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You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Return to Live Theatre at the Stratford Festival in Canada



I wasn’t prepared for this. And I didn’t quite realize it until I sat down in those social distanced chairs under the Festival Theatre‘s outdoor tent. How could I not have realized? This was my first live performance in any sort of venue since early March 2020, since those pre-pandemic days when going to the theatre was as routine as going out for dinner or a drink. But on this particular beautiful Sunday afternoon in Stratford, Ontario, almost a year and a half later, I was sitting in a theatrical audience waiting for a show to begin. It’s a pretty astounding moment, that, oddly enough, I hadn’t really given time or energy to thing about or have the concept sunk in, that is, until these four ultra-talented singers took to the stage and started to engage with us in the Stratford Festival’s Cabaret show entitled “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” You could have knocked me literally out of my seat with the power of that realization.

The show? Well, it’s a beautifully crafted and organized review of Broadway musicals, hitting on all the high points both modern and majestic, like Dear Evan Hansen and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder all the way through to the utter classics, such as The King and I and Hello, Dolly! without ever really being obvious. There will be no “Defying Gravity” here, wickedly, as this is more of a “The Wizard and I” kinda show, themed and lovingly structured. But it was in those first few moments, when the magnificently talented singers; Evangelia Kambites (Citadel’s Hadestown), fellow London, ON native, Mark Uhre (25th anniversary production of Les Misérables at the Princess of Wales Theatre), Alana Hibbert (Musical Stage Company’s Parade) and Gabrielle Jones (Shaw Festival’s My Fair Lady), started to share with us that intimate and excited feeling that can overwhelm our senses during that evasive Musical thing called the Overture.

Now I have shared before, with friends, family, and my lovely readers, that when the lights begin to dim in a theatre, the young excited child that lives somewhere not-too-deep inside me starts to quietly and (usually) internally clap with glee and wild anticipation. It’s a part of me I truly cherish and adore. That moment is not just a subtle feeling I set aside for musicals, but for all of theatre and the performing arts. I revel in that feeling, as it is something magical; a desire and optimistic hope that, if all goes according to plan, will snatch me up and capture my soul, my heart, and my imagination. That within those precious few hours at the theatre, I will be taken on a wild ride and an emotional journey, altering my soul for eternity. If I am lucky. And here, under the canopy at the Stratford Festival, in those first few moments of their cabaret, “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” those four were echoing my joy, and I was overcome with that joy and excitement. Yes, one tear or two formed in my eyes. I can admit that.

Evangelia Kambites and Mark Uhre in You Can’t Stop the Beat. Photography by David Hou.Stratford Festival 2021.

Surprised and shocked was my response, as I entered the Festival Theatre Outdoor Stage with a casual air, glad to be sharing this Stratford moment with my visiting sister, and looking forward to buying that adorable Stratford Festival tee shirt that all the Festival workers were wearing. A bust of Shakespeare with a mask on. I love it, but I hadn’t put it all together in my head that this was a turning point, that is, until that first number, West Side Story‘s “Something’s Coming“, wisely and deliciously curated by Director Thom Allison (Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf in Stratford’s Into the Woods) and Musical Director Laura Burton (Citadel’s Oliver!) with musical arrangements by Burton and Michael McClennan. That song and the script magnificently laid it all out for me; the loss I had experienced and the win that I was currently attending. It could not have been summed up better. Especially with to the strong work from the stage band, made up of Burton (Conductor, Keyboard), George Meanwell (Cello, Acoustic and Electric Guitar), McClennan (Acoustic and Electric Bass, Orchestra Supervisor), and David Campion (Drum Kit). And it was followed, most sharply, by the organized and beautifully performed renditions from Willy Wonka, Man of La Mancha, and a slew of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, namely from South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I, Pipe Dream (this one I didn’t know), and Oklahoma! And that was just the first half of this dynamic 90 minutes, intermission-less cabaret show.

Alana Hibbert in You Can’t Stop the Beat. Photography by David Hou.Stratford Festival 2021

The performers delicately and lovingly weaved their way around and through a few classics from Cole Porter’s Anything Goes as well as Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. Alana Hibbert found evil deliciousness in Menken and Slater’s “I Want the Good Times Back” from The Little Mermaid, but really out did herself by unpacking with a heart pounding clarity inside Irving Berlin’s historically meaningful “Suppertime.” Gabrielle Jones also brought down the house, delivered a rousing diva-worthy performance of Jerry Herman’s “Before the Parade Passes by“, and Funny Girl‘s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” daring us to compare and contrast (in her favor), but, in all honesty, it was her magnificent Merman-like delivery of the title song from Anything Goes that clearly cemented her star-lit stature on that stage. You are a gem, Ms Jones.

Gabrielle Jones in You Can’t Stop the Beat. Photography by David Hou.Stratford Festival 2021.

Then it was time for some Sondheim, which for anyone who knows me or my blog, transported me most gleefully to musical heaven. Sweeney Todd‘s “A Little Priest” – perfectly done thanks to Jones and Mark Uhre’s spot on delivery, along with “The Little Things You Do Together“, “Getting Married Today“, and “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” Those numbers easily slapped a big huge smile on my face for their exacting and effervescent delivery, but it was Uhre’s gender-swapping “Could I Leave You“, as well as when they gave the Pasek and Paul’s “You Will be Found” to the seductively talented Evangelia Kambites that filled me with wonder, making me sit up and take notice of their witty construct a whole lot more. They, like their inclusion of the powerful song, “Suppertime,” were those kinda moments of not only beauty, but sublime cleverness, daring this not-so-diverse older Sunday afternoon crowd to take stock of their preconceived comforting ideas of classic musical theatre, and be challenged to think a bit outside the box, reconstructing an old framework around what music and musicals can do to society’s ideals and their world view. Possibly, in a way that they might not have expected or experienced before. 

