For the first time ever, blogs were invited to come to the announcement of the Stratford Festival‘s new season, and Torontoist was there, chillin’ like a villain. The press conference was held at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art for some reason, upstairs where the swanky new Jamie Kennedy restaurant is (free breakfast for bloggers!). The press release for the event issued the following warning: “Needless to say, in addition to announcing the 2007 playbill and honoring Richard Monette, their departing artistic director, a major announcement will be made.” Apparently, however, this was all a ruse as the only thing announced were the plays that will make up the 2007 theatrical season and the long-known departure of incumbent artistic director Monette. What was the “major announcement” meant to be? Read on.
Alongside Mr. Monette, a host of Stratford leading actors (Cynthia Dale, Martha Henry, et. al.) were present to help give him a send-off for what will be his fourteenth season as artistic director, although he constantly reminded the press not to ask too many questions as several of the actors had a matinee to get back for. The 2008 season will be helmed by an artistic director-triumverate of Marti Maraden, Des McAnuff and Don Shipley working alongside general director Antony Cimolino. The upcoming season, which Monette claims took two years to organise, is typical of his Stratford tenure – lots of old favourites and musicals to bus in the seniors from Buffalo for and a few interesting choices tossed in:
King Lear by William Shakespeare
Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My One and Only by George and Irah Gershwin
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Tom Patterson Theatre
Othello by William Shakespeare
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee
The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead by Robert Hewett
Shakespeare’s Will by Vern Thiessen
The Odyssey by Derek Walcott
Pentecost by David Edgar
King Lear is an interesting choice as it wasn’t too many years ago the festival had an acclaimed production with Christopher Plummer in the lead role, although this production is to both star and be directed by Brian Bedford. A potentially problematic choice is Of Mice and Men, which Toronto theatre-goers will have already seen this fall at Canstage (maybe they will have forgotten by the summer?). Other noteworthy shows are Walcott’s The Odyssey, the Canadian debut of a play which Monette claims he has wanted to produce since he begin his tenure and A Delicate Balance, which is to star Martha Henry, Fiona Reid and a returned-from-retirement William Hutt. Monette claims he asked the 82 year-old actor back for a cameo in his final season and he chose to take “one of the longest roles in the American theatre.”
Torontoist had a bit of a chat with Monette, who claims we were the “first blog he’d met.” Aw. He told us that one play he regrets never getting the chance to produce at Stratford is Bertolt Brecht‘s Life of Galileo. Why didn’t it happen? “You need to find someone to play Galileo. You need to find someone to direct Galileo. And it’s a large cast, it would take up a lot of the acting company. And I don’t think it’s a popular enough title to attract, unless you have a big star, large numbers of audience members.” Perhaps that, in a nutshell, is the problem with Stratford: the sacrifice of artistic integrity for financial stability. On the other hand, we’re totally pumped for A Delicate Balance and An Ideal Husband!
Photo courtesy of Rannie Turingan.