Stage Door News
Stratford: The Stratford Festval announces its 2024 season
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino is delighted to announce the Stratford Festival’s 2024 season, a collection of 12 productions, together with more than 150 events at the Meighen Forum, reflecting on the idea of “A World Elsewhere.”
“What unites the plays for next season is a journey away from the known,” says Cimolino, “a journey away from the comfortable towards something that – while it’s an immense challenge – often brings us to a much better place.”
The season will feature three Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and Cymbeline, along with the early Victorian comedy London Assurance by Dion Boucicault, the Ibsen masterpiece Hedda Gabler; the North American première of Wendy and Peter Pan, an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic children’s book, by Ella Hickson; and Edward Albee’s 21st century classic The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?
Two musicals will be presented. The Festival Theatre will be home to the hilarious musical comedy Something Rotten!, with book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell and music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. At the Avon Theatre, it’s the Tony Award-winning La Cage aux Folles, with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.
The season will also feature three world premières: Salesman in China by Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy; a new adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s classic The Diviners by Vern Thiessen with Yvette Nolan; and Get That Hope by Andrea Scott.
“As I put together this new season, I looked for works that speak to departing from the past, stories about people who strike out in new directions,” says Cimolino. “I feel we are at a moment in society when we are genuinely ready to leave behind much of what was. In order to make that journey successfully, we need inspiration, joy and delight along the way. I hope these plays will lift our hearts, make us laugh, and maybe show us that some risks are worth taking. And at the Stratford Festival perhaps the world elsewhere will be Peter Pan’s Neverland, Illyria of Twelfth Night or the nightclub of La Cage aux Folles.”
The 2024 season will go on sale in December, with a special advance pre-sale for Members of the Stratford Festival in November. The events of the Meighen Forum will be announced in the coming months. The season will run from mid-April through October.
“I’m immensely proud of the directors and creative teams that have come together to bring these plays to vibrant life,” says Cimolino. “With their talent and inspired work there will be a world elsewhere right here in Stratford – and it will be beautiful.”
By William Shakespeare
A shipwreck steals Viola’s twin brother from her and lands her in a foreign country. Seeking safety and income, she disguises herself as a young man, Cesario, and gains employment with the lovesick Count Orsino, who is pining for his beloved Olivia, deep in mourning for her own brother. Desperate to win Olivia’s love, Orsino sends Cesario to court her in his stead. But love is found in unexpected places in this rollicking romance of mistaken identity.
Making her Stratford directorial debut with this production is Seana McKenna, who has played both Viola and Olivia, along with the rest of Shakespeare’s leading ladies in a storied career. At Stratford alone she has played almost 60 leading roles, including the leading role of Rose Ouimet in this season’s Les Belles-Soeurs. She has taught extensively across Canada and the U.S., including at the National Theatre School, the Birmingham Conservatory and American Conservatory Theatre. She has directed for The New Globe, The Shakespeare Company/Hit and Myth Productions, and Here for Now Theatre, and has received acting and directing awards for her work in theatre and film.
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell
Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick
Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are playwrights toiling away in the shadow of the great William Shakespeare. Desperate for a hit, Nick visits a soothsayer who predicts that the next great thing in theatre will be something called “a musical.” Wary but trusting, the brothers set off to create a new theatrical genre – only to find Shakespeare wants in on the act. Featuring songs like “God, I Hate Shakespeare”, “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard”, the Tony Award-winning musical Something Rotten! is perfect for the Stratford stage and for all audiences, whether they know and love Shakespeare or are just jumping on the bandwagon now.
Filled with glorious dance numbers, this production will be helmed by Director-Choreographer Donna Feore, returning to the Festival for her 28th season with a string of hits under her belt, including 2022’s Chicago, 2019’s Billy Elliot the Musical and Little Shop of Horrors, and 2018’s The Music Man and The Rocky Horror Show. She has recently been working in the U.S., developing the new musicals Mythic and The Griswolds’ Broadway Vacation, as well as Summer Stock, for which she opened the world première this summer.
Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
An age-old feud precludes the passionate love Romeo and Juliet feel for each other, but its fervour cannot be quelled. Blinded by hatred, Juliet’s father makes a fateful decision that prompts the lovers to rebel in a manner that will lead to the destruction of both families.
The production will be directed by Sam White, who made her Stratford directorial debut in 2023 with another story of forbidden love, Wedding Band, by Alice Childress. White is the founding Artistic and Executive Director of Shakespeare in Detroit, where her productions include The Tempest and Othello. She directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream for The Old Globe and also served as the assistant director for the Festival’s 2018 production of The Tempest with Martha Henry in the leading role.