Evangelia Kambites in You Can’t Stop the Beat. Photography by David Hou.Stratford Festival 2021.

I must admit, silly as it sounds, that I didn’t walk into this afternoon cabaret with a whole heap of great expectations. A cabaret about musicals, sounds nice, right? But what I was given, or should I say ‘gifted’, was something that was far more superior than simply a celebration of musical theatre through the ages. Maybe it was timing or some sort of cosmic collision, but this show was a reminder of something, thanks to the pandemic, I had almost forgotten about or lost touch with. It was a return to that excited headspace. “You will be found,” they sang in gorgeous harmony, and that misplaced inner-musical child was reborn on that Sunday afternoon, reveling once again in the joy of musical theatre. And if Hairspray‘s finale number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” doesn’t send you out of that outdoor theatre with a big foot-tapping smile on your face, just like it did when I first saw it on Broadway so many years ago, then, as this group of four deliciously talented singers stated at the very beginning of this cabaret, this show is just not for you. But it certainly was exactly what this theatre junkie most desperately wanted and needed, whether I knew it or not at the time. 

Evangelia Kambites, Mark Uhre, Alana Hibbert and Gabrielle Jones in You Can’t Stop the Beat. Photography by David Hou.Stratford Festival 2021.

Listed below for your information is the Stratford Festival‘s MEDIA RELEASE as of June 28th, 2021, although much has changed since I copied and pasted this release for you. The most up-to-date information about each production at the Festival can be found on their website here. So read up, and snatch up some seats if you are able.

Especially now, as Ontario has progressed into Stage 3 of the COVID lockdown, the Stratford Festival is currently working hard through their plans for increasing capacity across all three of their venues. Given the tremendous work involved in scaling up, the landscape and how the festival can and will accommodate more people than listed below is changing dramatically beginning with early-mid August performances. I believe that it is on August 3rd that more seats will go on sale on their webpage. Don’t miss out.

I, for one, am truly thankful, as it appears that not only will I be able to see Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters  and Shakespeare‘s R+J in August, and Serving Elizabeth by Marcia Johnson in September as planned, it looks like I’ll be able to see the previously sold-out Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women (the production I truly wanted to see the most) this September as well. What can I tell you? I’m feeling like one pretty fortunate and lucky theatre junkie, yes I am. So stay tuned, and read up on what is being offered at the Stratford Festival this summer:

MEDEA RELEASE: Stratford Festival set to begin performances on July 13th, the 68th anniversary of the very first performance held under a tent back in 1953.

The canopy set up outside of the Stratford Festival’s main Festival Theatre. Courtesy Stratford Festival via Twitter.

Provincial guidelines will allow 100 people at each show, with Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino stating most poetically, “As butterflies shedding their cocoons, we are poised to emerge from this pandemic“.  

June 28, 2021… The Ontario government has issued its guidance for attendance at outdoor performing arts events, paving the way for the opening of the Stratford Festival’s 2021 season.

According to these guidelines, the Stratford Festival will be able to accommodate 100 people (or 25% capacity) in each of its new outdoor canopies, where shows will run three times a day from July 10 (now July 13th, the 68th anniversary of the very first performance held under a tent back in 1953 – from a later press release, dated July 8th) until the end of September. (The season begins on the 13th with the official opening of the year’s first show, Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre.)

Three Tall Women, which was to have begun performances in June, has been moved later in the season. It will now be mounted in the Studio Theatre (as it was to have been in 2020) from August 10 to October 9, assuming the province’s successful transition to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Capacity will be limited to 25 people. The play’s two parts will be presented as separate performances, scheduled to be seen on the same day. Each ticket includes both parts.

“We are thrilled to be able to progress with our 2021 season,” says Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “A season outdoors under canopies is not only fitting for the current conditions but draws parallels to the Festival’s first season in 1953. As we were then, we are under a canopy – and we are starting the performance season in July, just as we did 68 years ago. A relentless spirit of adventure has guided our efforts over the past several months and we can hardly wait to welcome our audiences back both in person and online, which has become a new Stratford Festival tradition during the pandemic.”

The 2021 season features six plays: A Midsummer Night’s DreamR+J, Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters, Edward Albee’s Three Tall WomenServing Elizabeth by Marcia Johnson, and I Am William, with text by Rébecca Déraspe, music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry, and English translation by Leanna Brodie.

2021 productions will be filmed and made available digitally beginning in September, to allow greater access to the performances.

The current guidelines allow a daily maximum capacity of 600 people, compared to 7,000 when the Festival is fully operational in all four of its theatres.

The Festival is also announcing a series of events – some in-person, some digital – for the 2021 Meighen Forum. Live events will be held in Lazaridis Hall in the new Tom Patterson Theatre, beginning August 6 and assuming the successful transition to Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan. These include performances of Andrew Prashad’s One Step at a Time and Ryan G. Hinds’s #KanderAndEbb, as well as a new series of play readings called Play by the Book, which features Jessica B. Hill’s The Dark Lady; the Uprising Series, curated by Hannah Rittner; and the REV-elations Series, a co-production with b-current Performing Arts, curated by Sadie Berlin. (Details below.)

The Digital Meighen Forum will include a variety of paid events, including workshops, speakers and panels, as well as the audience favourite Meet the Festival, which will be free of charge and will run on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET, during live-performance weeks. Details of the Digital Meighen Forum are still being finalized.



