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What to Expect at… the Stratford Festival

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/By / Oct 20, 2022
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Looking for information about your favourite theatres? We’ve got you covered! Intermission’s Insider Intel articles showcase one theatre at a time to give you all the information you need before your visit.

This week: The Stratford Festival

What kind of theatre do they produce?

The Stratford Festival presents a seven-month season of about a dozen plays, together with more than 150 events at The Meighen Forum, all designed to enrich, engage and entertain. The Festival presents an eclectic variety of Shakespeare, large-scale musicals, classic comedy and drama, and newly commissioned works.

Location

The Stratford Festival is set in the beautiful city of Stratford, ON, where visitors can enjoy exceptional theatre, food, and shopping. Visitors can take a romantic walk along the Avon River, plan a picnic, or stroll through the eclectic shop and gallery-filled Victorian downtown. There are plenty of places to grab a coffee and pastry at a sidewalk café or dine at one of dozens of outstanding local restaurants.

The city of Stratford is a two hour drive from Toronto, and is only 45 minutes from Kitchener, ON. It’s a very walkable city, and patrons who drive in can access both free and paid parking available at the Festival and Tom Patterson theatres, including accessible parking. Additionally, there is abundant paid city parking near the Avon and Studio theatres.

Out-of-town patrons and visitors can take advantage of the Stratford Direct Bus, which runs six days a week April through October. Alternatively, the Via Rail has daily routes through the city.

For more information on how to get to Stratford, or tips for your next trip, visit the Stratford Festival’s website.

Venue

The Stratford Festival is home to four theatres: Festival Theatre (thrust stage, 1,800 seats, built 1957 after a tent was used for the first four seasons); Avon Theatre (proscenium arch, 1,100 seats, former vaudeville theatre); Tom Patterson Theatre (spectacular new architecture, opened in 2022, elongated thrust, 600 seats); and Studio Theatre (small thrust, 260 seats, opened for 50th season in 2002). The festival also offers Lazaridis Hall, which is part of the Tom Patterson Theatre. The 199 seat venue features special performances and events in The Meighen Forum.

The interior of the Stratford Festival's Festival Theatre.
The interior of the Festival Theatre, the Stratford Festival’s largest venue, features a thrust stage and 1,800 seats. Image courtesy of Stratford Festival.

Accessibility

All of the Stratford Festival’s theatre venues offer accessible seating, accessible washrooms, and gender-neutral washrooms. Additionally, each of the four venues has Hearing Assistance Devices for patrons who require them; guests may reserve a device when booking their ticket(s).

Stratford offers a variety of accessible performances throughout the season, with select shows featuring ASL interpretation, Audio Description, and relaxed performances. Patrons can choose from a variety of dates for each show to find the show that best fits their schedule and accessibility needs.

Additionally, the festival offers Special Access Parking, which can be reserved when booking tickets. Guests who require Support Persons are always welcome in all of the Stratford Festival’s venues, and can receive a free ticket for their Support Person with a valid CNIB card.

To learn more about the festival’s accessibility policies, visit their website’s Accessibility page. If you have any questions or requests ahead of your visit, you can contact the festival at 1 (800) 567-1600.

Ticket Prices

Tickets for the 2023 season at the Stratford Festival range from $19 to $229, depending on the seat; however, the festival offers a wide variety of discounts and deals for their guests. There are Pay-What-You-Wish performances and 2-for-1 Evenings offered throughout the season. Additionally, seniors can receive discounted $31 tickets for matinées performances in select months, and students can purchase $19 tickets for select matinées.

The Stratford Festival’s Play On program offers $19-$49 tickets for registered guests between 16 and 29: these tickets are eligible for any performance, any time. Guests may also purchase kids’ tickets for any shows starting at only $15.50. Schools and other organizations can request group rates by contacting the Box Office.

When available, select performances may offer last-minute discounts and rush tickets: these types of tickets are not available online, but can be secured in-person or by phone through the Stratford Festival Box Office.

For more information on how to purchase tickets or discover savings at the Stratford Festival, visit the Discounts & Deals page on their website.

The exterior of the Stratford Festival's new, state-of-the-art Tom Patterson Theatre.
The exterior of the Stratford Festival’s new, state-of-the-art Tom Patterson Theatre. Image courtesy of Stratford Festival.

Artists You Might Recognise

  • Graham Abbey
  • Maev Beaty
  • Geraint Wyn Davies
  • Brad Fraser
  • Jonathan Goad
  • Paul Gross
  • Stephen Jackman-Torkoff
  • Jill Keiley
  • Beck Lloyd
  • Andrea Macasaet
  • Robert Markus
  • Seana McKenna
  • Morris Panych
  • Lucy Peacock
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Jennifer Rider-Shaw
  • Lee Siegel
  • André Sills
  • Dame Maggie Smith
  • Kolton Stewart
  • Amaka Umeh

Workshops and Classes

The Meighen Forum, located in Lazaridis Hall, offers more than 160 events to expand the Stratford Experience. Each year, the forum features celebrated speakers, panels, workshops and more, all centred on the season’s plays and annual theme.

