2014 Stratford Festival: A Celebration of Madness

By Mariya Guzova

The 2014 Stratford Festival is celebrating the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare all season long with their selection of plays and performances surrounding the theme of madness.

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Alice Through The Looking Glass directed by Jillian Keiley, returns 20 years after its Stratford Premiere to the Avon Theatre on May 31.

The Festival began in 1953 as a six-week celebration of all things Shakespeare. This year the Stratford Festival is showcasing 12 plays in four theatres in the quaint, Southwestern Ontario city of Stratford. Everything from Broadway musicals, Shakespearean classics, and modern plays can be found on stage.

“This year’s theme explores the idea of madness. This includes the limits of the mind, but also mad passion like being madly in love,” explains Ann Swerdfager, publicity director at the Stratford Festival. “It’s a really strong subject for theatre, and even more so for discussion and to provoke thought.”

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Crazy For You, the new Gershwin musical directed by Donna Feore, opens May 27.

Visitors get the chance to discuss these thought provoking performances at over 200 forum events that host question and answer sessions, speakers, musicians, and insights into the plays and their themes. “It’s a really great opportunity to have your mind stimulated,” says Swerdfager. “The conversation will extend your theatre experience beyond the stage.”

This year’s forum will also host a number of mental health experts and professors to weigh in on the theme of madness, and to explore the topic in a realm outside of theatre. But it’s not all serious. Colin Mochrie will be one of many comedians who will bring a lighthearted twist to the discussions.

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Shakespeare expert Vivian Rakoff speaking at one of last year’s forum events.

As a special treat to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth, Stratford is putting on five Shakespearean plays rather than the usual four. For the first time in its history, the Stratford Festival is presenting two versions of the same Shakespeare play to explore the multiple worlds found within each of his plays.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be presented on the main Festival Theatre stage, directed by Chris Abraham and starring Stephen Ouimette, Evan Buliung and Jonathan Goad. It runs from May 16 to October 11. A second version, reimagined by director Peter Sellars, uses four actors – Sarah Afful, Dion Johnstone, Trish Lindström and Mike Nadajewski will run simultaneously.

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A Midsummer Nights Dream directed by Chris Abraham opens May 31.

For more information on the Stratford Festival, or to purchase tickets, please visit their website.

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