In 2022, the Stratford Festival is coming back big to mark a monumental moment in its history with a full repertory season running from early April to the end of October, 10 major productions and almost two hundred Meighen Forum events.
It will be a milestone season in many respects. “Next year we celebrate our 70th season, the 20th anniversary of the Studio Theatre, the 10th Meighen Forum season and the grand opening of our glorious new Tom Patterson Theatre. But most of all we celebrate a new beginning,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, pointing to the theme of the season.
“For thousands of people, coming to the Stratford Festival is an annual pilgrimage,” he says. “By the time they arrive to see the shows of our 2022 season, it will have been three years since most of them have set foot in one of our theatres. We want their return to be everything they hope for. We want them to feel safe, of course, but we also want to fill the void left by the absence of live theatre and communal activities.
“The plays in the 2022 season contain not only new beginnings but the difficult moral and ethical decisions a new journey entails. What is the best way to start again? How can we avoid the traps of the past? In an imperfect world, what is good?”
The season will include the grand opening of the $72-million Tom Patterson Theatre, which was to have opened in the spring of 2020. Designed by renowned architect Siamak Hariri of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, the new building was recently honoured with the international Architecture MasterPrize, recognizing it as the “Best of the Best” in cultural architecture, and is a regional finalist for the Civic Trust Award in the U.K., the only Canadian project to be shortlisted.
Opening the Tom Patterson Theatre is Shakespeare’s Richard III, directed by Cimolino. “I can’t think of another Shakespeare play that is more about our world at this moment: ” he says: “Richard III reveals the triumph of naked political expediency, the easy sacrifice of the commonweal to individual vested interests, and the consequences of a leader who wins power through an actual rigged election.”
Richard III is coupled with All’s Well That Ends Well, directed by Scott Wentworth, a nod to the Festival’s first season in 1953: the two plays that started it all will also open the newest theatre.
“I originally selected this play for the 2020 season but it has spoken to me even more over the past 18 months, as we have faced intense social division, pandemic and accelerating climate change: ‘They say miracles are past; and we have our philosophical persons, to make modern and familiar, things supernatural and causeless. Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear.’”
Rounding out the TPT season is an international classic, Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, directed by Tawiah M’Carthy, a powerful play drawing upon both Yoruba mythology and Western theatrical traditions. This epic production was workshopped at the Festival between 2019 and 2021.
“As I read this amazing play filled with beautiful folk poetry, absurdist humour and such conflicting understandings of ‘responsibilities,’ I was reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s response to a reporter asking, ‘What do you think of Western civilization?’ With a smile he answered, ‘I think it would be a good idea.’” Cimolino says.
“In modern Western society individualism, self-interest, immediate gratification and short-term results are seen as being key to success and happiness. Soyinka’s play explores a different perspective that values the community, self-sacrifice and a much longer arc of time. This makes for extraordinary drama as well as delicious comedy.”
First onstage at the Festival Theatre is the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago, which will also kick off the entire season, starting previews in early April. Thousands were looking forward to this show in 2020 and finally the Festival can present the first major new production of this iconic musical to be seen outside of New York in 30 years. It’s unlike any production ever seen before, entirely reimagined with thrilling new choreography from director-choreographer Donna Feore.
“Chicago, one of the greatest musicals ever written, was based upon the real life experience of the reality stars of the courtrooms of the roaring ’20s,” said Cimolino. “Now in the whimpering ’20s of this new century, our news feeds seem more than ever focused on the courtroom dramas of justice denied due to the partiality of judges and jurors.”
To celebrate the gala opening night of the Festival’s 2022 season, it’s Hamlet at the Festival Theatre, directed by Peter Pasyk. And a late-season comedy rounds out the year at the Festival Theatre, Moliere’s The Miser, directed by Cimolino. “Each of these plays tries to explore a path forward to find justice and happiness in the face of humanity’s vices and frailties. They are also among the finest work of these two extraordinary playwrights. However, they draw on vastly different theatrical traditions. It will be a joy to experience them side by side on the Festival Stage,” he says.
The Avon Theatre will be home to the Schulich Children’s Play, Little Women, a new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novels Little Women and Good Wives, written by Jordi Mand and directed by Esther Jun. Ideal for theatregoers of all ages, this play offers a message of hope and encouragement important to young people as they deal with the confinement the pandemic forced upon them. “This retelling exhibits a free, diverse and modern sensibility which truly is at the heart of Alcott’s young heroine,” says Cimolino.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Studio Theatre, three new plays: Every Little Nookie, by Sunny Drake, directed by ted witzel; Hamlet-911 by Ann-Marie MacDonald, directed by Alisa Palmer; and 1939, by Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn Riordan, directed by Jani Lauzon.
“There are central connections between 1939 and All’s Well That Ends Well and between Hamlet-911 and Hamlet that make for a beautiful symmetry and fractals within that symmetry: mirrors upon mirrors upon mirrors provoking thought and bringing the season together,” says Cimolino.
“Every Little Nookie has won an award for comedy from the Playwrights Guild of Canada before even being produced. This big-hearted yet mordant comedy explores generational differences on such varied topics as monogamy, home ownership and the definition of family. On these and other issues it asks the practical yet delightfully naughty question: ‘Can we just share?’”
