Year 1 / Issue 8 / Stratford / Mei Shao

Stratford - the Shakespearean Town of Canada

By: Mei Shao

بخش به زبان انگلیسی "Living with Art and Culture" مهرگان از این شماره به آن اضافه گردیده و در برگیرندۀ یک سلسله از موضوعات فرهنگی، هنری از فرهنگ ها و سنت های مختلف خواهد بود. سعی بر آن است تا در هر شماره موضوع و یا مکانی خاص از فرهنگی خاص به زبان انگلیسی به خوانندگان معرفی گردد. این بخش بنا به درخواست بسیاری از خوانندگان مهرگان به آن اضافه گردیده و امیدواریم که با ارسال نظرات سازندۀ خود، همانند همیشه ما را در هر چه پربارتر شدن مهرگان یاری دهید. 

Stratford is a city on the Avon River in Perth County in southwestern Ontario, Canada with a population of approximately 36,000. It is believed that the town was named Stratford because most of the original immigrants came from Stratford-upon-Avon England, where the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare, was born. True or not, this townsite was first settled by the flowing Avon River in 1832. Stratford was incorporated as a town in 1859 and as a city in 1886.

The swan has become a symbol of the city. Each year twenty-four white swans and two black swans are released into the Avon River in April. Actually, it has become such an important ceremonial ritual for the city that almost the whole city and tourists from all over turn out into the street, along the river just to get a glimpse of it.

The city's fame took a major turn when the Stratford Shakespeare Festival started in 1953. It should not be hard to associate Shakespeare with Stratford for someone who knows something about him and his plays. Personally when I saw Stratford-upon-Avon, the first thing that came into my mind was Shakespeare because he was the only reason that I would know this name. However, it was not until 1953, that Tom Patterson, Stratford's very own son, came up with this idea of Shakespeare Festival, which has changed this city ever since. Now you can find various landmarks named after Tom Patterson including the Tom Patterson Theatre which is one of the major venues for the festival.

With William Shakespeare as its foundation, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival aims to set the standard for classical theatre in North America. Out of the same classical Shakespearean plays, however, the themes, the cultural landscapes addressed in the productions have been evolving and changing in order to connect tradition with innovation, to bring classical and contemporary theatre alive for an increasingly diverse audience.

This annual festival runs from July to November every year with about 10 productions taking place in four theatres throughout the city; the Festival Theatre, the Avon Theatre, Tom Patterson Theatre and the Studio Theatre. Over the years, the festival has gone beyond just Shakespeare, although that still remains the central piece. It has embraced other genres like musical and fantasy. You can almost find something for everybody including children. Peter Pan has been a repeating production at the festival which draws many families there every time.

Since Stratford is known as a theatre town, it won’t be surprising if you bump into some celebrity once in a while, and interestingly enough, the people in Stratford seem to have already got used to that and nobody would make a big fuss even if someone as famous as Elton John is in town. If you happen to be in Stratford, ask about the house owned by Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) just on the river. Some other celebrities that may be worth mentioning as Stratford’s very own are Justin Bieber (the teen singing sensation born in Stratford) and Tom Patterson who was only 23 when he founded the festival. Besides, many actors have made a point performing at the festival, such as Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer, Peter Ustinov, Dame Maggie Smith, and William Shatner.

The 2010 season includes: As You Like It; Dangerous Liaisons; Do Not Go Gentle; Evita; For The Pleasure of Seeing Her Again; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris; King of Thieves; Kiss Me, Kate; Peter Pan; The Tempest; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; and The Winter’s Tale.

A full calendar of all the shows is available on the Festival’s official site: