Antoni Cimolino today announced the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's playbill for 2013, his first season as Artistic Director, and began to outline his vision for the Festival's future during his tenure.
Combining intimate chamber pieces with works of larger scope, the 2013 season offers a rich variety of repertoire, from classics to light-hearted comedy to powerfully emotive musicals. It also invites audiences to enhance their enjoyment of the productions by exploring various thematic strands that run through the playbill as a whole.
"I have selected a season that I hope will touch both the hearts and minds of our audiences, not only engaging them emotionally but also provoking discussion and debate," said Mr. Cimolino. "These plays complement and reflect one another, while at the same time connecting with contemporary social issues. Each will offer a complete and fulfilling experience on its own – but the experience will be even richer for those who see several of the productions and take advantage of the opportunity to draw connections among them.
"Our audiences have always expected us to tell the great stories, and to tell them superbly," he added, "but I believe that today they also want to explore, to ask questions, to interact with us and to better understand the artist's goals."
To that end, Mr. Cimolino will complement his playbill with a new initiative, the Forum: an interactive program of talks, discussions, music and dance, and other ancillary events that will offer a diverse range of perspectives and invite debate on the season's themes.
"Many of these plays, for instance, deal with the bonds that hold communities together and the differences that divide them," said Mr. Cimolino. "Several of them feature characters whose 'otherness' challenges the status quo. The Forum will invite our audiences to pursue these and other topics raised on our stages by participating in a lively exchange of ideas."
The 2013 season will open at the Festival Theatre with Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's great tragedy of young lovers who defy their families' ancient hatred. It will be directed by Tim Carroll, who helmed 2010's Peter Pan and is currently directing Mark Rylance in Richard III and Twelfth Night at Shakespeare's Globe in England.
Donna Feore, whose previous work on the Festival's thrust stage has included such hugely Popular Productions as Oklahoma! and Oliver!, will direct and choreograph one of Broadway's most celebrated musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, the humorous yet heart-wrenching story of a community whose traditions – and very existence – are assailed by the winds of change.
The solidarity of comrades-in-arms is pitted against the machinations of church and state in the swashbuckling adventure The Three Musketeers. Based on Alexandre Dumas's classic novel, this adaptation by Peter Raby was written in 1968 especially for the Festival stage and will appeal to audiences of all ages. It will be directed by Miles Potter, whose StratfoRD Productions include the highly lauded Richard III, Medea and Orpheus Descending.
Completing the line-up at the Festival Theatre will be The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare's perennially popular yet always controversial story of a despised outsider who seeks horrific vengeance for the abuse to which he has been subjected. It will be directed by Mr. Cimolino, whose prior Festival productions include the current season's widely acclaimed Cymbeline. The production will feature Brian Bedford as Shylock.
Mr. Bedford, whose recent double triumph as director and star of The Importance of Being Earnest thrilled audiences first in Stratford and then on Broadway, and was broadcast in high definition on cinema screens, will also direct Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward's hilariously witty comedy of ghostly visitation from the "other side." The production will be presented at the Avon Theatre.
Also at the Avon, Des McAnuff, whose tenure as Artistic Director ends after the 2012 season, will return to direct The Who's Tommy, which he co-wrote with Pete Townshend and for which he won a Tony for Best Director in 1993. The spectacular rock musical tells the story of a young man who, despite having lost the faculties of speech, sight and hearing, becomes a pinball virtuoso – and the centre of a celebrity cult.