“Shakespeare was a trail-blazer, and he’s inspired us to be bold,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “So brace yourself, because this isn’t your grandmother’s Stratford Festival. Unless she attended any of our productions over the last forty years, in which case, she actually would have seen a fair number of the actors in our current season.”
In an attempt to stay on the cutting edge, the festival has introduced numerous innovations over the years, such as casting women in the female roles, editing Hamlet down to a mere four hours, and staging plays in time periods other than when they were set. Their recent production of As You Like It featured sets and costumes placing the action in the early 1620s, nearly twenty years after it was written.
“There’s a hidden advantage to casting from the same ankle-deep pool,” said veteran Stratford actor Donald Bunn. “Sometimes, at the top of the show, we all draw a blank on what play we’re supposed to do. So someone will say the first line of any Shakespeare play they can remember, and we’ll do that play, whatever it is, in its entirety.”
“As long as the audience hears Elizabethan gobbledygook for a few hours, they don’t even seem to notice what they’re watching. They’re just happy to do the good deed of supporting culture.”
Stratford’s announcement has drawn criticism from some members of the theatre community, including Mel Brannon, artistic director of Toronto’s Shakespeare On A Stick Productions.
“I can’t believe anyone wastes their time and money on those dinosaurs,” Brannon said. “If you want to see the bard come to life, check out our summer season which includes Othello with the actors being blasted by garden hoses, The Comedy of Errors with the text delivered by the actors blowing raspberries in iambic pentameter, and Henry V cast entirely with gerbils.”