William Shakespeare IS in Stratford Ontario

Yep, the bard is alive and kicking in Canada!!
 Ignoring the huge historical and cultural shortfall of about 600 years, let’s examine the evidence:
by the way, if you need to cut to the quick re the glut of Shakespeare in Toronto this summer, scroll right on past the table below……


Stratford-upon-Avon  Warwickshire UK  Stratford Ontario  
“The birthplace of the playwright and poet William Shakespeare, it receives about three million visitors a year from all over the world.”  When The Stratford Festival of Canada celebrated its 50th season, it welcomed 672,924 patrons to 18 plays.  
“Anglo-Saxon origins, Stratford grew up as a market town in medieval times. The original charters of the town were granted in 1196, making Stratford officially over 800 years old.”  First settled during the surveying of the Huron Road by the Canada Company in 1828 
“The name is a fusion of the Old English strǣt, meaning “street”, and ford, meaning that a Roman road forded the River Avon at the site of the town.” The name of Stratford was given to the settlement in 1832 by Thomas Mercer Jones, the inspiration for the name coming from a picture of William Shakespeare he’d earlier given to the owner of the Shakespeare Hotel (William Sargint). He also renamed the creek that had been known as Little Thames, the Avon River. 
“As a major sheep-producing area (William Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, bought and sold sheep’s wool illegally) the Cotswolds, up until the latter part of the 19th century, regarded Stratford as one of its main centres for the slaughter, marketing, and distribution of sheep and wool. As a consequence Stratford also became a centre for tanning during the 15th–17th centuries. Both the river and the Roman road served as trade routes for the town.”  1834 – town plan created by John Macdonald emanating from four main roads radiating from a centre point, three of which were named for the Great Lakes, they led to.1853 – Stratford becomes the County seat of Perth County, with a courthouse, jail and registry office; it incorporated as a village and then became a town in 18591856 – Stratford’s becomes a major rail centre, the Canadian National Railway being a significant contributor to the town’s economy. Other significant  economic influences: the furniture industry, until the general strike of 1933 which started with the furniture industry and chicken pluckers (fascinating)1964 with the closure of the CNR shops and the demise of the Furniture industry, tourism resulting from the introduction of the festival became the town’s main income stream.



“The first real theatre in Stratford was a temporary wooden affair built in 1769 by the actor David Garrick for his Jubilee celebrations of that year to mark Shakespeare’s birthday. The theatre, built not far from the site of the present Royal Shakespeare Theatre, was almost washed away in two days of torrential rain that resulted in terrible flooding.”“A small theatre known as The Royal Shakespeare Rooms was built in the gardens of Shakespeare’s New Place home in the early 19th century but became derelict by the 1860s.”“To celebrate Shakespeare’s 300th birthday in 1864 the brewer, Charles Edward Flower, instigated the building of a temporary wooden theatre, known as the Tercentenary Theatre, which was built in a part of the brewer’s large gardens on what is today the site of the new, and temporary, Courtyard Theatre. After three months the Tercentenary Theatre was dismantled, with the timber used for house-building purposes.” 



In 1901 the 1250 seat “Theatre Albert” was built (now the Avon Theatre).The Avon Theatre built in 1971To commemorate 50 years of the Shakespeare Festival, The Studio Theatre built in 2002  


“In the early 1870s, Charles Flower gave several acres of riverside land to the local council on the understanding that a permanent theatre be built in honour of Shakespeare’s memory, and by 1879 the first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre had been completed. It proved to be a huge success, and by the early 20th century was effectively being run by the actor/manager Frank Benson, later Sir Frank Benson.”“The theatre burned down in 1926, with the then artistic director, William Bridges-Adams, moving all productions to the local cinema.”.“An architectural competition was arranged to elicit designs for a new theatre, with the winner, English architect Elisabeth Scott, creating what we see on the riverside today. The new theatre, adjoining what was left of the old theatre, was opened by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, in 1932.”



Built along the banks of the idyllic river Avon, and enhanced by a professionally designed horticultural system, Stratford then introduced swans to the park system in 1918, followed by the creation of the Shakespearean Gardens.Stratford’s metamorphosis into a North American version of Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK occurred with the opening of what was to become the annual Stratford Festival in 1953 by Tom Patterson a reporter for Maclean’s Magazine. .1953 – The Stratford Theatre moves into a tent and then in 1957 into a new permanent structureTyrone Guthrie is appointed as the Festival’s first Artistic Director. Seasons of tenure: 1953 and 1955 


“Swan Theatre was created in the 1980s out of the shell of the remains of the original Memorial Theatre, quickly becoming one of the finest acting spaces in the UK.”  The Canadian Travel a& Tourism industry has nominated the Stratford Festival theatre as the Canadian Attraction/Event of the yearTanya Moiseiwitsch designs the Festival’s revolutionary thrust stage.  
And FinallyHad a mass German invasion occurred during world war 11, Stratford would have become the temporary seat of Parliament.  And FinallyThe general strike of 1933 which started in Stratford got so out of hand that the Army was called in to put a stop with it, rendering the strike a significant event in Canadian industrial history. 


