Stage Door News

Stratford: The Stratford Festival officially opens on July 13

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Stratford Festival will mark the start of the 2021 season on July 13, the 68th anniversary of the very first performance held under a tent back in 1953, and the official opening of the year’s first show, Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre

This year’s season echoes the momentous day, July 13, 1953, when the Stratford Festival launched in a tent with an unforgettable performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Alec Guinness. For the first timesince those early years, performances will once again take place outdoors under enormous canopies, located at the Festival and Tom Patterson theatres.

“July 13th has been an auspicious date for our Festival and now that we are back in tents again we hope that day will herald a wonderful reawakening of live theatre,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino

“While we introduced the canopies in response to the public health crisis, the outdoor setting alludes beautifully to our first season and provides a magical setting in which to experience theatre,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “Preparing for the 2021 season has been an adventure, forging new paths, reshaping old ones and responding to the ever-changing conditions. After 15 months of planning and re-planning, I can hardly wait to welcome audiences back.”

With six plays and five cabarets, and a theme of Metamorphosis, the 2021 season offers a welcome return to live theatre after the Festival was forced to cancel its 2020 season as a result of the pandemic.

Why We Tell the Story is curated and directed by Marcus Nance, who also performs in the cabaret, along with Neema Bickersteth, Robert Markus and Vanessa Sears. The musical director is Franklin Brasz.

Four other productions will begin in July: You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre (July 15 to July 31); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 16 to August 1); Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters (July 23 to August 21); and Play On!: A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape (July 29 to August 15).

The season will run through to the beginning of October, also featuring R+J (August 12 to September 26); Freedom: Spirit and Legacy of Black Music (August 19 to September 5); Finally There’s Sun: A Cabaret of Resilience (September 9 to 26); I Am William (August 10 to September 12); Serving Elizabeth (August 28 to September 26); and Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women (August 10 to October 9). 

Tickets are currently on sale to Members and to those who kept their 2020 tickets on hold or donated the value back to the Festival. Tickets will go on sale to the public beginning July 12. For tickets and more information, visit or call 1.800.567.1600.

Photo: Raising the Festival Tent, © 1953 Peter Smith and Company.