Northernstars at Stratford
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(October 30, 2017 – Toronto, ON) While almost everyone involved in Stratford is Canadian, and many of the actors also have careers in film and television, looking over the 2018 program, we were struck by two names well known to our regular readers.
These are a few of the highlights from the coming season:
Nigel Shawn Williams, in his Stratford directorial debut, will direct “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Donna Feore to direct “The Rocky Horror Show” and “The Music Man.”
Scott Wentworth to direct Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”
Jackie Maxwell to direct “Paradise Lost,” a new theatrical adaptation by Erin Shields.
Antoni Cimolino to direct “The Tempest” with Martha Henry as Prospero.
Robert Lepage will take on Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” in his Festival debut.
It was the names Martha Henry and Robert Lepage that caught our attention.
In 2015 Martha Henry made the decision to move on from her position as Director of the Stratford Festival’s Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre when her contract ended. It was also announced that she would continue to be part of the festival. This “First Lady of Canadian Theatre” will celebrate her 80th birthday next February and take the stage in a play that is more than 400-years-old. The Tempest is centred on the more or less sympathetic character of Prospero, one of Shakespeare’s more enigmatic protagonists. It isn’t an easy role.
Thought by many to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone, The Tempest is set on a remote island, where the sorcerer Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation. He conjures up a storm, which gives the play its title, to cause his usurping brother Antonio and the complicit King Alonso of Naples to believe they are shipwrecked and marooned on the island. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s lowly nature, the redemption of the King, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.
What is interesting to us is that in the time of Shakespeare, men would have played the roles of women. Here, Martha Henry takes on the role always, or almost always played by a man. In a 2010 filmed version of The Tempest, Helen Mirren played Prospero, changing the character’s name to Prospera.
Canadian actor and director Antoni Cimolino graduated from the University of Windsor with a BFA, and began his career as an actor at Stratford in 1988.
Robert Lepage is a renowned film and theatre director. His most recent visit to Toronto was earlier this year with his stunning autobiographical production 887, which he wrote, designed, directed and performed in. It was magical in its concept and mesmerizing in its execution. Coriolanus is a history play that follows the story of legendary Roman general Caius Martius Coriolanus, famous for quashing uprisings without mercy until his tragic downfall. He is a typically Shakespearean hero, egged onto greatness by his mother, struggles to fulfill the demands of a role for which he is not fit. Coriolanus is a most perfect fit for Lepage and we expect a remarkable staging of this production in 2018.
There is far more to look forward to at Stratford next season and there is more information online.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in 1976.