Support for the 2021 season of the Festival Theatre Canopy is generously provided by

Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

R + J

By William Shakespeare

Adapted by Ravi Jain, Christine Horne and Alex Bulmer

Directed by Ravi Jain

Produced in collaboration with Why Not Theatre


Dante Jemmott as Romeo

Eponine Lee as Juliet

Alex Bulmer as the Friar

Beck Lloyd as Lady Capulet and Tybalt

Lisa Nasson as Benvolio

Sepehr Reybod as Mercutio

Rick Roberts as Capulet

Tom Rooney as the Nurse

August 12 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, August 15

They say that love is blind – and with blindness comes the freedom to open the mind’s eye to a world of limitless possibility. Likewise, the challenge of staging the world’s most famous love story in a time of physical distancing brings with it the opportunity to explore modes of theatrical presentation that are both unexpectedly novel and as old as the art of storytelling itself.

Intended for blind, low-vision and sighted audiences alike, this radically reimagined version of Shakespeare’s beloved romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, invites you into an up-to-the-minute modern world of sound and music, a world that challenges the identities we construct when we use only our eyes, a world in which the entrenched hostilities of an older generation are challenged by the passions of young people who only want to love.

Production support is generously provided by Dr. M. Lee Myers and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Why We Tell the Story

A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre

Curated and directed by Marcus Nance

Music Director: Franklin Brasz


Neema Bickersteth

Marcus Nance

Robert Markus

Vanessa Sears

July 10 to July 21 | Opening Tuesday, July 13

Throughout the ages the African-American community has told stories of life, love, pain and hope through the glorious expressions of musical theatre and poetry. This update of the sold-out 2019 Meighen Forum concert, takes you on a journey with the voices of legendary Black poets and the music of the African-American musical theatre canon, including hits from AidaAin’t Misbehavin’Caroline, or ChangeThe Color PurpleHamiltonThe Lion KingOnce On This IslandShowboat and many more. As Maya Angelou said: “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin.

You Can’t Stop the Beat

The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre

Curated and directed by Thom Allison

Music Director: Laura Burton


Alana Hibbert

Gabrielle Jones

Evangelia Kambites

Mark Uhre

July 15 to July 31 | Opening Sunday, July 18

What is it about musical theatre that captures the hearts of millions of fans? Through wars, disasters, heartbreaks and triumphs, musicals have been there to give us a way to understand the human experience and flourish. Has there ever been a better way to represent our inner lives than in glorious Technicolor and song? This tune-filled ride celebrates why musicals have always been the ultimate tonic for the soul in good or troubled times.

Production support is generously provided by Nona Macdonald Heaslip.

Play On!

A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape

Curated by Robert Markus, Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis

Directed by Julia Nish-Lapidus and James Wallis

Music Director: Reza Jacobs


Gabriel Antonacci

Jacob MacInnis

Jennifer Rider-Shaw

Kimberly-Ann Truong

July 29 to August 15 | Opening Sunday, July 31

Shakespeare’s influence on Western culture extends even into your favourite pop hits. Whether it be direct lines from his plays appearing in Top 40 lyrics or whole songs inspired by his plots, whether the borrowers be Taylor Swift, Madonna, Elton John, The Beatles, Prince or Radiohead, Shakespeare is still there, lurking in the mainstream, as cool and as relevant as ever. This lively celebration of terrific tunes affords a great opportunity to introduce a younger audience to Shakespeare’s continuing role in popular culture.

Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert.


Spirit and Legacy of Black Music

Curated and directed by Beau Dixon

Music Director: Beau Dixon


Robert Ball

Alana Bridgewater

Beau Dixon

Camille Eanga-Selenge

August 19 to September 5 | Opening Saturday, August 21

From the moment Black people landed on North American soil, their music took root and became the basis for much of the popular music we hear today. There is an endless list of exceptional Black musicians who have been lost to history while their white counterparts gained fame. From church hymnals to the blues, from jazz to rock ’n’ roll, R&B and rap, we owe much of our musical history to Black culture, and it’s time to give credit where it is due.

Production support is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin and by Sylvia Soyka.

Finally There’s Sun

A Cabaret of Resilience

Curated and directed by Sara Farb and Steve Ross

Music Director: Franklin Brasz


Noah Beemer

Sara Farb

Germaine Konji

Steve Ross

September 9 to September 26 | Opening Sunday, September 12

Reflecting on this “great pause” as we move forward and get back to living freely, Finally There’s Sun takes you on a musical journey through a year of enormous change and growth. It explores the isolation, the loneliness, the upheaval and the unexpected silver linings that came out of a time like no other.

Production support is generously provided by Jody & Deborah Hamade and by Dr. Robert & Roberta Sokol.

An aerial shot of the canopy set up outside of the Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatre. Courtesy Stratford Festival via Twitter.


The 2021 season at the Tom Patterson Theatre Canopy is sponsored by BMO Financial Group

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Peter Pasyk


Eva Foote as Hermia, Snug and Peaseblossom

Craig Lauzon as Oberon and Theseus

Trish Lindström as Puck and Egeus

Jonathan Mason as Demetrius, Quince and Mustardseed

André Sills as Bottom

Amaka Umeh as Helena, Flute and Moth

Micah Woods as Lysander, Snout and Cobweb

Bahareh Yaraghi as Titania and Hippolyta

July 16 to August 1 | Opening Thursday, July 22

Spellbound lovers, quarrelling fairies, tradesmen with a fervour for amateur theatricals: they’re all mixed up together in the surreal world of Shakespeare’s great comedy of dreaming and desire.