By Dion Boucicault
This delightful comedy follows the aging Sir Harcourt as he travels to the country estate of Oak Hall, where he intends to marry Grace, the 18-year-old niece of his old chum Max. He leaves his studious son, Charles, at home, not realizing Charles is in fact a riotous man-about-town. Charles meantime assumes a disguise in order to follow his father to Oak Hall and pursue Grace himself. Laughter ensues as Sir Harcourt finds titillation in the married Lady Gay Spanker, who is clearing the way for Charles to woo Grace.
The production will be directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who has helmed a number of hilarious period comedies, including 2022’s The Miser, The School for Scandal (2017), The Hypochondriac, (2016), The Alchemist (2015) and The Beaux’ Strategem (2014).
La Cage aux Folles
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Based on the play by Jean Poiret
Jean-Michel and Anne are deeply in love and about to get married. The only problem is their parents. Anne’s father is a politician and head of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party. Jean-Michel was raised by his two fathers, Georges, a nightclub owner, and Albin, a drag performer. Before the wedding occurs the two couples must be introduced. The orchestration of that meeting makes for hilarious theatre with a touching and emotional conclusion. Winner of 11 Tony Awards and two Oliviers, La Cage aux Folles was also adapted into a hugely successful movie, The Bird Cage, starring Nathan Lane and Robin Williams.
The production will be directed by Thom Allison, who brought us this year’s hit production of Rent and the 2021 cabaret You Can’t Stop the Beat. Next season will be Allison’s eighth with the Festival. His directing credits also include YPT’s Seussical and the record-breaking production of Mary Poppins, as well as Million Dollar Quartet at Theatre Calgary.
The choreographer will be Cameron Carver, who choreographed this season’s Richard II and recently won Dora Awards for Outstanding Original Choreography for Sweeney Todd (2022) at Talk is Free Theatre and the Bad Hats Theatre production of Alice in Wonderland (2023) at Soulpepper.
SCHULICH CHILDREN’S PLAYS
Wendy and Peter Pan
Adapted by Ella Hickson
From the book by J.M. Barrie
North American Première
This imaginative re-telling of J.M. Barrie’s classic family tale looks at the story of the lost boys through the eyes of Wendy, making sense of Neverland in a way you’ve never seen before. Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it opened to rave reviews and now the Stratford Festival has secured the rights to the North American première.
The production will be directed by Thomas Morgan Jones, who directed this year’s Schulich Children’s Play, A Wrinkle in Time. Jones is the Artistic Director of Prairie Theatre Exchange. His other recent credits include Darla Contois’s The War Being Waged and Hannah Moscovitch's Post-Democracy.
The choreographer will be Jera Wolfe, a performer and choreographer of Métis heritage whose recent work includes Bare for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Arise for the National Ballet and Trace by Red Sky Performance, for which he won the Dora Award for Outstanding Original Choreography in 2019.
Salesman in China
By Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy
Suggested by the memoirs of Arthur Miller and Ying Ruocheng
Chinese translations by Fang Zhang
A Stratford Festival/Banff Centre Co-Commission
In 1983 Arthur Miller travels to China to collaborate with another giant of the theatre, actor and translator Ying Ruocheng. Their vision is to mount a Mandarin version of Death of a Salesman with Ying in the iconic role of Willy Loman and Miller directing (despite not speaking a word of Chinese). They soon confront the challenges of staging a play about the American Dream in the heart of Communist China. Against enormous obstacles and with the world watching, Ying and Miller must discover whether art can indeed build bridges between two seemingly irreconcilable cultures.
This new play is by Leanna Brodie and Jovanni Sy. Sy will also direct the production. Brodie is an award-winning playwright, translator, and actor whose work has been performed from Vancouver to Halifax, London to Auckland. Her translation of Rébecca Déraspe’s I Am William was part of the 2021 season. Sy is an actor, director, playwright, and the former Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre and Gateway Theatre. He has directed for Arts Club Theatre, Vertigo Theatre and Native Earth Performing Arts in Canada, and Theatre du Pif in Hong Kong. His plays include A Taste of Empire, Nine Dragons, The Tao of the World and Kowloon Bay.
TOM PATTERSON THEATRE
By William Shakespeare
Production support is generously provided by The Westaway Charitable Foundation.
Imogen, daughter of the monarch Cymbeline, has married against her parent’s wishes, but this is only the beginning of her woes. When her husband is tricked by the villainous Iachimo into believing her unfaithful, Imogen embarks on a daring adventure to clear her name. In the process she finds herself and a new family, which helps pull back a world on the brink of war.