The point is that whilst Stratford-on-Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare –  has about 650 years on Stratford Ontario, the Ontario version has managed to capitalize on the Shakespeare connection through almost 60 years of consistent high quality programming of Shakespearean plays. Over the years, the works of other notable playwrights have been added to the Festival experience.
Stratford Ontario’s connection with Shakespeare is becoming world-renowned with many iconic actors incorporating this venue into their circuits.
And speaking of iconic, you don’t get much more “luvvy” than the venerable Christopher Plummer, who at 80 and riding on a professional high – he released couple of movies this last year: Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (worth seeing just to see both Jonny Depp and Jude Law step into the late Heath Ledger’s shoes) and his Oscar-winning performance as Tolstoy in The Last Station – has just performed for the umpteenth time at Stratford; this time as Prospero the sorcerer in “The Tempest”
Not my favourite play from the Shakespeare stable (I’m sure he’d be gutted!), although I was curious to see how the special effects team would execute the illusions which were such an integral part of the plot. In Shakespeare’s day Magic was considered a legitimate scientific study with music being used to create charms. In fact music and visions were the staple tools of the Magus. Not many of Shakespeare’s plays include the singing or special effect opportunities of the Tempest and with the growing trend for the new court entertainments called *“Masques” Shakespeare manages to fulfil this new appetite for spectacle with elaborate stage design.
The team at Stratford made use of every available stage technology including wires; the revolving ‘thrust” stage,  lighting and sound to create the necessary visions and illusions. There was one point where I was left wondering how Christopher Plummer seemed to be actually levitating. You could see right under him, and there were no obvious wires as there were in other scenes.
To see him striding around the marvellous Festival Theatre stage you would not believe he was so venerable.’ He moved with the vigour and purpose of a much younger man. Having seen both Tony Bennett (82) perform at the Jazz Festival in Toronto last year and Dave Brubeck (90) and his elderly band at The Royal Conservatory during this year’s Jazz Festival, I am beginning to think that maybe in terms of age, the best is yet to come……..
The Festival Theatre doesn’t appear to have a bad seat in the house. Its booking site gives virtual views of the stage when you pick your seat online
go to  stratfordshakespearefestival.com
And if anybody reading this is going to visit London England, you MUST step over the Thames to the South Bank and visit the Globe theatre. Built in 1997 as an exact replica of Shakespeare’s original Globe and positioned on almost exactly the same spot, this is a truly authentic experience, right down to being able to buy cheap standing only tickets in the “pit” (the free-standing area on the ground floor around the stage), Take a look: website:  http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/
And Torontonians, we have the annual “Dream on High Park” nightly performance of Romeo and Juliet from June, 25 until September 5. It’s an open-air auditorium setting so take plenty of mossie spray, a blanket (or picnic chairs if sitting behind the tiered seating area), and a picnic . http://www.canadianstage.com/dream  
Also The Driftwood Theatre Group’s annual touring Shakespeare festival kicks off at Todmorden Mills next week. The Bard’s Bus Tour’s production of Twelfth Night plays the Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum and Arts Centre with two nights of previews on July 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and opens on July 11 at 7:30 p.m. The show returns to Todmorden in August to wrap up the tour with performances on the 14th and 15th. www.driftwoodtheatre.com The show also plays Withrow Park as part of its previews on July 10 at 7:30 p.m. 
in the meantime, I bid thee farewell
*”Masque” was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in sixteenth and early seventeenth century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy. A public version of the masque was the pageant. Masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting, within a lavish stage design,
  • An afternoon in Yorkville
  • A trip to Caledon
  • Baysfield – who knew?
  • Wine pairing in Niagara
  • Jazz on The Lake

4 thoughts on “William Shakespeare IS in Stratford Ontario

  1. Pingback: Your Garden

  2. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m planning to start
    my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

    • obviously i am using The WordPress platform. I usually type and layout in word first, then copy and paste into WordPress template. My page/blog style is simply a template. I did not try the other blog sites you mentioned as WordPress fitted the bill.

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