This deep dive into the sometimes unsettlingly dark and dangerous realms of the subconscious famously culminates in a play within the play: a hilariously inept performance by Nick Bottom and his fellow would-be actors. But even as we laugh at the ham-fisted efforts of these “rude mechanicals,” we are won over by their heartfelt belief in the power of the imagination.

Taking its cue from that insight, this production deploys the most fundamental techniques of theatrical art in a magically inventive staging of a play that is itself a celebration of the imagination at its most extreme.

Production support is generously provided by the Harkins & Manning families in memory of Jim & Susan Harkins.

The Rez Sisters

By Tomson Highway

Directed by Jessica Carmichael


Jani Lauzon as Pelajia Patchnose

Brefny Caribou as Zhaboonigan Peterson

Lisa Cromarty as Marie-Adele Starblanket

Christine Frederick as Veronique St. Pierre

Nicole Joy-Fraser as Annie Cook

Kathleen MacLean as Emily Dictionary

Tracey Nepinak as Philomena Moosetail

Zach Running Coyote as Nanabush

July 23 to August 21 | Opening Wednesday, July 28

They have their dreams and their difficulties, these seven women. One yearns for a singing career; another for a white porcelain toilet. One grieves for her lover, killed in a motorcycle accident; another harbours the memory of a horrific sexual assault. The cancer that afflicts one of them is not the only malignancy they confront.

But one dream they hold in common is that of winning “the biggest bingo in the world” – and one day, accompanied by the transformative spirit guide Nanabush, they leave their Manitoulin Island reserve and set out for Toronto to do just that.

Ribald, harrowing and mystical, this seminal work of Indigenous drama celebrates the spirit of resilience and the powerful beauty these women bring to the tough world in which they live.

Production support is generously provided by Karon C. Bales & Charles E. Beall and by M. Fainer.

Schulich Children’s Plays

I Am William

Text by Rébecca Déraspe

Music by Chloé Lacasse and Benoit Landry

English translation by Leanna Brodie

Book, lyrics and score developed at Théâtre Le Clou

Directed by Esther Jun

Choreographer: Alyssa Martin

Music Director: Njo Kong Kie


Shakura Dickson as Margaret

Landon Doak as William

Allan Louis as John and the Earl of Leicester

Shannon Taylor as Mary and Queen Elizabeth I

August 10 to September 12 | Opening Saturday, August 14

Margaret Shakespeare has a dazzling talent for writing, which she yearns to put to serious use. But in an age lethally suspicious of female intellect and literacy, how can she find a way to fulfil her authorial ambitions yet still survive? Fortunately, she has a brother, William, who isn’t much of a writer but who wants to make it as an actor – and friends in high places have just the role for him.

Tapping into our fascination with the enigma of William Shakespeare’s life and how he came to write those plays – and the seemingly endless speculation in some quarters about whether he really did – this light-hearted yet genuinely passionate interweaving of comedy, song and poetic fancy spins a playful and witty yarn that will delight younger audiences and adults alike.

Serving Elizabeth

By Marcia Johnson

Directed by Kimberley Rampersad

Produced by special arrangement with Thousand Islands Playhouse


Sean Arbuckle as Talbot and Maurice

Arlene Duncan as Mercy and Patricia

Cameron Grant as Montague and Steven

Virgilia Griffith as Faith and Tia

Sara Topham as HRH Princess Elizabeth and Robin

August 28 to September 26 | Opening Thursday, September 2

In Kenya in 1952, Mercy, a restaurant proprietor, is hired to cater the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth, soon to be Queen. In 2015, another story unfolds in London, England, where a young Kenyan-born Canadian, Tia, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family, while also pursuing a writing project of her own. These parallel narratives seem only coincidentally connected ­– until a surprising twist reveals a deeper relationship between the two. Audiences are certain to enjoy this ingenious contemporary drama that keeps us guessing as it explores issues of colonialism, nationalism and the question of who gets to have a voice.

Production support is generously provided by John & Therese Gardner and by the Tremain Family.


Edward Albee’s

Three Tall Women

Directed by Diana Leblanc


Martha Henry as A

Lucy Peacock as B

Mamie Zwettler as C

Andrew Iles as The Boy

August 10 to October 9 | Opening Thursday, August 19

By turns acerbic, anguished and sarcastically funny, an old woman known to us only as “A” lays bare her inner life in sometimes shocking detail to two others: a middle-aged caregiver identified only as “B” and a young legal professional, “C.”

Originally programmed for the 2020 season, Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which he called an “exorcism” of his own troubled relationship with his adoptive mother, is a profound meditation on aging, death and the very nature of the self: who are we really, and how do we become who we are?

In keeping with pandemic precautions, the play’s two parts – the second of which brings a startlingly different take on its characters – will be presented as separate performances, scheduled to be seen on the same day. Each ticket includes both parts.

Production support is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, Sylvia Soyka, The Westaway Charitable Foundation and by Jack Whiteside.


Supported through an endowed gift from Kelly & Michael Meighen and the T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.


Be among the first to experience a performance in the new Lazaridis Hall, designed as the home of The Meighen Forum in the new Tom Patterson Theatre.

One Step at a Time

August 10 to August 14

Using monologues, original songs, improvisational tap dance and multimedia video, Andrew Prashad shares his and his wife’s journey of caring for a son with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, while raising two daughters – all while maintaining his career as a professional actor, singer and dancer.