Overall, the season offers a balance between theatrical traditions, a blend of classic and modern, with Shakespeare, non-Shakespeare classics, new plays and an iconic musical. There are stories from the English and French traditions, a new Indigenous play, a magnificent Nigerian tale, and a comedy about polyamory and economics in the modern world.
“The Festival is growing both in how we work and the stories that we tell,” says Cimolino. “This growth happens upon the foundation of excellence and artistic development that has brought us to our 70th season.”
Financially, the 2022 season will be a stretch. “It is crucial for us to come back in a way that will have a great impact on arts employment and the tourism industry in our area,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “With a deficit from last year, government support from all channels, including the federal government’s major festivals and events program will be essential to help us build on the work of the past year, broadening the opportunities for artists and audiences, as well as for the industry and the community.”
The Festival’s largely outdoor season in 2021 provided a lifeline for some arts workers and local businesses, as well as for a segment of the audience, with 274 performances attracting almost 34,000 visitors and employing 968 people. But 2022 is significant: it shows the Festival emerging from the pandemic closures, providing long-term contracts to a substantial number of artists and staff, and mounting a season that will once again welcome audiences in large numbers, allowing the theatre to further its mandate to enrich the community of Stratford.
“Sometimes I let myself picture what it might look and feel like on that first opening night with a theatre full of people,” says Cimolino, “and I find myself getting choked up because I realize I’ve almost forgotten that moment when the lights go down and a hush falls over the crowd as we give ourselves over to the stage. The thought of feeling like that again helps to push us through this final phase in getting there.
“It’s not easy – let’s not dance around that: this has been enormously challenging and hugely stressful for each and every one of us in this industry. We are all forever changed. But what unites us all is our deep love of the theatre and our urgency to get back to it: to get back to work, to get back to our craft, and to reunite with our people, our audiences. That indescribable connection between performer and audience is the glue that keeps us all here and all pushing to get back together.”
FESTIVAL THEATRE PROGRAMMING
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Peter Pasyk
Production support is generously provided by Phyllis & Robert Couzin, by John & Therese Gardner and by The Jentes Family
The Festival stage will be home to Shakespeare’s most famous play: Hamlet. At its helm is Peter Pasyk, who returns after directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the Tom Patterson Theatre Canopy this summer.
Prince Hamlet, son of Denmark’s late king, is horrified – and placed in a moral quandary – by the apparition of his father’s ghost. This spectre claims to have been murdered by the brother who now wears his crown – and who, having married the widowed queen, is now not only Hamlet’s uncle but also his stepfather. The ghost demands vengeance – but can it be trusted? And can the taking of a life ever be justified? Can this troubled family tolerate any further loss?
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander
Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins
Script adaptation by David Thompson
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Production support is generously provided by Robert & Mary Ann Gorlin, by Sylvia Soyka, and by Riki Turofsky & Charles Petersen
The Festival has secured the rights to the first major new production of Kander and Ebb’s Chicago outside of New York and London in more than 30 years. The musical, which holds the record for longest running musical revival on Broadway, will be entirely reimagined by director-choreographer Donna Feore.
Aspiring chorus girl Roxie Hart and vaudeville star Velma Kelly, two murderesses as sexy as they are cynical, compete for the skills of shady lawyer Billy Flynn and the media celebrity he has promised them both. Once fame has abandoned them, Roxy and Velma begin a new path forward. But if given the chance to go back in time, would they do anything differently?
With its killer score and knock-’em-dead dance numbers, this deliciously lurid tale of murder, greed, adultery – and all that jazz – packs some serious heat.
In a new version by Ranjit Bolt
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Production support is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, by The William and Nona Heaslip Foundation, by Dr. Desta Leavine, and by Dr. Robert J. & Roberta Sokol
Antoni Cimolino will direct Molière’s great comedy The Miser. The production will use the translation by Ranjit Bolt, whose modern translation of Tartuffe was such a success in Stratford in 2017 that it moved on to Toronto in 2018.
Siblings Eleanor and Charles know that their widowed father, a paranoid old skinflint named Harper, won’t approve of their romantic choices – and what that’ll mean for their inheritances. And their plights only get worse when Harper announces startling marital plans of his own. Can nothing be done, for love or money? Or is there some way to have both?
TOM PATTERSON THEATRE PROGRAMMING
Support for the 2022 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Antoni Cimolino
Production support is generously provided by Dr. M. Lee Myers, by Martie & Bob Sachs, by The Westaway Charitable Foundation, and by Catherine & David Wilkes
In addition to The Miser, Cimolino will direct this great Shakespearean tragedy, which holds historical significance as the first play ever performed at the Stratford Festival, back in 1953. Similarly, it will open the new Tom Patterson Theatre in 2022.
