The Stratford Shakespeare Festival continues to mark its 60th season this week with the world premières of three Canadian plays and the opening of Artistic Director Des McAnuff's production of Henry V.
Henry V, featuring Aaron Krohn in the title role, will open on Friday, July 13, the Festival's anniversary. Wednesday sees the opening of Wanderlust, a new musical commissioned by the Festival from Morris Panych and Marek Norman, based on the poetry of Robert Service. Daniel MacIvor's new play The Best Brothers, workshopped at the Festival and directed by Associate Artistic Director Dean Gabourie, opens Thursday afternoon, followed that evening by Hirsch, which celebrates the life and career of former Artistic Director John Hirsch. Developed at Stratford over the past three years, Hirsch was created and conceived by Alon Nashman and Paul Thompson.
"One of my proudest achievements at the Festival is to have mounted a celebratory 60th season that features Canadian works in such abundance," says Mr. McAnuff, who concludes his tenure as Artistic Director at the end of 2012 and was recently appointed to the Order of Canada. "Fully 50 per cent of the productions on our playbill this year are written by Canadians. They represent an enormous range of dramatic genres, showcasing the talent that has developed in Canada's rich theatrical landscape since the founding of the Festival 60 years ago."
"This second round of openings heralds the beginning of the summer season in Stratford," says General Director Antoni Cimolino, who has been named the Festival's next Artistic Director. "We have recently been showcased as a top destination by a number of influential media outlets, establishing even further the appeal of this idyllic city. We hope people recognize what an ideal vacation spot Stratford is and include a visit to the Festival in their holiday plans. This year's productions have won critical acclaim across the board and have been delighting audiences since the season began in April."
Inspired by the success of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, The New York Times visited Stratford this spring and trumpeted the joys of the city and the Festival in its travel section in June. NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. has chosen to include Stratford in a feature of five significant cultural destinations in North America, the only one in Canada. Frommer's included Stratford as a Top 10 Canadian Summer Vacation Destination; Reader's Digest featured Stratford in its Top 10 Canadian Road Trips; and Trip Advisor named Stratford one of Canada's Top 10 Cultural Destinations. Stratford has also been chosen as an iconic Canadian experience for travel writer Robin Esrock's upcoming book The Great Canadian Bucket List.
Next to open this season is A Word or Two, written, arranged and performed by Christopher Plummer, which is being presented as a special 60th season event. Directed by Mr. McAnuff, the production, which begins previews on July 25 and opens August 2, is an autobiographical journey through the literature that has stirred the actor's imagination since youth. Mr. Plummer, who this year won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Beginners, is one of the Festival's most lauded alumni, first appearing at Stratford in 1956 in the title role of Henry V. This will be the third collaboration between Mr. Plummer and Mr. McAnuff at the Festival; their first two projects, Caesar and Cleopatra, in which Mr. Plummer played Julius Caesar, and The Tempest, in which he played Prospero, have also been captured on film for cinematic release.
The season's final offering, Sophokles' Elektra, translated by Canadian poet Anne Carson, will open August 11, featuring Yanna McIntosh in the title role and Seana McKenna as Clytemestra.
In addition to Henry V, the season features two other Shakespeares – Cymbeline, directed by Mr. Cimolino, which is being praised as one of the finest ever productions of this challenging classic, and Much Ado About Nothing. Three musicals are also on stage – 42nd Street, The Pirates of Penzance, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown – as well as Thornton Wilder's comedy The Matchmaker, which is being hailed as the feel-good show of the year. The War of 1812, by Canadian playwright Michael Hollingsworth, opened on Canada Day, and MacHomer, created and performed by Rick Miller, enjoyed a limited engagement at Stratford in May.