Stratford Festival productions to hit silver screen, big city stages

Original plays and productions from the last few seasons at the Stratford Festival are set to hit stages in Toronto and Montreal, and movie theatres around the world in 2019.

André Sills plays the title character in the Stratford Festival production Coriolanus. (David Hou/Stratford Festival)

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The Stratford Festival’s artistic reach is spreading far beyond the city’s borders this year.

Several productions from the past few seasons will soon hit stages in both Montreal and Toronto, as well as movie theatres across Canada and around the world.

According to Antoni Cimolino, the Festival’s artistic director, giving people who haven’t been to – or even heard of – Stratford a chance to its original productions can only heighten awareness of the work being done each season.

“Stratford’s too well kept a secret,” he said. “People come here and they’re blown away, but I’ve found over the years, when I try to describe to someone in London or New York City the quality that’s here in Stratford, they just can’t begin to understand what’s here.

“Although we get press from around the world, it’s still hard for people to get. That’s why we started the films, so that we could really get around the world on this.”

Filmed productions of both Coriolanus, directed by Robert Lepage, and The Tempest, directed by Cimolino, will hit Cineplex theatres in Canada on March 23 and April 13 respectively. Currently, the Festival is in the midst of working out a deal for international distribution of the filmed performances following their Canadian premieres, Cimolino added.

“While they’re not on stage, they do give you the idea of the quality of the work, the quality of the ensemble, and so they’re very, very important,” Cimolino said.

Productions of the Festival’s Coriolanus, along with the Chris Abraham-directed Tartfuffe created for the Festival’s 2017 season, and Kate Hennig’s The Last Wife (2015) and its sequel The Virgin Trial (2017) are set to hit stages in Toronto and Montreal this year.

“We could take these plays on tour, and we did do that with Coriolanus going to Dartmouth College. However, it’s a challenge for us to tour … because expenses are very significant and to replicate the quality of the experience in Stratford is really tough because it’s so much more than even what’s on our stages. It’s this town; it’s this community. However, it is great to see the quality of the ensemble. So, in recent years, rather than us taking tours to other places … we’ve worked with other companies, so in the case of new work, they’re able to pick up productions, often with some of the same members of the cast … the same director … and sometimes, whole new productions, which is wonderful to see,” Cimolino said.

The Festival’s contemporary production of Moliere’s Tartuffe is set to play Canadian Stage in Toronto from Jan. 13 to Jan. 27. Continuing its partnership with the Toronto theatre, the production will include all but one original cast member, Anusree Roy (Dorine), who was unable commit to the Toronto run.

From Jan. 15 to Feb. 13, Coriolanus will play at Theatre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal, a company that has had a close relationship with the Stratford Festival since its earliest days. The Lepage-directed production is a recreation of the original Stratford production using the same concept and design, only with a new francophone cast.

“I’m really looking forward to that. I’ll be there for opening night,” Cimolino said. “Their cast came to Stratford this past summer and got to meet their counterparts, so Coriolanus got to meet the French Coriolanus, and that was kind of fun. It was great to see them have a look, so it will be wonderful to see the change (in cast).”

Also in Montreal, The Last Wife, an original play developed in the Stratford Festival laboratory, will be staged at the Centaur Theatre from Feb. 12 to March 3. The play is the first instalment of Hennig’s Queenmaker Trilogy, and the Centaur-Theatre production will be entirely new, as directed by Eda Holmes, using the script developed in Stratford.

Hennig’s second play in the trilogy, The Virgin Trial, will hit the stage at Soulpepper in Toronto from Jan. 19 to Feb. 3. Directed by Alan Dilworth, this will be a remount of the production that premiered in Stratford in 2017 with much of the original cast.

“We need to constantly introduce new people to the Stratford Festival. A good portion of that happens probably through word of mouth … but it also has to be that people get to experience Stratford, and the quality, and they go, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get there,’” Cimolino said.