The Stratford Festival Celebrates its 65th Season with a ROMEO AND JULIET Reunion!
Audience members at today's production of ROMEO AND JULIET at the Stratford Festival were in for a real treat...And some of them had no idea! There was a delightful murmur of excitement from the crowd when Artistic Director (and 1992 Romeo) Antoni Cimolino came onstage to announce that in celebration of the Festival's 65th season, a group of former Romeos and Juliets were in attendance!
One by one, the thespians who once portrayed the tragic young lovers, were invited up on stage. In attendance, were: Colm Feore and Seana McKenna (1984); Antoni Cimolino and Megan Follows (1992); Graham Abbey (2002); Gareth Potter and Tony Award Winner Nikki M. James (2008); and this season's Antoine Yared and Sara Farb. Also in attendance are performers from two related productions: Tom Rooney, who played Romeo in Robert Lepage's bilingual production of Romeo & Juliette in 1990, which was staged in a tent on the Festival grounds; and Annette av Paul, who did a ballet performance as Juliet with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens for the Festival's opening night gala in 1979.
Prior to this afternoon's production, the group had gathered to swap stories and share precious memories of their experiences at the festival and specifically, their experiences portraying these iconic characters. They received video messages from other past Romeos and Juliets who could not be in attendance. This included: Louise Marleau and Christopher Walken (1968), Marti Maraden (1977), Albert Schultz and Susan Coyne (1987), Marion Day (1997), Claire Jullien (2002), Daniel Briere and Sara Topham (2013). They also took a moment to remember those who are no longer with us: Julie Harris and Bruno Gerussi (1960), Richard Monette (1977) and Jonathan Crombie (1997).
"What a great way to celebrate 65 seasons of passion, love and creativity," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. "In bringing together our former Romeos and Juliets, we not only celebrate Shakespeare but also the central role that the Stratford Festival has played in developing Canadian talent."
After the production and on-stage reunion, the performers and audience members were invited to view costumes from the past productions. Archives Director, Liza Giffen was on hand to answer questions about each of the costumes. She commented that it is rare for costumes from theatrical productions to have the level of detail that Stratford Festival costumes have. Audiences see them from a bit of a distance, so typically, the design is not as intricate as the design would be for a costume for TV or movies. This has never been the case in Stratford though! Using the dress worn by Megan Follows in the 1992 production of ROMEO AND JULIET as an example, Giffen exclaimed "It doesn't just look perfect. It is perfect". After seeing this piece of art up close, I would have to agree!
The ghosts of the Festival Theatre were a little more alive this afternoon...and the ending of a performance of ROMEO AND JULIET was a LOT more cheerful! It appeared to be a lovely afternoon for all involved and it allowed everyone to reflect on the rich and wonderful history of the Stratford Festival.
For more pictures from this fun event, be sure to check out @bww_toronto on Twitter!