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The Stratford Festival

On July 13, 1953, Richard III, starring Sir Alec Guinness, was staged in a huge tent. From that modest start, Stratford's artistic directors have built on the radical, but faithfully classic, base established by Tyrone Guthrie to create a repertory theater with a glowing international reputation.

Stratford has four theaters. The Festival Theatre (55 Queen St.) has a dynamic thrust stage (a modern re-creation of an Elizabethan stage). The Avon Theatre (99 Downie St.) has a classic proscenium. The Tom Patterson Theatre (111 Lakeside Dr.) is an intimate 500-seat theater. The Studio Theatre (34 George St. E.) is a 278-seat space used for new and experimental works.

World-famous for its Shakespearean productions, the festival also offers classic and modern theatrical masterpieces. Recent productions have included West Side Story, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Three Sisters; from the Bard, there's an encyclopedia of productions, including Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The bill always presents an impressive line-up that is designed to suit tastes from the contemporary to the historic, the comedic to the tragic.

The season usually begins in early May and continues through mid-November, with performances Tuesday through Sunday. Ticket prices range from C$25 to C$120, with special deals for students and seniors. For tickets, call tel. 800/567-1600 or 519/273-1600, fax 519/273-3731, or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca. Tickets are also available in the United States and Canada at Ticketmaster outlets. The box office opens for the new season in mid-January.

Behind the Festival Curtain -- The Stratford Festival offers several behind-the-scenes tours that will thrill theater buffs. There are backstage tours of the Festival Theatre, which take about an hour, and tours of the costume and props warehouse at 350 Douro St., which run roughly 45 minutes. Tours cost C$8 adults, C$6 seniors and students, and should be scheduled in advance by calling the box office at tel. 800/567-1600 or 519/273-1600.

Some performances have preshow lectures or post-performance discussions. These are free of charge but need to be reserved in advance via the box office. There are also free "Meet the Festival" events with members of the acting company and a series of special lectures about the major plays of the season. For details, dates, and times, check out www.stratfordfestival.ca.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.