Monday, 25 August 2014

It was the Stratford week

Well this year for Ferragosto and the 2000 Anniversary of the death of the first Roman Emperor Augustus on 19 Aug, 14 AD in Nola we went to Stratford, Ontario, the Canadian home of the Shakespeare Festival. The Festival was established by Tom Patterson, a local fellow who had no background in theatre simply an idea for a festival. Quite the success story in Canadian Culture when you think of the tens of thousands of people who attend the festival and all the great names of the English Theatre who played at the Festival each year.

Stratford is a small town of about 30,000 people, established in 1832 as a settlement. The name of the town came from the owner of the first local Inn-Tavern, his establishment was called the Shakespeare and the head of the town settlement thought let's make a word association and call this little settlement Stratford. At the time it was a simple settlement infested with deer, a woody marsh. It grew to become an international centre of fine furniture making until the collapse of the furniture market in the early 1960's with the last manufacturer closing in 1980.  Stratford was also a major railway hub until the late 1970's, trains from all over North America crossed through the town. A very elegant Prairie Style railway station is still in use, though much of the traffic nowadays is freight trains and only four passenger trains daily.

 The imposing Stratford City Hall

Stratford today is a picture perfect South West Ontario town about 90 minutes West of Toronto on HWY 8. The town has kept all of its 19th century architecture and presents an aesthetically pleasing look. It is also a very wealthy town by the number of large patrician homes dotting its quiet leafy streets. In the middle of town is Lake Victoria, an artificial creation done with a water control dam. The lake is populated with ducks and Royal Swans and on both sides gardens and flower beds.

We met again this year our friends from Pumpkinville, Arizona AKA Phoenix. I learned that Pumpkinville was the original name. We had a wonderful time with them and they are a delight to travel with it was the second time we had vacationed together.

Dr. Spo is my favorite psychiatrist and shirt maker, quite the combination, he has talent and a very different career in fashion if ever he decides to branch out. DAW is Mister Theatre, his knowledge is impressive, he works as a volunteer in the milieu and is a very regular theatre goer.
Combine that with Will who also has very much the same interests and bingo, much good conversations.

We saw 5 different plays this year, my least favourite was King John by Shakespeare, again for me often it is the language which is the obstacle, English is not my first language and Shakespeare convoluted way of saying things has the effect of putting me off. The director was Tim Carroll and King John was Tom McCamus.

On the other hand we saw a Restoration play by George Farquhar (1677-1707) The Beaux Stratagem, very well written, funny, and modern in its outlook. This is the period of Charles II, James II and Queen Anne in England. The play is described as a satire with sympathy on marriage and divorce, I enjoyed this play for its elegance and style. The director was Antoni Cimolino and Colm Feore and Mike Shara played the two main characters.

Mother Courage by Bertolt Bretch with a translation by David Edgar. It is a different translation than the one most people are use to and I preferred it. What a timeless play, the story told still ring true today in our world of globalization and conflicts. The play left me with sadness at the end for Mother Courage and her children. Martha Henry was the director and Seana McKenna was Mother Courage.

The two other plays we saw were Alice through the Looking-Glass a play written by Canadian James Reaney who was born just outside Stratford in 1926. The play is based on Lewis Carroll's story.
The technical effects were highly entertaining and innovative, fast paced and much fun.

Crazy for you, the musical was billed as the new Gershwin musical, the music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin and the book written by Ken Ludwig. The Director was Donna Feore and the title role of Bobby Child was played by Josh Franklin, Bela Zangler by Tom Rooney, Polly Baker by Natalie Daradich. High energy and incredible dance numbers with that wonderful Gershwin music.

Stratford Festival Hall

We also attended a talk by Prof Paul Prescott of Warwick University on Sam Wannamaker who was the instigator for the rebuilding of the Globe Theatre building in London.  An interesting talk which exposed some myths about Wannamaker. One being that he was not a life long devotee to the work of the Bard, he came very late to it. In the end I had the impression that Wannamaker wanted a project which would cement his name for posterity, an ego thing perhaps. At any rate the talk debunked the American myth bandied about on Wannamaker's ambitions for the Globe and his devotion to Shakespeare.


  1. I'm going to be seeing all those plays too in September when I'm in Stratford, except for Alice Through the Looking Glass. In addition, we are going to King Lear and Christina the Girl King. I love Stratford -- such a charming town! I'm looking forward to it tremendously.

  2. I wish I had had (or taken) more opportunities to travel Ontario (and much more of Canada). Stratford looks beautiful and that city hall is a combination of grand and quaint.

    1. More photos to come on Stratford.

  3. I am glad you had a good time.

  4. Sounds as if the four of you had a wonderful time. I don't have much knowledge in the theatre area but it interests me so I should take that and learn more, go more. I also wish to travel more in Canada as I have only been to Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria.

    1. Well you have seen some major cities already, I would recommend Quebec City and Ottawa the Capital well worth a visit.