September 14 to September 18

Ryan G. Hinds’s #KanderAndEbb is a tour through the music of Broadway songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, set against entertaining and touching real-life stories from the fan who managed to get semi-close to the legendary writers’ fabled world. Featuring a fabulous four-piece band led by music director Mark Selby, the show is a hilarious, personal and sincere tribute that leaves audiences with a new and deeper appreciation of the music and lyrics they thought they knew.

Support for #KanderandEbb is generously provided by Sandra Ratman in honour of Louis Applebaum through The Louis Applebaum Visiting Artists Program.

Play By the Book

Dramatic, intimate readings complementing the season’s playbills and performed live.

The Dark Lady

By Jessica B. Hill

August 6

Emilia Bassano, the probable Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, was a published poet in her own right. She was also trilingual, multiracial, and a talented musician. The Dark Lady brings these two poets intimately together as they wrestle with artistic collaboration, ambition, envy and love: an entanglement that will profoundly shape both their lives and their work. Shakespeare in the Ruins is planning a full production of The Dark Lady for 2022.

Uprising Series

Curated by Hannah Rittner

August 18 to August 21

This series features readings of The Courage to Right a Woman’s Wrongs by Ana Caro Mallén de SotoThe Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret by Susanna CentlivreWhen Ladies Meet by Rachel Crothers and Wedding Band by Alice Childress.

Support for the Uprising Series is generously provided by the Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.

REV-elations Series

A co-production with b current Performing Arts

Curated by Sadie Berlin

August 25 to August 28

REV-elations brings to light older and rarer plays by Black playwrights for audiences to discover, including The Escape by William Wells BrownCollected Plays by Zora Neale HurstonParallel Hands by Frantz Fanon and How Now Black Man by Lorris Elliot.


The Digital Meighen Forum brings expert commentary and artistic insights directly to your device.

Digital Workshops

Poems by Playwrights

In these three workshops led by Monice Peter, delve into the poetic journey of Afro- and Caribbean-Canadian and American playwrights and discover how their culture and experiences are layered within the devices of their poetry.

Creating Costumes

In these workshops led by members of the Stratford Festival Wardrobe, learn practical costume-building techniques in order to begin to create your own pieces at home.

Shakespeare’s Speeches

Through discussion and acting exercises, explore the intricacies of some of Shakespeare’s great speeches in these workshops, led by actors, past and present, who have brought the words of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life on stage.

Original Dance

Learn original choreography from some of the Stratford Festival’s professional dancers and choreographers.


Learn some creative writing strategies and exercises directly from Marcia Johnson, playwright of Serving Elizabeth. Discuss the particular styles and techniques employed in each of their plays and engage in some active writing exercises yourself.

Building Props

In these workshops led by Stratford Festival prop-builders, learn practical prop-building techniques in order to begin to create your own pieces at home.

The Stillness Room

Founded by Toronto theatre director and teacher Alan Dilworth, The Stillness Room is a coming together to experience the centring and quietly transformative qualities of stillness, silence and connection. Since May 2020 The Virtual Stillness Room has been available free for all, in partnership with Necessary Angel Theatre Company.

Meet the Festival

July 10, 17, 24, 31; August 7, 14, 21, 28; September 4, 11, 18, 25

Fun and informal digital Q&A sessions with Festival artists and staff.

For more information call the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit


Ann Swerdfager

Publicity Director

Stratford Festival

PO Box 520 | Stratford ON | N5A 6V2

M: 519.301.3569

519.271.4040 x 2297

Box Office: Toll Free 1.800.567.1600 | Local 519.273.1600

2021 Season | July to October

PLAYS Three Tall Women | R + J | A Midsummer Night’s Dream| The Rez Sisters | I Am William Serving Elizabeth 

CABARETS Why We Tell the Story | You Can’t Stop the Beat | Play On! | Freedom Finally There’s Sun

THE MEIGHEN FORUM Special Performances | Speakers & Panels | Interactive Workshops    

STRATFEST@HOME Stratford Festival On Film | Spontaneous Shakespeare riffs 

Musical concerts | Interviews and Discussions Documentaries … and more!

Visit for updates and more currect information.

For more from Ross click here

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


Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sarah Paulson in Appropriate



Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate not only got a second extension, but transferred  theatre. Slated to close March 3 at the Hayes Theater, Appropriate will now play a 13-week engagement at the Belasco Theatre, with performances beginning March 25. The strictly limited run will continue through June 23. The reason for the transfer was Paula Vogel’s Mother Play, was already slated to perform.

To read T2C’s review of Appropriate  click here and here.

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Broadway To Honor Hinton Battle



Broadway will honor the memory of Hinton Battle, the three-time Tony Award-winning singer/ actor/ phenomenal dancer who was trailblazing. Mr. Battle passed away on January 30, 2024, at the age of 67. On March 12, 2024, the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim all the lights of all the Broadway theatres in New York for one minute at exactly 6:45pm, in his honor.Hinton Battle won three Tony’s and made his Broadway debut at 18,  playing the original Scarecrow in The Wiz.

You can see our tribute here. He was one of the great ones.


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Theatre News: Here We Are, Water For Elephants, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, FIVE: The Parody Musical, Forbidden Broadway



Producers Tom Kirdahy, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, and The Stephen Sondheim Trust announced today that the critically acclaimed world premiere production of Here We Are, the new musical from David Ives and Stephen Sondheim that debuted at The Shed’s Griffin Theater in 2023, was filmed by the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and added to its collection. The complete show was filmed by TOFT in December of 2023 and is now available and free to view by anyone with a library card.

 Here We Are is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, and features Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.

