Friday Two Cents: Visiting Local Communities in Ontario Part 2


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   If you are a lover of live theatre than this Ontario community is for you. For more than fifty years Stratford Ontario has hosted a theatrical experience based in classic theatre, Shakespeare. They put on many other shows but Shakespeare is at the heart of the festival. It is a wonderful experience where you can immerse yourself in the plays and learn something of the human condition.
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Attending the Forum for King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Forums before the performances.

   I can hear many of you out there groaning and rolling your eyes thinking, “Shakespeare? Uhh! The only reason I read the plays was because they made me in high school.” I was the same way for a time; yet I have to admit the only thing I did enjoy in English class was Shakespeare. When I got older I began to read and enjoy Shakespeare and the many different ways you can interpret his meanings. Many of his stories are still relevant in today’s world. Seeing what factors can drive you to madness as in King Lear, or racism in Othello and Merchant of Venice are still pertinent today. But you do not have to read up about the plays to refresh your memory; they have forums where they have speakers come in and discuss the plays. I went to two forums this visit for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. Both were very informative and helped me to ponder about other things I may not have when I go and view the performances.

The Gazette Photograph by: Michael Cooper

  Yet the plays are not just a wonderful exploration of the human condition but they are wildly entertaining. In many cases the directors interpret the plays for a modern audience. One such example is being performed this year at the festival with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It is about a play that is performed at a wedding for the couple as a present. The story follows two couples where a woman Hermia is promised to wed Demetrius, by her father, but loves another Lysander. But at the same time Helenia loves Demetrius and follows him around. Then there is the sub-plot with Oberon and Titania the King and Queen of the fairies having a squabble. I do not want to go too in-depth with the plot but suffice it to say this is a comedy with many twists and turns.

Evan Buliung (left) as Oberon and Jonathan Goad as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Michael Cooper.

   However the director has added a few modern twists too. He has staged the play as if it is a real marriage present for a couple at their reception. The twist is the couple is a same-sex couple, two men. Therefore, in the play Lysander, usually portrayed, as a man is instead a woman, adding a same-sex relationship into the play. But to add more to the plot, a woman plays Puck and two men play Oberon and Titania. I can tell you that it is funny and fantastic to see a big beefy man wear a dress and play a woman.

   I saw this play and they advertise it by saying you are invited to a wedding, so I dressed in a suit and with my friend we went to a wedding. Many others did the same and it was a fun experience and I have to admit it was as if I was at a wedding. It was an amazing performance and I laughed the whole way through.

Sara Farb, as Cordelia, and Colm Feore, as King Lear, from the Stratford Festival production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The Beacon Herald

   I also saw King Lear, a darker play, one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It was a complete opposite to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yet you can see that the theme of madness is present in both plays. The madness of losing ones mind at the loss of ones station and at the loss of a child, to the madness of falling in love. I am so glad that I saw both; one after another to truly feel the plight of all the characters and compare the theme of madness in both plays.

Colm Feore performs as King Lear. (David Hou / Stratford Festival)

 

 

   Yet Stratford is not only about plays, it also is a wonderful small town in the heart of farm country in Ontario. It has picturesque trails around the river where you can forget about the world for a day and just enjoy the scenery. On my walk around the river they had a band perform as part of their music festival in the summer. I continued to walk around and simply enjoyed the gardens, homes and people around me. On many occasions I have sat by the river and bin inspired to draw or write.

   If you are interested in visiting the Stratford Festival here is the website http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/Default.aspx  .

    I know you won’t be disappointed. I know I wasn’t I will be returning to see Man of La Mancha.

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