The production will be directed by Esther Jun, head of the Festival’s Langham Directors’ Workshop, who directed this season’s production of Les Belles-Soeurs, as well as 2022’s Little Women and 2021’s I Am William. She has directed across the country and served as Assistant Artistic Director at Tarragon Theatre from 2016 to 2018.
By Henrik Ibsen
A new version by Patrick Marber
From a literal translation by Karin and Ann Bamborough
In Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen created one of the most fascinating heroines of the stage. Newly married to a man she finds uninteresting, Hedda becomes reacquainted with an old friend, a historian like her husband, with a fatal flaw that Hedda exploits out of jealousy. Ibsen, thought to be the father of modern drama, brings all of his skill to the character of Hedda, building an intricate psychological portrait of a woman out of step with her surroundings.
The production will be directed by Molly Atkinson, who has been directing at the Shaw Festival for several years, with productions including this season’s Prince Caspian, as well as A Christmas Carol, The Tortoise and the Hare, Middletown and Saint Joan. She was a member of the Stratford Festival acting company in 2000 as well as a member of the Birmingham Conservatory.
Based on the novel by Margaret Laurence
Text by Vern Thiessen with Yvette Nolan
Considered a masterpiece of Canadian literature, Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners is the story of Morag Gunn, a woman who perseveres through every challenge life throws at her to become the person she was meant to be. Adapted by a team of some of Canada’s best theatre creators, The Diviners points us towards a path where we might reconcile with the injustices of our colonial past and achieve a collective peace.
The play is written by Vern Thiessen with Yvette Nolan. Thiessen, whose work has been celebrated and produced across Canada and internationally, is one of this country’s most produced playwrights. His production of Shakespeare’s Will was performed here in 2007 and 2011. Nolan, director of this season’s hugely popular Women of the Fur Trade, has been key to the creation and performance of Indigenous work as a director, playwright, dramaturg and educator.
The production will be directed by Krista Jackson with Geneviève Pelletier. Jackson is the Artistic and Executive Director of Imago Theatre. Her recent credits include the world premières of Iago Speaks at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and of Awaken, which was a co-production between Shakespeare in the Ruins and zone41; A Doll’s House: Part 2, co-produced by Mirvish Productions and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre; and Dancing at Lughnasa at the Shaw Festival. She was the associate director of 2016’s All My Sons, here at the Festival.
Pelletier is a Red River Métis actor and theatre director from Winnipeg and has led the Théâtre Cercle Molière, as its artistic and general director, since 2012. She is inspired by the meeting of cultures, the possibilities that stem from these encounters and how to nurture safe and fertile creative spaces to spark conversations of change.
The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?
By Edward Albee
Martin is turning 50 and is at the top of his game. He has just become the youngest architect to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize. He has a perfect marriage and a loving son. But he can’t remember a damned thing! Probed by his best friend about his distraction, Martin makes a startling confession, one that will tear his life apart. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, this drama was written by Edward Albee in 2000 and won the Tony Award for best play in 2002.
The production will be directed by Dean Gabourie, returning for his 11th season. He has directed five productions for the Festival, including The Best Brothers (2012), The Merry Wives of Windsor (2011) and the 2010 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which contains the song “Who is Silvia?” which served as inspiration to the playwright.
Get That Hope
By Andrea Scott
Daddy wants to win the lottery, Mommy’s still bitter about, well…everything, Simeon has war-related PTSD, and Rachel just wants to get out of her parents’ apartment and have a home of her own. It’s Jamaica’s Independence Day, sweltering, and everyone is on edge so, of course there’s a city-wide power outage. This new play by award-winning playwright and producer Andrea Scott, loosely inspired by Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, looks at a dysfunctional Jamaican-Canadian family that has no idea how to communicate without wounding. But never forget, “sometimes you need a little bit of suffering to get that hope.”
Scott, an award-winning playwright and producer, served as a producing intern at the Festival in 2018. Her play Controlled Damage was performed at Neptune Theatre in 2020. Every Day She Rose, co-written with Nick Green, ran at Buddies in Bad Times in 2019.
Making his Stratford directorial debut with this production is André Sills, a member of the acting company for nine seasons, this year playing Edgar in King Lear and Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing. Other key roles include the title role in Robert Lepage’s 2018 production of Coriolanus (2018) here at Stratford, and the lead role of BJJ in An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins at the Shaw Festival. In 2022 Sills directed another Jacobs-Jenkins play, Gloria, at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, earning a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Direction.
The Stratford Festival’s 2023 season continues until October 28, with a newly announced extension of Monty Python’s Spamalot, which will now run until November 12. For tickets and information visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.