The musical features a book by Tony Award nominee David Ives, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and is inspired by two films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, by Luis Buñuel.

Here We Are opened on October 22, 2023 at The Shed and performed its final show on January 21, 2024.

Water For Elephants is announcing their Tent Talkback Series with members of the creative team following selected Saturday matinees between March 2 through April 6, at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street).  Creative team members will include book writer Rick Elice and composers and lyricists PigPen Theatre Co.  The Water For Elephants Tent Talkback Series will be a moderated 15-minute discussion about the creative process and development of the show and commence at the conclusion of selected Saturday matinee performances.

Tent Talkback Series Schedule

Saturday, March 2, matinee performance

Saturday, March 9, matinee performance

Saturday, March 30, matinee performance

Saturday, April 6, matinee performance

Water For Elephants is based on the critically acclaimed and New York Times Bestselling novel by Sara Gruen. The new musical has a book by three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), a soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co. (The Tale of Despereaux) and is directed by Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo).

The cast stars Grant Gustin (“The Flash”, “Glee”) in his Broadway debut, Isabelle McCalla (The Prom, Shucked), four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman (City of Angels), Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominee Paul Alexander Nolan (Slave Play), Stan Brown (“Homicide: Life in the Streets”), Joe De Paul (Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion), Sara Gettelfinger (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Wade McCollum(Wicked) and features Brandon Block, Antoine Boissereau, Rachael Boyd, Paul Castree, Ken Wulf Clark, Taylor Colleton, Gabriel Olivera de Paula Costa, Isabella Luisa Diaz, Samantha Gershman, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, Nicolas Jelmoni, Caroline Kane, Harley Ross Beckwith McLeish, Michael Mendez, Samuel Renaud, Marissa Rosen, Alexandra Gaelle Royer, Asa Somers, Charles South, Sean Stack, Matthew Varvar and Michelle West.

After losing what matters most, a young man jumps a moving train unsure of where the road will take him and finds a new home with the remarkable crew of a traveling circus, and a life—and love—beyond his wildest dreams. Seen through the eyes of his older self, his adventure becomes a poignant reminder that if you choose the ride, life can begin again at any age.

The award-winning Sea Dog Theater’s production of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albom, based on the book by Albom, directed by Erwin Maas (NY Times Critic’s Pick for Poison and A Kid Like Rishi), starring Tony Award winner and Emmy nominee Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd original cast, CBS’s “Blue Bloods”) and three-time NYIT “Best Actor” nominee Chris Domig.Tuesdays with Morrie runs March 1 – 23 in a limited engagement at St. George’s Episcopal Church (209 East 16 St.) Opening night is March 7.Two post-show talkbacks are scheduled during the run. On Monday, March 4, Len Cariou and Judy Kaye will discuss working with Stephen Sondheim. On Monday, March 18, Len and Abigail Hawk will discuss working on CBS’s “Blue Bloods.”Tuesdays with Morrie is the humorous and poignant story of career-obsessed journalist Mitch Albom, who sixteen years after graduation serendipitously learns that his former sociology professor Morrie is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What starts as a simple visit, turns into a weekly pilgrimage and the last class in the meaning of life.Featuring vocalist Sally Shaw. Original music written and performed on piano by Chris Domig.

The Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC, Executive Director Khady Kamara Nunez and Artistic Director Bill Rauch) announces complete casting and creative team for An American Soldier at the new performing arts center at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.  An American Soldier will premiere in New York during AANHPI Heritage Month with performances starting May 12 through May 19, 2024.

An American Soldier will feature principal cast members Hannah Cho, Alex DeSocio, Nina Yoshida Nelsen and Brian Vu. Ensemble members include Ben Brady, Cierra Byrd, James C. Harris, Shelén Hughes, Joshua Sanders, Christian Simmons and understudies, Misoon Ghim, Luke Harnish and Angela Yam. Photos of the company are available here.

An American Soldier features scenic design by Daniel Ostling, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Jeanette Yew and multi-media design by Nick Hussong, joining the previously announced creative team members Huang Ruo (composer), David Henry Hwang (libretto), Carolyn Kuan (conductor), and Chay Yew (director).

On October 3, 2011, Chinese-American Army Pvt. Danny Chen was found dead in a guard tower at his base in Afghanistan. Based on his story and the ensuing courts-martial of Chen’s fellow soldiers, this New York City premiere opera tells the powerful true story of a young soldier from Manhattan’s Chinatown who sought to serve his country, only to find his biggest threat was the very people who swore to protect him.

Told through the multidimensional music of Huang Ruo (M. Butterfly, Book of Mountains and Seas) with libretto by Tony and Grammy winner David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Soft Power), and directed by Obie Award winner Chay Yew (Cambodian Rock Band, Sweatshop Overlord), An American Soldier is a powerful and unforgettable experience.

Due to popular demand, Knock at the Gate producers Joseph Discher and Sean Hudock announced a two-week extension of their audio immersive streaming production of The Tempest: A Surround Sound Odyssey, now available to stream virtually through Saturday, March 16.

Tickets for the stream are $9.99 and are available for purchase at The broadcast is available worldwide on all internet connected devices with a dimmable screen and a pair of headphones. Audiences will receive a link and password to access the listening portal prior to the broadcast.

The cast includes Hale Appleman (SyFy’s “The Magicians,” FX’s “American Horror Story”) as ‘Ariel,’ Tony® and Grammy® Award nominee Emily Skeggs (Broadway’s Fun Home) as ‘Miranda,’ Joel de la Fuente (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle) as ‘Prospero,’ and Derek Wilson (Amazon’s “Gen V,” Hulu’s “Future Man”) as ‘Caliban.’ Rounding out the cast are Michael Daly, Sean Hudock, Greg Jackson, Maurice Jones, Raphael Nash Thomspon, Shane Taylor, Patrick Toon.

