My 2015 Stratford Festival Binge

I had hoped to have a proper comic ready for you today, but my return from the Stratford Festival ended up taking about 20 hours longer than anticipated, thanks to some car trouble on the way back. So here is a lengthy recap of my week at the festival, as it unfolded on Twitter:


For various reasons, I found myself in Stratford on a Monday. This usually isn't ideal, as there aren't any shows on Mondays, but I decided not to let that stop me and signed up for one of the Stratford Festival's many Forum events. This one happened to be "The Art and Craft of Production", and was touted as "a hands-on opportunity to learn what it takes to bring the artistry of designers to life in the production shops of our Festival." Here's how it unfolded:

After the end of this amsuingly traumatic experience, the Festival's Director of Communications, David Prosser, very kindly invited me up to his office for a chat. There I found, to my delight, that several of my comics had been pinned up on the Publicity Department's corkboard.

Mr. Prosser then took me over to the Festival's Education Department and I got a chance to chat with some of the fantastic people behind the Festival's student and teacher outreach programs. After this I went to dinner with my family and guess who should happen to just walk into the same restaurant and sit at the next table over?

In case you don't know, Dr. Edmondson and Professor Wells are two highly respected and renowned Shakespeare scholars associated with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the original Stratford-upon-Avon. I haven't read all their books on Shakespeare because between them they've written about a bazillion Shakespeare books, but those I have read have been excellent. 


I started out Tuesday morning by biking over to the Stratford Public Library to meet with Robyn Godfrey, librarian and theatre reviewer. I got a very nice tour of the library, plus some top-notch theatre talk with Robyn and a fellow cataloger. 

Then it was off to the Festival Theatre Store!

Finally it was time for the first show of my visit: The Sound of Music!

I'm planning on doing proper comic reviews of all the shows I saw, but for now you can just read my Twitter thoughts. (Warning: it's generally a lot of gushing, as I'm apparently very easy to please.)

The evening's performance was Oedipus Rex:


The "Meet the Festival" events are Q&A sessions with Festival actors. This one featured Scott Wentworth and Stephen Ouimette, and offered up the following exchange:

Q: What exactly does the Assistant Director do?
A: Black, no sugar.

I then frantically biked from one venue to another in order to attend a panel discussion on poetry in Love's Labour's Lost, featuring Dr. Paul Edmondson and poet/playwright/director Kate Cayley.

Highlights from this included Dr. Edmondson's reworking of the closing song of the play to apply to modern-day courtship:

Having survived the morning Forum events, it was time to go to another actual show! This was The Last Wife, a new play by Kate Hennig based on the life of Katherine Parr. 

Then it was time to see the Big One. The One With the Skull.


I chatted with some of the Hamlet actors at the stage door the previous night, including Josue Laboucane, who plays Costard in the Festival's production of Love's Labour's Lost.

Then it was off again...

And then...



Day Five of my Stratford adventure. The days are starting to blur together now. Fatigue is setting in.

I have to say, the caliber of the audience questions in recent seasons has risen dramatically. It used to be a lot of "how do you remember all those words" type of questions, but some of the questions now are quite insightful. I was, in fact, too tired to come up with a decent question for the actors in question (Maev Beaty and Gareth Potter).



That reunion scene gets me every time.



By this day I am now thoroughly exhausted. My vision is literally blurring and my speech is getting slurred. But I can't pass up anything.

Professor Wells was lecturing on his most recent book, Great Shakespeare Actors, which is a really fun and informative read. He very kindly signed my copy of his book, and Dr. Edmondson signed my copy of his most recent book, Shakespeare: Ideas in Profile. I was in Shakespeare geek heaven. 




The final day. I'm practically incoherent with exhaustion at this point, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And that was the end of my 2015 Stratford Festival binge! Many thanks to all the lovely Festival people who took the time to chat with me, especially David Prosser and Brigit Wilson, and a special thanks to Carmen and James, who hosted me in their lovely AirBnB suite and introduced me to their cats.