Charismatic, cunning and utterly ruthless, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is the very embodiment of lethal ambition as he manoeuvres and murders his way to the throne of England. But once one reaches the top, the only way left is down – and in Richard’s growing roster of vengeful enemies, none are more menacing than the ghosts of his past.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Scott Wentworth
Production support is generously provided by Priscilla Costello, by the Tremain family, and by Jack Whiteside
Alongside Richard III, Cimolino has programmed Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the second play produced in the Festival’s first season in 1953. Scott Wentworth will direct this Shakespearean comedy of heartbreak and deception that indeed works out in the end.
Having made the impossible easy with a miraculous cure that saves the King of France from death, Helena, the orphaned daughter of a doctor, learns that some things are easier than others when she claims the hand of man beyond her social strata.
DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN
By Wole Soyinka
Directed by Tawiah M’Carthy
Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert
Death and the King’s Horseman by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Wole Soyinka will round out the Tom Patterson Theatre’s season in a production directed by Tawiah M’Carthy. The play was workshopped at the Festival between 2019 and 2021 and then earlier this year, Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company partnered with the Festival to première an audio version of the play as part of its “Around the World in 80 Plays” series.
When an individual’s actions shake a world off its axis, how is honour restored? When a Yoruba King dies, the King’s horseman is required by tradition to accompany him into the afterlife. But this sacred ritual is interrupted after the death of King Alafin, resulting in an unforeseen tragedy involving his horseman, Elesin. Based on actual events in British-occupied Nigeria, this is a story of a community striving to uphold its culture in the face of colonial power.
AVON THEATRE PROGRAMMING
Schulich Children’s Plays
A Stratford Festival commission
Based on the novels Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott
Adapted for the stage by Jordi Mand
Directed by Esther Jun
Next season’s Schulich Children’s Play will be Jordi Mand’s new stage adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic coming-of-age stories Little Women and Good Wives. Esther Jun, who directed this season’s I Am William and recently joined the Festival as the Director of the Langham Directors’ Workshop and Artistic Associate, Planning, will direct the production.
An endearing tale of hardship, love and sisterhood in, Little Women tells the story of the March family. Newly impoverished, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy undertake their journey through life together, bound to each other and their beloved mother by fierce loyalty. From disappointments in love, to the trials of growing up, to exploring life outside the comforting walls of home, to a tragedy that turns their world upside down, it will take an unwavering sisterly bond and all of the girls’ courage to find happiness in the most unexpected places.
STUDIO THEATRE PROGRAMMING
EVERY LITTLE NOOKIE
By Sunny Drake
Directed by ted witzel
Support for the creation of Every Little Nookie is generously provided by The Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program
Sunny Drake’s Every Little Nookie recently won the Chris Tolley & Dharini Woollcombe Comedy Award from the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Having begun its development at the Stratford Festival when Drake was a writer in residence, the play will have its world première on the Studio stage, directed by ted witzel, the Festival’s Director of the Laboratory and Artistic Associate, Research and Development.
A broke millennial artist and her two lovers secretly organize “swingers” parties for middle-aged suburbanites at her boomer parents’ home. When the parents return unexpectedly, a wild ride ensues challenging each and every one of them to question what they know about… pretty much everything. Because it turns out that when you take on sex, you take on the basic unit of a how our world is organized. We’re in a period of remarkable change: from dealing with the pandemic to housing crises to wealth inequality to climate chaos. What would it take for us to work together on these enormous challenges? Every Little Nookie starts this epic question in the home, using a hilarious, scandalous and subversive romp to examine one of our most cherished sites of individualism: relationships.
A Stratford Festival commission
By Ann-Marie MacDonald
Based on an idea by Alisa Palmer
Directed by Alisa Palmer
Support for the creation of Hamlet: 911 is generously provided by The Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program
Hamlet-911 is a new play created by playwright/novelist/actor/broadcaster Ann-Marie MacDonald and director Alisa Palmer, Artistic Director of the National Theatre School of Canada, English Section. Developed over almost a decade at Stratford, this play uses the bones of Shakespeare’s great tragedy to tell a story very much about our time and the issues facing young people today.
Guinness Menzies has landed his dream role: he’s playing Hamlet at the Stratford Festival. But just before a matinée performance, he suddenly finds himself in the Underworld, a realm as frightening as it is hilarious, where time is seriously out of joint. Has he gone mad? Is he dreaming? Has he died? Meanwhile, a troubled teenager is wrestling online with his own version of Hamlet’s famous question.
A Stratford Festival commission
By Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn Riordan
Directed by Jani Lauzon
Production support is generously provided by Karon Bales & Charles Beall and by M. Fainer.
Support for the creation of 1939 is generously provided by The Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program
Jani Lauzon and Kaitlyn Riordan’s spirited new play will have its world première in the Studio Theatre, with Jani Lauzon directing.
The play is set in 1939 when a group of students at a fictional church-run residential school in Ontario are faced with the daunting task of putting on a play by William Shakespeare for the King and Queen of England on their first royal tour. But audience expectations vanish into thin air when the students, resilient and resourceful with hearts on their sleeves, find their own way into the text, determined to challenge the notion that there’s only one way to do Shakespeare. Born of both family legacy and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 1939 has been guided by Indigenous Elders, Survivors, and ceremony throughout its several years of development.
Tickets for the 2022 season go on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival beginning on March 6 and to the public on March 18. For more information, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.