Due to popular demand, producers of FIVE: The Parody Musical have put a new block of tickets on sale through April 21. The world-premiere production, initially announced as a limited four-week engagement, will now play an additional 6 weeks Off-Broadway at Theater 555 (555 W 42nd St, NYC). For tickets and further information, visit

Look out SIX, here comes FIVE: The Parody Musical. Henry VIII and his six wives had nothing on Donald, the 45th, and these five ladies. Poised to make America laugh again, FIVE is an 80-minute, irreverent musical comedy revue starring some of the women in the life of America’s past President. Ivana, Marla, and Melania are joined by crowd favorite Stormy and daddy’s girl Ivanka as they each take the spotlight and sing their hearts out for your vote.

Presented by Five Musical LLC, FIVE: The Parody Musical features a book and lyrics by Shimmy Braun & Moshiel Newman Daphna, music and lyrics by Billy Recce (A Musical About Star Wars, Little Black Book), and direction and choreography by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical, F#%king Up Everything).

FIVE: The Parody Musical features Anyae Anasia as Ivana, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez (The Color Purple Tour) as Marla, Jaime Lyn Beatty (Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, Starkid Founding Member) as Melania, Gabi Garcia as Stormy, and Hannah Bonnett (Legally Blonde National Tour) as Ivanka, with a special appearance by drag legend Jasmine Rice LaBeija as Hillary Clinton.

Forbidden Broadway will open on Broadway titled Forbidden Broadway on Broadway: Merrily We Stole a Song. It will begin previews on July 29 and open August 15 at the Hayes Theater. Creator Gerard Alessandrini, a Tony honoree for the musical’s Off-Broadway stagings, will direct the Broadway production and it will play a limited run through November 1.The musical revue will feature a five-person cast, who will be joined weekly by guest stars. The production will parody Back to the Future, Company, The Great Gatsby, Hell’s Kitchen, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, The Notebook, Sweeney Todd and Water for Elephants. Forbidden Broadway on Broadway is produced by Broadway & Beyond Theatricals (Ryan Bogner, Victoria Lang and Tracey Stroock McFarland) in association with John Freedson and Harriet Yellin.”


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Grand Hotel: The 35th Anniversary Original Broadway Cast Reunion Concert at 54 Below



Grand Hotel original cast members Karen Akers, Timothy Jerome, Bob Stillman, David Jackson, David Andrew White, and Walter Willison, reunited last night at 54 Below. Even original bass player Ray Kilday was there.

Tim Jerome

The fabulous David Jackson, David White

54 Below was transformed into Berlin’s Grand Hotel for the event. The staging was immersive as Walter Willison, introduced, directed and produced. The choreography (originally done by Broadway legend Tommy Tune, was there celebrating his 85th birthday on Monday night).

Two tango dancers (Michael Choi and Vanda Polakova), circled the room making their way to the stage for “I Waltz Alone.” The concert featured choreography by Michael Notardonato, who also served as associate director.

Bob Stillman Jennifer Bassey Davis

Ken Jennings

Willison, who also played Colonel Doctor Otternschlag) kept Maury Yeston’s entire glorious score. “I Want to Go to Hollywood” for example. That number was skillfully sung by Susan Wood Duncan, who played Flaemmchen in the touring cast.

Bob Stillman

Walter Willison

Ken Jennings stepped in as Otto Kringelein, leading the company in a moving “We’ll Take a Glass Together!” was sung in the bar area.

Diane J. Findlay

A highlight was Diane J. Findlay

Karen Akers

Jennifer Bassey Davis as Elizaveta Grushinskaya, and Akers as Rafaella, were haunting.

Susie McCollum

Harper Lee Andrews and Susie McCollum played the roles their mothers originated.

The cast

On Monday Happy Birthday closed the show to a reprise of “We’ll Take a Glass Together” and thus they did.

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More Theatre News:  James Monroe Iglehart, Bonnie Milligan, J. Harrison Ghee, Santino Fontana, Len Cariou, Peter Filichia and Patricia Birch



After winning rave reviews in New Orleans and Chicago, Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart (Disney’s AladdinHamiltonSpamalot) will star as jazz legend and American icon Louis Armstrong in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical on Broadway in Fall 2024.

Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart will play
Louis Armstrong in A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical,
opening November 11, 2024 at Studio 54. ©Jeremy Daniel

Produced by Thomas E. Rodgers, Jr., Renee Rodgers, Martian Entertainment (Carl D. White and Gregory Rae) and Vanessa Williams and Elizabeth Curtis, A Wonderful World will open on Monday, November 11, 2024 at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Previews will begin on October 16, 2024. Tickets will be available at, with the on-sale date to be announced in coming weeks.  With a book by Aurin Squire (“This Is Us,” “The Good Fight”) and featuring songs made famous by Louis Armstrong, A Wonderful World is co-conceived by Drama Desk Award winner and Tony Award nominee Christopher Renshaw (The King and ITaboo) andAndrew Delaplaine, and directed by Renshaw.  Cast and full creative team for A Wonderful World: The Louis Armstrong Musical will be announced soon.  Last fall, Iglehart starred in the pre-Broadway production of A Wonderful World in New Orleans and Chicago, where he won raves for his performance. The Chicago Tribune called him “just fabulous! – a knockout Louis Armstrong.” The Chicago Sun-Times, cheered, “James Monroe Iglehart gives a phenomenal, dynamic and vivacious lead performance as the wondrous Louis Armstrong.”  “I am so excited to bring this wonderful brand-new musical to Broadway,” James Monroe Iglehart commented. “American music wouldn’t be what it is today without Louis Armstrong and what is Broadway if not American music? ‘Pops’ doesn’t get enough credit for his contribution to our entertainment industry or our country. I know I have never studied, researched, or prepared for anything as much in my career as I have for this role. I feel such a strong connection and an obligation to bring his voice, his music, and his story to the one place where it can be presented in all its glory – Broadway! I can’t wait for you all to become a part of A Wonderful World.”

