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Stratford Festival Launches a Free Shakespeare Film Festival Starting with King Lear

Stratford Festival Launches a Free Shakespeare Film Festival Starting with King Lear

One of the things I was truly looking forward to this coming summer was visiting the Stratford Festival and seeing many of their shows to savor and write about. This was going to be the first summer where I would be spending time in Ontario, and this festival was one of the bonuses coming from that decision. Sadly though, I won’t get to participate in their press nights as I had hoped for, which is truly a shame. But to make the loss feel less heartbreaking, the Stratford Festival has luckily decided to launch a film festival during this distressing period of social isolation, offering streaming of 12 Shakespeare productions for free. Captured as part of its Stratford Festival On Film series, this will be the first time the full-length versions of these productions have been available for free, and I what a joy this gift is.

King Lear – On-The-Run 2014 (Rushes)
Colm Feore as King Lear in King Lear. Photo by David Hou.

Launching on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, the Stratford Festival On Film will first offer King Lear, directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino featuring Colm Feore in the title role. As this is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, I know that I will be there, glued to my screen and savoring every bit of Stratford‘s excellence as I can digest. What an exciting way to begin.

At difficult times such as we’re experiencing now, it can be helpful to re-examine the great works of literature,” says Cimolino. “Much has been made recently of the suggestion that when Shakespeare wrote King Lear, in 1606, he was in quarantine because of the plague. In looking at the play, we see that it documents not only the breakdown of an old king and the destruction of two families but also the disruption of an entire country. It seems almost prophetic.”

The roll-out of the films has been scheduled around four themes that seem pertinent at this time of pandemic and might spark further thought or conversation amongst viewers: Social Order, Isolation, Minds Pushed to the Edge, and Relationships.

Each film will debut with a 7 p.m. viewing party and remain available for free for a three-week period on the Stratford Festival website as follows:

Macbeth – On The Run 2016
Ian Lake as Macbeth in Macbeth. Photo by David Hou.

Social Order and Leadership

King Lear: April 23 to May 14

Coriolanus: April 30 to May 21

Macbeth: May 7 to 28

The Tempest – On The Run 2018
Martha Henry as Prospero and Michael Blake as Caliban in The Tempest. Photo by David Hou.


The Tempest: May 14 to June 4

Timon of Athens: May 21 to June 11

Love’s Labour’s Lost: May 28 to June 18

King John - On The Run 2014
Tom McCamus (kneeling) as Kind John and Brian Tree (standing behind) as Cardinal Pandulph with members of the Company of King John. Photo by David Hou.

Minds Pushed to the Edge

Hamlet: June 4 to 25

King John: June 11 to July 2

Pericles: June 18 to July 9

Romeo & Juliet, Stratford Festival 2017
Antoine Yared as Romeo and Sara Farb as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Cylia von Tiedemann.


Antony and Cleopatra: June 25 to July 16

Romeo and Juliet: July 2 to 23

The Taming of the Shrew: July 9 to 30

The Taming of the Shrew - On The Run 2015
Ben Carlson as Petruchio and Deborah Hay as Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by David Hou.

Stratford Festival On Film was launched by Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney in 2014 as an initiative to capture all of Shakespeare’s plays on film. They will screen across Canada, the U.S. and internationally and air on CBC before being released for download and on DVD.

Each film is captured live with a full audience at the Stratford Festival during a single performance. Additional “pick-up” shots of key performance elements are captured on stage immediately following the performance, again with an audience present.

The films have received four Canadian Screen Awards and 16 nominations, including Best Performing Arts Program for the debut film of the series, King Lear. And I personally can’t wait to take this in on one of the many nights of self-isolation that lays ahead of me. Thank you Stratford!

The Adventures of Pericles - On The Run 2015
Members of the company of The Adventures of Pericles. Photo by David Hou.

The Stratford Festival On Film productions are produced by Barry Avrich through Melbar Entertainment Group.

Stratford Festival On Film is sponsored by Sun Life as part of their Making the Arts More Accessible™ program.


Support for Stratford Festival On Film is generously provided by The John and Myrna Daniels Charitable Foundation, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, the Jenkins Family Foundation, the Henry White Kinnear Foundation, Ophelia & Mike Lazaridis, The Catherine, and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Sandra & Jim Pitblado, the Slaight Family Foundation, Robert & Jacqueline Sperandio, and an anonymous donor.


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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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