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March 1, 2021 – With an eye to summer performances, the Stratford Festival is planning a new Stratford experience, to be held in the open air, under two magnificent canopies, one at the Festival Theatre and one at the Tom Patterson Theatre.
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney foresee a season of about a dozen outdoor productions between late June and the end of September. They plan to offer a combination of plays and cabarets, running roughly 90 minutes each. The Festival will also offer streamed versions of the productions, along with a number of Forum events to be watched in person or online.
All in-person plans hinge on public health conditions allowing attendance at live events.
“We are creating a schedule that can contract, if required, and also expand in response to the opening or closing of the province and community,” Gaffney says.
Adaptability is the watchword of the times. And while it is essential to be nimble in order to react quickly to changes in public health guidelines, it is equally crucial to be prepared and ready for the best case scenario. By moving outdoors, the Festival felt able to offer a safer environment to patrons, while also being able to welcome up to 100 people, rather than the indoor limit of 50.
“We don’t yet know what the public health environment will allow in terms of live performances come summer,” Gaffney adds, “but it is only through significant and thorough advance planning that we can put in place the safety measures that will be essential for any eventuality. We believe outdoor performances offer us the greatest opportunity for a successful season.”
The two canopies are a pragmatic adaptation of the tent in which the Festival first performed in the early 1950s. By eliminating the side panels it makes air flow possible, while the big top offers protection from the elements.
Following the current government guidance on outdoor capacity, each canopy will seat 100 people, in socially distanced pods. Should these restrictions relax come summer, there is flexibility to moderately increase capacity.
“These canopies harken back to our founding but they are also emblems of joyful renewal,” says Cimolino. “Like everyone, we can’t wait to emerge from this pandemic. While we have several months to get through before vaccinations open the world up wide again, this season allows us to build a bridge to 2022 and beyond, when we will be able to return to large-scale productions in our four theatres.”
The Festival plans to announce titles, dates and casting in the spring.