New in 2023, the Festival has  introduced six annual themed weeks that will each feature curated performances, celebrated speakers, culinary experiences and timely discussions with artists and experts:

  • Pride Week – June 5 to June 11
  • 2023 Season Deep Dive – July 3 – 9
  • CBC Ideas Week: The Shock of the New – July 17 – 23
  • Global Theatre Week – August 7 – 13
  • Readers and Writers Week – August 21 – 27
  • Scholars and Experts Week – September 11 – 17

Visitors at the Stratford Festival are invited to experience the magic behind the curtain with tours of the festival’s Archives and Costume Warehouse and a new, never previously offered, backstage tour of the Festival Theatre. Guests can also watch the crew transform the Festival Theatre Stage as one production’s set is replaced by another.

The festival offers school courses at all levels, student workshops/prologues, post-show chats, and Grade 7-12 overnight summer student courses in Shakespeare and musical theatre. It’s the perfect opportunity for youths to experience the festival in a deeper capacity.

Where to Eat and Drink

Looking for a nibble before your show? The Stratford Festival has several options for your pre- or post-show meal:

  • Located in the lobby of the venue, the Festival Theatre Café offers a wonderful selection of light lunch and dinner options, sweet treats, drinks and ice cream, as well as pre-ordered picnics. It opens two hours before the performance and doesn’t close until the end of intermission.
  • The gorgeous, new Tom Patterson Theatre Café offers a wonderful selection of hot and cold meal items, reflecting local and seasonal delights. Guests can enjoy their food while overlooking the beautiful Avon River from two hours before the performance until the end of Intermission, and following Friday and Saturday evening performances.
  • Pre-order picnics are available for guests who reserve them at least 48 hours in advance, and can be picked up two hours before the performance. There are multiple options to suit every patron’s individual tastes, and the picnics can be booked through the festival box office.

For more information about Stratford’s onsite amenities, visit their website. The festival also has a list of dining suggestions for guests looking to spend more time in the city of Stratford, which can be found here.

Colm Feore as King Lear in the Stratford Festival's King Lear (2014). Photography by David Hou.

King Lear

NOMINATED FOR 2 DRAMA DESK AWARDS (BEST REVIVAL & BEST SOUND DESIGN)

Paul Nolan (foreground) as Jesus with (from left) Chilina Kennedy as Mary and Josh Young as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Stratford Festival 2011. Photo by David Hou.

Jesus Christ Superstar

NOMINATED FOR 2 TONY AWARDS (BEST REVIVAL & BEST ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE)

Anthony Santiago (foreground) as Elesin with (from left) Ijeoma Emesowum as Ariyike, Celia Aloma as Olabisi, Akosua Amo-Adem as Iyaloja, and Espoir Segbeaya as Wuraola in Death and the King's Horseman. Photo by David Hou

Death and the King's Horseman

RECIPIENT OF A THEATRE WORLD AWARD

The zeal with which Christ's followers are hailing him as the Son of God has become a source of dismay to his disciple Judas Iscariot. Fearing that this tide of religious fervour will provoke brutal repression by the occupying Romans, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and Betrayal. The greatest story ever told – in a groundbreaking rock opera that reinvented musical theatre for the modern age.

Starring Paul Nolan as Jesus Christ, the 2011 production was transferred to Broadway following its run at the Stratford Festival.

Image by David Hou

Members of the company in Coriolanus. Photography by David Hou.

Coriolanus

AN EX MACHINA CREATIVE COLLABORATION

Coriolanus is fearless on the battlefield – but in the fitall-laden world of politics, he's doomed by his contempt for the common people.

This stunning 2018 production by genre-defying director Robert Lepage and starring André Sills explores the age-old tensions that still tear at the heart of democracy.

Image by David Hou

Members of the company in Rocky Horror Show. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The Rocky Horror Show

ONE OF STRATFORD'S LONGEST RUNNING PRODUCTIONS

It's the most fun you can have in fishnets! A cult classic for more than 40 years, this brilliant pastiche of B-movie horror and sci-fi tropes, with its irresistible rock-and-roll score, invites us to shed our inhibitions and explore our wildest dreams and desires. The Stratford Festival's Rocky Horror Show starred Dan Chameroy.

Image by Cylla von Tiedemann

Jessica Watson
WRITTEN BY

Jessica Watson

Jessica is a former associate editor at Intermission, as well as a writer, classically-trained actor, and plant enthusiast. Since graduating from LAMDA in the UK with her MA in acting, you can often find her writing screenplays and short plays in the park, writing extensive lists of plant care tips, or working on stage and screen (though she uses a stage name). Jessica freelances with various companies across Canada, but her passion lies in working with theatre artists and enthusiasts.

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