What to Expect at… The Stratford Festival

A bright red quill rests on a deep gray and white background. The quill rests gently on a stone, ready to use. Behind the quill float four heptagons in varying shades of yellow and orange.

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 galleria 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.

COVID-19 Safety Information

All staff at the Stratford Festival are required to be fully vaccinated and must wear masks onsite. Patrons are strongly encouraged to wear masks for the duration of their performance, and masks are provided at the door for anyone who would like one. In the 2022 season, the festival is offering reduced capacity performances with physical distancing, as well as a mask and double-vaccination requirement. There are handwash stations throughout each of the theatre venues.

For more information on the Stratford Festival’s current COVID-19 policies, and their commitment to the health and safety of their staff, patrons, and artists, check their website.

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 need.s

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, or check out our recent interview with the Stratford Festival’s Accessibility Coordinator. 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 2022/23 season at the Stratford Festival range from $19 to $223, 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 $29 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

  • Colm Feore
  • Amaka Umeh
  • Jani Lauzon
  • André Sills
  • Robert Markus
  • Dan Chameroy
  • Stephen Jackman-Torkoff
  • Jennifer Rider-Shaw
  • Dame Maggie Smith
  • Christopher Plummer

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 centered on the season’s plays and annual theme.

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 guided walk-throughs of the new, state-of-the-art Tom Patterson 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.


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Written By

Jessica is an 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.