Stage Door News
Stratford: The Stratford Festival reports a surplus of more than $500,000 at its Annual General Meeting
Saturday, April 2, 2022
The Stratford Festival held its annual general meeting today, reflecting on a season of accomplishments in the midst of the global pandemic, and reporting a surplus of $553,058, thanks to strong support from donors and government.
“Last season was a time of transformation, as we set about determining what might be achievable in this new world,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, addressing Members of the Festival attending the virtual meeting. “While fortune was certainly scowling on us in 2020, as she did on the whole human race, our Festival found a silver lining in 2021, amid all the ongoing devastation and the dark cloud of heart-sickening loss. It was a year in which we conceived and crafted the art of the possible.”
This began – as in the Festival’s inaugural season in 1953 – with the pitching of a tent, or in this case two expansive canopies, open-sided to allow optimal air flow. And as the pandemic twisted and turned, more and more tents were pitched to allow for outdoor rehearsals once public health guidelines prohibited indoor theatre work.
Accustomed to a planning horizon of 12 months or more, the Festival faced a greatly contracted schedule in 2021. The playbill was announced in April; the performance schedule was shared publicly in late June; tickets went on sale on July 6, just four days before the first preview performance; the season opened officially on July 13, the 68th anniversary of the Festival’s very first performance; and the final performance was held on October 9.
First to open was the cabaret Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre, which was followed by four more cabarets: You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre; Play On! A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape; Freedom: Spirit and Legacy of Black Music; and Finally There’s Sun: A Cabaret of Resilience.
The season featured six plays: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and R+J; Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters; Marcia Johnson’s Serving Elizabeth; I Am William, with text by Rébecca Déraspe, and music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry; and Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, which was mounted in the Studio Theatre once indoor performances were allowed.
“While the conditions imposed by Covid tested our resilience, they also provoked us to experiment and find new ways of working,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “Though there was often drama behind the scenes as we adjusted to the ever-changing public health guidelines, our 2021 season was lively, energetic and filled with joyful adventure. Our work beyond the stage was similarly energizing and inspiring.”
That work saw the Festival invest in equity, diversity and inclusion; create digital content; reinvent the professional training programs; support artistic experimentation through the Laboratory; and steward new plays in development: investments that will seed the ground for the future.
The Festival welcomed 34,095 theatregoers to a total of 274 in-person performances. A further 1,175 people came to events in the Meighen Forum, getting a first look at Lazaridis Hall in the New Tom Patterson Theatre. The vast majority of those patrons originated from Southwestern Ontario and Toronto, with more than 20% coming to the Festival for the first time. (By comparison, a typical season would have more than 770 performances, attended by roughly 500,000 people.)
For the year ended December 31, 2021, revenues exceeded expenses, resulting in a surplus of $553,058. Revenues, which consist of ticket sales, ancillary revenue and fundraising, amounted to $28.573 million, and expenses amounted to $28.020 million.
Revenue for the season was marshalled from a number of resources. Funds from the annual Endowment transfer in 2020 were reserved to augment the 2021 Endowment transfer. A Relaunch Campaign was launched, attracting $13 million in pledges, funds that will play an important role as the Festival recovers fully from the effects of the pandemic.
In 2021 the combined investments of the federal and provincial governments totalled $6.4 million. (For comparison, funding from arts council and special project grants would amount to roughly $4 million in a typical year.)
In addition, the federal government’s wage subsidy program directly contributed $6.5 million to the wages paid to staff in 2021. Including staff and artists, the Festival employed 968 people in 2021.
“We’re in the midst of a multi-year recovery,” Gaffney told Members at the meeting. “While we’ve managed to keep the ship afloat over the last two years, our financial position is still delicate. After posting a shortfall of $4.3 million in 2020, we’ve been able to post a small surplus for 2021 – a season we envisaged both as an investment in maintaining connections and as a beacon of hope for patrons, audiences and our community at large. We are now at a crucial inflection point, where we shift from fighting for our survival to being able to plan for the future in earnest.”
Preparations for the 2022 season are well underway, and the first preview performance of the musical Chicago will take place on Wednesday, April 6. The season will feature 10 productions across all four theatres, including the magnificent new Tom Patterson Theatre, which after a two-year pandemic slumber, will be fully unveiled to the world on May 10.
“I’m looking forward eagerly to the season ahead,” said Cimolino, “as we return to our stages with a company of more than 125 actors, a playbill of 10 productions and a phenomenal Forum lineup. I’m particularly happy with the balance of the playbill: it features three Shakespeare plays, two of them from our founding year; a brilliant new staging of a dazzling musical; a Nigerian masterpiece; and four world premières, including a new adaptation of a great classic for young people. And of course, I can’t wait to start my own exploration of the madcap, insightful comedy of Molière in this, the 400th anniversary of his birth.”
Tickets for the 2022 season are on sale now. Visit www.stratfordfestival.ca for more information.
The 2022 season runs from April 6 to October 30, featuring Hamlet, Chicago, The Miser, Little Women, Richard III, All’s Well That Ends Well, Death and the King’s Horseman, Every Little Nookie, Hamlet-911 and 1939.