It had been a very long time since I had visited Stratford. While completing graduate school and in the area, I would surely see some of the plays each summer at the Festival. I often went with my Mum, from whom I had acquired a love of the theatre.
Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but sometimes he was wrong. I don’t remember many of our trip’s details, but the atmosphere remains as wonderful as before.
The fantastic Church restaurant opened the first year Mum and I went in 1975; it was our favourite. I specifically remember her mentioning to the maitre’d that the setting was perfect except for the lack of butter knives. To her delight, they added them the next year we attended. It is now known as The Revival, and unfortunately, we did not go there this year.
As for the rest of the town, the various stores are wonderful and don’t feel very touristy. The clientele tends to be a little older, and we found some great buys. Be sure to take your time to walk along the river and enjoy the greenery.
Stratford was hit hard by Covid, but it is back and flourishing. The Festival has been extended over the years to include more mainstream productions. It lasts until the end of October, and three venues exist.
The Festival Theatre is the largest and most iconic of the theatres. It opened in 1953 as the inaugural venue for the Stratford Festival.
The theatre is in a large 270-degree round and has a seating capacity of approximately 1,800, making it suitable for large-scale productions and grand Shakespearean plays.
The iconic thrust stage design, where the stage extends into the audience, connects actors and spectators.
The Festival Theatre’s stunning architecture and picturesque surroundings contribute to the magical experience of attending performances.
The Avon Theatre is another essential venue within the Stratford Festival. It was established in 1964, providing an additional performance space.
With a seating capacity of around 1,100, the Avon Theatre offers a more intimate setting than the Festival Theatre.
The theatre’s proscenium stage design creates a traditional theatrical experience, making it suitable for various productions, including classics and contemporary works.
Tom Patterson Theatre:
The Tom Patterson Theatre is named in honour of the Festival’s founder, Tom Patterson. It opened in 2020, replacing the original Tom Patterson Theatre, which was demolished for the new building.
The theatre’s innovative design features a canopy-like roof, allowing for an open-air experience during summer and an enclosed, climate-controlled environment during cooler months.
The flexible seating configuration enables various staging options, encouraging experimentation and creative interpretations of plays.
The theatre’s focus on new works and Canadian playwrights adds a contemporary touch to the Festival’s repertoire.
Worth a visit even if you aren’t going to see a play.
We went to three performances, but my favourite was King Lear starring Paul Gross from “South of the Border” tv fame. Once more of a pretty boy than a great actor, Gross proves his worth in this performance. The role of King Lear is challenging, and while Gross’s portrayal was occasionally erratic, overall, he did a good job. The Toronto Guardian review tends to be a bit harsher and justly so from my viewing of the play.
History from an “AI” Perspective
Stratford, Ontario: Shaped by the Avon River and Shakespearean Heritage
Nestled in the picturesque landscape of Ontario, Canada, the town of Stratford boasts a rich history that weaves together the beauty of the Avon River and the immortal legacy of William Shakespeare. The early settlement of Stratford, founded in the 19th century, saw the convergence of pioneers drawn by the fertile lands surrounding the Avon River. Over time, the river emerged as a lifeline, propelling trade, powering industries, and inspiring the town’s growth. Stratford’s fortunes flourished with the birth of the iconic Stratford Festival, which would captivate global audiences with its exceptional performances and diverse repertoire.
The Avon River: A Historical Backbone
The Avon River, with its gentle flow and strategic location, was more than just a waterway; it was the pulse that sustained the early settlement of Stratford. Serving as a vital trade route, it facilitated the transportation of goods and resources, fostering economic growth and prosperity. Along its banks, water-powered industries thrived, propelling the town’s development and laying the foundation for its future success. As Stratford evolved, the river’s influence on urban development became evident, with neighbourhoods and public spaces thoughtfully positioned along its meandering course.
Stratford Festival: A Cultural Phenomenon
In the 20th century, the Stratford Festival emerged as the heart of Stratford’s cultural identity. Founded by the visionary Tom Patterson, the Festival’s focus on Shakespearean works was a deliberate homage to the Bard’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. The Festival’s artistic excellence drew renowned actors, directors, and designers, captivating audiences with captivating interpretations of classic plays. As the Festival expanded its repertoire, it embraced diversity and innovation, bridging the gap between Shakespeare’s era and the modern world.
The Perfect Blend: Avon River and Shakespearean Heritage
Stratford’s timeless legacy owes much to the harmonious blend of the Avon River’s natural beauty and the Festival’s celebration of Shakespearean heritage. The river’s scenic allure and recreational opportunities have enriched the town’s identity and contributed to its appeal as a cultural tourism destination. Visitors immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Shakespeare, surrounded by the same waters that once carried the dreams and aspirations of Stratford’s early settlers.
Shakespearean Heritage and the Naming of Stratford
Early Settlement and Founding
The history of Stratford dates back to the early 19th century when Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe envisioned the town’s potential as an inland port. The fertile lands surrounding the Avon River made it an attractive location for settlement. The arrival of pioneers seeking a new life and economic opportunities marked the beginning of the town’s journey.
Choosing the Name
When it came time to name the town, the settlers drew inspiration from William Shakespeare, one of the world’s most renowned playwrights. They called the city after Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare in England. This homage to the Bard was a testament to their admiration for his literary legacy.
The Influence of Shakespearean Heritage
The decision to name the town after Stratford-upon-Avon profoundly impacted its cultural identity. Stratford became synonymous with Shakespearean heritage, attracting those who sincerely appreciated the playwright’s works. The association with Shakespeare’s birthplace gave the town a sense of historical significance and poetic allure.
A Cultural Gem
Over the years, Stratford’s connection to Shakespearean heritage continued to blossom. It became home to the internationally renowned Stratford Festival, which performed Shakespearean plays and other theatrical works. The Festival’s performances have garnered critical acclaim, drawing theatre enthusiasts from around the globe.
A Town Steeped in Literary Tradition
Beyond the Festival, Stratford’s streets and landmarks pay homage to Shakespeare and his plays. Statues, plaques, and artistic displays commemorating the Bard’s work can be found throughout the town. The influence of Shakespeare’s themes can also be seen in various cultural events and creative expressions.
Embracing the Legacy
Stratford’s association with Shakespearean heritage is a proud part of the town’s fabric, enhancing its charm and appeal. Visitors and residents alike find inspiration in the timeless words of Shakespeare, adding a touch of magic to the town’s cultural tapestry.