Stage Door News

Stratford: Stratford Festival to receive nearly $2 million from province

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Stratford Festival will receive more than $1.8 million as the provincial government pledged to help artists and arts organizations survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture, announced Tuesday that $24 million will be provided to 140 arts organizations across the province, including the Festival and Stratford Summer Music, which will receive nearly $43,000. Additionally, $1 million will go directly to artists and creators from across the province as part of a one-time cash infusion.

“This helps us to reinforce our confidence in moving ahead with plans for 2021, but also remembering we cancelled our season last year and took a really massive blow last year as a result of the public-health crisis,” Stratford Festival executive director Anita Gaffney said.

Gaffney added the $1,818,592 earmarked by the province through the Ontario Arts Council will provide stability to the Festival, which is forecasting a 2021 deficit of around $6 million while moving ahead with a modest season of six plays and five cabarets on two outdoor stages under the cover of canopies. Attendance will be roughly five per cent of a normal season, if plans move ahead as scheduled, which follows a lost 2020 season that resulted in a “significant” financial hit.

“This funding is incredibly important for us to shore up those shortfalls and give us confidence to face the season ahead,” Gaffney said.

The Stratford Festival received a smaller federal grant last summer, and Gaffney thanked Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece and MP John Nater for their support in helping to procure needed funds. MacLeod said stipulations will be attached to the provincial grants, though no further details were available.

“We’re planning a season in 2021 and making significant investments in tents and artists and staff, so there’s a lot of avenues in which to use those funds,” Gaffney said. “It’s an investment not just in the Stratford Festival … and having that kind of (cash) infusion to support 2021 plans helps the whole community.”

Stratford Summer Music will receive $42,883, which incoming general manager Kendra Fry called “amazing.”

“That stability is really important,” said Fry, who moves into her new role April 1. “It’s a good way to help stabilize the community and ensure jobs.

“I’m thrilled that the government recognizes the importance of the arts as part of the COVID-19 recovery.”

The summer concert series was initially postponed in 2020, but it returned for 30 performances beginning in late July on the barge on Lake Victoria. With a budget of $1 million, Fry said she expects the money to be reinvested in the community.

“Our approach this year has been invest local,” Fry said. “We’re trying to work with local artists for local people to attend in whichever way is safe. That’s how we’ll direct that energy and continue to stabilize our arts organizations, and we’re in a position to hire people to create great events to draw people from the local region to Stratford.”

Stratford Summer Music is scheduled to run Aug. 5-29, but details are still being finalized. There will be an emphasis on outdoor shows, Fry said.

“We want to make sure everyone has something fun to do.”

Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece said in a press conference Tuesday the pandemic has “devastated” the entertainment industry.

“I think everybody in Canada and the world knows about the Stratford Festival and the great work they’ve done for so many years,” he said. “Actors and performers from all over the world (have) worked there or got their start there.

“(The) Festival and Stratford Summer Music brings economic growth throughout the region, not just Stratford.”


Notable arts organizations to receive a portion of the province’s $24M in funding:

– Blyth Festival ($153,388)
– Grand Theatre, London ($297,921)
– Shaw Festival ($999,593)
– Stratford Festival ($1,818,592)
– Stratford Summer Music ($42,883)
– Toronto International Film Festival ($249,529)
– Toronto Symphony Orchestra ($1,646,988)
– Canadian Opera Company ($1,868,109)

By Cory Smith for

Photo: Festival Theatre. © 2020 Howard Clarke.