The Festival has humble roots. The idea of a theater was launched in 1953, when director Tyrone Guthrie lured the great Sir Alec Guinness to the stage. Whether Sir Alec knew the “stage” was set up in a makeshift tent is another question, but his acclaimed performance gave the festival the push—and press—it needed to become an annual tradition.
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 Studio Theatre (34 George St. E.) is a 278-seat space used for new and experimental works. In 2020, a new Tom Patterson Theatre will replace the old theater (a curling rink retrofit that was falling apart). The glorious new building takes its architectural inspiration from the meandering Avon River, undulating glass walls hung with bronze mullions in the spirit of a curving riverbank. The new space seats 600 people.
World-famous for its Shakespearean productions, the festival also offers classic and modern theatrical masterpieces. Recent productions have included The Music Man, The Rocky Horror Show, and To Kill a Mockingbird; from the Bard, there’s an encyclopedia of productions, including Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The bill always presents an impressive lineup designed to suit a range of tastes from the contemporary to the historic, the comedic to the tragic.
The season usually begins in late April and continues through mid-November, with performances Tuesday through Sunday. Ticket prices range from $29 to $135, with special deals for students and seniors. For tickets, call tel. 800/567-1600 or 519/273-1600, or visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
A PEEK BEHIND THE FESTIVAL CURTAIN
The Stratford Festival offers several behind-the-scenes tours that are sure to thrill theater buffs. You can take a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, which takes about an hour, or a tour of the costume and props warehouse at 350 Douro Street, which run roughly 45 minutes. Tours cost $8.85 adults ($7.08 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.