Credit: David Cooper