By Chet Greason/Stratford Gazette
The playbill for the 2014 Stratford Festival season was released last week. With an overarching theme of “Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge,” the season will feature plays that explore both old and new concepts around mental illness.
“These plays explore minds that are driven out of balance by a variety of forces: love, war, poetry, age, sexuality,” said artistic director Antoni Cimolino in a new release. “The result is often heartbreakingly tragic, but can also be a trigger for comedy.”
Perhaps most notable amongst the plays set for next year are dual performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first, staged at the Festival Theatre, will be directed by Chris Abraham, who helmed this season’s production of Othello. The other, directed by Festival newcomer Peter Sellars, will be staged in an as-yet unannounced location but is being described as “a chamber play.”
This will be the first time the Stratford Festival has staged two different interpretations of a play during the same season.
As 2014 will mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, next year’s season will feature a total of five plays written by the Bard. The others will include King Lear (directed by Cimolino) at the Festival Theatre, and Antony and Cleopatra (Gary Griffin) and King John (Tim Carroll) at the Tom Patterson.
Another first for 2014 will be the Festival’s first-ever production of George and Ira Gershwin’s Crazy for You at the Festival Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, who helmed this season’s wildly popular production of Fiddler on the Roof, this high-energy musical features such well-known songs I’ve Got Rhythm and Embraceable You.
The rest of the 2014 line-up includes George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem (Antoni Cimolino) at the Festival Theatre; Noël Coward’s Hay Fever (Alisa Palmer), the musical Man of La Mancha (directed by Robert McQueen and choreographed by Marc Kimelman), and James Reaney’s stage adaptation of Louis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass (Jillian Keiley) at the Avon Theatre; Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage (Martha Henry) at the Tom Patterson; and Michel Marc Bouchard’s Christina, The Girl King (Vanessa Porteous) at The Studio Theatre. This production will mark the play’s English-language premiere, featuring a translation by Linda Gaboriau.
Cimolino said he’s excited about the various creative teams lined up to put the season together.
“What excites me about this playbill is it contains plays in which the protagonists are driven to extraordinary places,” he says.
“Extreme stakes lead to great drama.”