Maestra Music, the Obie Award-winning nonprofit organization founded by Georgia Stitt to support the women and nonbinary musicians in the musical theatre industry, is pleased to announce hosts Tony Award-winner Bonnie Milligan and Tony Award-winner J. Harrison Ghee for this year’s Amplify 2024, directed by Jessica Ryan (Between Riverside and Crazy Live Broadcast). This fourth-annual concert and fundraising event features stories, conversations, and musical performances from an impressive array of Broadway stars, composers, music directors, and more. Amplify 2024 will take place on Monday, March 25, 2024, at 8:00 pm at Sony Hall (235 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036). Tickets for the in-person event are on sale now at

Amplify 2024 celebrates the rich creativity and ingenuity of Maestras in musical theatre, ranging from legendary to emerging talents.

The performers showcasing the musical brilliance of renowned composers and lyricists in this diverse and dynamic lineup embody the spirit of creativity and inclusivity in musical theatre including Tony Award-winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie), Two-time Tony Award-nominee Amanda Green (Mr. Saturday Nightand Hands on a Hardbody), Brooke Ishibashi (Into the Woods, Broadway), Jay Armstrong Johnson (Parade, Broadway), Mary Kate Morrissey (Wicked, Broadway), Liam Pearce (How to Dance in Ohio, Broadway), Jasmine Amy Rogers (BOOP! The Musical, Chicago), Sushma Saha (Interstate, Off-Broadway), Jordan Tyson (The Notebook, Broadway), Joy Woods (Six, Broadway), and Grammy Award-winning Nicole Zuraitis.

The celebrated composers and lyricists include Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), Susan Birkenhead (BOOP! The Musical), Amanda Green (Female Troubles), Rebekah Greer Melocik (How to Dance in Ohio), Brandy Hoang Collier, Clare Fuyuko Bierman, and Erika Ji (Yoko’s Husband’s Killer’s Japanese Wife Gloria), Christine Lavin (InunDATED), with newly added Bree Lowdermilk and Kait Kerrigan (The Mad Ones), Melissa Li and Kit Yan(Interstate) Ingrid Michaelson (The Notebook), and Lynne Shankel.

Music Director Julianne B. Merrill (My Son’s A Queer) leads a band made up entirely of Maestra members: Monica Davis (violin), Ann Klein (guitar), Mary Ann McSweeney (bass),  Merrill (piano), Noelle Rueschman (reeds), Shirazette Tinnin (drums), and Clerida Eltimé (cello). Kristy Norter serves as the Music Coordinator and Lexi Vollero is music assistant.

  • Date & Time: Monday, March 25, 2024, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:30 pm)
  • Venue: Sony Hall, 235 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
  • Tickets:

Len Cariou

The Theatre World Awards Board of Directors has announced two of the individuals to be honored at 78th Annual Theatre World Awards to be held on Monday evening, June 10, 2024 beginning at 7:00 p.m. at a Theater Venue TBA. Tony Award winner Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Little Night Music, Applause) will receive the 11th Annual John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, while acclaimed theatre journalist Peter Filichia will receive a 2024 TWA Special Awardfor his quarter-century of service to the organization. The recipient of the 15th Annual Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater, and the 2024 Theatre World Award Honorees for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance will be announced in early May.

Hosted annually by well-known theater journalist, Peter Filichia, the 78th Annual Theatre World Awards Ceremony will be produced by Theatre World Awards, Inc. Board of Directors/Dale Badway. The Musical Director is Michael Lavine.

Theatre World Award winner (1979) Ken Jennings who played ‘Tobias’ in the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd will perform in a musical tribute to Len Cariou.

Patricia Birch, Harold Prince, Candide

Patricia Birch, Choreographer, Harold Prince, Director Photo Stephen Sorokoff

Amas Musical Theatre (Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer), New York City’s award-winning pioneer in diversity and multi-ethnic casting in the performing arts since 1968, will celebrate its 55th Anniversary at its annual Gala Benefit Concert on Monday, May 13, 2024 at Baruch Performing Arts Center (Engelman Recital Hall) One Bernard Baruch Way (25th Street -between Lexington & 3rd Avenues). For more information, please visit The evening will benefit Amas Musical Theatre’s education programs.

The gala evening will begin at 6:00pm with a champagne toast. At 7:00pm the evening continues with a concert performance of “A Lotta Night Music,” directed by Jonathan Cerullo. A cast of Broadway luminaries will perform songs from such shows as Grease, They’re Playing Our Song, and A Little Night Music, among others. Teens from The Rosetta LeNoire Musical Theatre Academy will be part of the evening.

The evening will culminate with the presentation of the 2024 “Rosie” Award to Honorees award-winning choreographer and director Patricia Birch (A Little Night Music, Parade), Tony Award-wining actor Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd, Applause), and Butler Tibbets, a beloved corporate sponsor for Amas programs for many years.

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