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Stratford Festival


Stratford Festival

For other uses, see Stratford Shakespeare festival (disambiguation).
Stratford Festival
The Festival Theatre
Genre Arts Festival
Dates April to November
Location(s) Stratford, Ontario, Canada
Years active 1953–present
(61 years and 22 days)
Inaugurated 1952

The Stratford Festival, formerly known as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, is an internationally-recognized annual celebration of theatre running from April to November in the Canadian city of Stratford, Ontario.[1] Theatre-goers, actors, and playwrights flock to Stratford to take part — many of the greatest Canadian, British, and American actors play roles at the Stratford festival. It was one of the first and is still one of the most prominent arts festivals in Canada and is recognized worldwide for its productions of Shakespearean plays.

The Festival's primary mandate is to present productions of William Shakespeare's plays, but it also produces a wide variety of theatre from Greek tragedy to contemporary works. Shakepeare's work typically represents about a third of the Festival's offerings.

The success of the festival dramatically changed the image of Stratford into one of a city where the arts and tourism play important roles in its economy. The festival attracts many tourists from outside Canada, mainly those British and American, and is seen as a very important part of Stratford's tourism sector.


The Festival was founded as the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada, due mainly to Tom Patterson, a Stratford-native journalist who wanted to revitalize his town's economy by creating a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, as the town shares the name of Shakespeare's birthplace. Stratford was a railway junction and major locomotive shop, and was facing a disastrous loss of employment with the imminent elimination of steam power. Patterson achieved his goal, and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival became a legal entity on October 31, 1952. British actor and director Tyrone Guthrie agreed to become the festival's first Artistic Director. On July 13, 1953, actor Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York."[2][3]

This first performance took place in a giant canvas tent on the banks of the River Avon. The season lasted six weeks and comprised just two plays: Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well. In the second year the playbill expanded, and included the first non-Shakespeare play, Oedipus Rex. The Festival Theatre was opened in 1957, and was deliberately designed to resemble a tent, in memory of those first performances. The Festival Theatre's thrust stage was designed by British designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch to resemble both a classic Greek amphitheatre and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and has become a model for other stages in North America and Great Britain.[4][5]


The Festival runs from April to November, and has four permanent venues: the Festival Theatre, the Avon Theatre, the Tom Patterson Theatre, and the Studio Theatre. Although the Festival's primary mandate is to produce the works of Shakespeare, its season playbills usually include a variety of classical and contemporary works and at least one musical.

The Festival Fringe runs during the season, and features music concerts, readings from major authors, lectures, and discussions with actors or management.

Long-serving Artistic Director Richard Monette retired in 2007 after holding the position for fourteen seasons. He was replaced with an artistic team consisting of General Director Antoni Cimolino and Artistic Directors Marti Maraden, Des McAnuff, and Don Shipley. On March 12, 2008 it was announced that Shipley and Maraden would be stepping down, leaving Des McAnuff as sole Artistic Director.[6] In 2013 Des McAnuff was replaced by Antoni Cimolino as Artistic Director[7]

The 2013 season features 12 productions: four plays by Shakespeare, two musicals (one at the Festival, one at the Avon), and six other plays. The Festival has also introduced a series of talks, concerts and other events known as The Forum.

Artistic Directors

2014 season


  • Festival Theatre
  • Avon Theatre
  • Tom Patterson Theatre
  • Studio Theatre

See also


Further reading

External links

  • The Stratford Festival official website
  • The City of Stratford official website
  • An independent site featuring links to online reviews
  • CBC Digital Archives - The Stratford Festival: The First Fifty Years
  • House programme from inaugural 1953 season
  • Press release announcing full 2010 season
  • Press release announcing full 2009 season
  • , an NFB documentary on the founding of the festival
  • , an NFB documentary on the festival's 50th anniversary
  • History of the Stratford Shakespeare Theatre
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