12 July 2010

Stratford, Day 01

The town of Shakespeare, Ontario is located just outside Stratford. Coming from Buffalo, we saw this sign first so I made Turner pull over so we could take a picture. Imagine living in Shakespeare. "Where do you live?" "Shakespeare." "No, really, where?" The town is not much to see, a few dusty roads and some lonesome shops. It clearly has not benefited from the theatrical boom of its neighbor down the road.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival was the idea of an entrepreneurial young man, Tom Patterson, who wanted to get the town out of the depression following the dissolution of much of the area's industry. The town was already named Stratford, an etymological discussion Turner and I had in the car (which came first? Stratford or Shakespeare?), and a Shakespearean Theater Festival seemed like a marketable idea for this out-of-the-way place.

Patterson convinced British actor and director Tyrone Guthrie to take on the festival's inaugural season. On July 13, 1953, Alec Guinness spoke the first lines, "Now is the winter of our discontent." An ironic beginning for a summer festival that would play for four years in a steamy tent outdoors on the bank of the River Avon.

In 1957, the festival moved to the Festival Theatre, whose exterior was designed to resemble the original tent and whose thrust stage is modeled on a classic Greek amphitheater and Shakespeare's own Globe.

The festival has seen its fair share of stars cross the boards, from Alec Guinness the first season to Maggie Smith and Christopher Plummer (who we saw play Prospero in The Tempest). The festival has long maintained a reputation nationally and internationally for its contributions to the arts.

And oh, the gift shop. A whole store dedicated, more or less, to Shakespeare. I was like a kid in a candy store. I bought three t-shirts, some small items, a book, and a Shakespeare action figure. Yes, that's right. A Shakespeare action figure.

Check out that grin. Shakespeare loot!

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you are enjoying your time in Stratford. It's always exciting to see how different people react to the festival. Many of them are quite favourable, like yourself.

    I'm not sure if you're still in Stratford or not, but I thought I should mention that today is Tom Patterson Day. The city and the province have selected this day to commemorate the man that had the idea for the festival which started 57 years ago today.

    If you are still in town enjoy the rest of your time here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Stratford and the theatre.

    Aaron Kropf
    Social and Online Media Coordinator
    Stratford Shakespeare Festival