The Stratford Festival is Underway!

Have you ever been to Stratford, Ontario? Nestled near the Avon River, Stratford is home to lovely, manicured landscapes with Victorian buildings, as well as a world-renown theater festival. In the town, there is a relaxed atmosphere with nods to all things theater.

For students living in or around Ontario, taking a school field trip to Stratford is a right of passage. The Stratford Festival is a field trip that most students in secondary three or four go on. I remember my high school field trip with our English teachers. It was such an amazing experience, not only to visit with my friends, but because I love theater. The city itself is beautiful and the chance to experience live theater so up close is incredible.

Sadly, because of the pandemic, this field trip had been placed on hold for many schools, and my boys lost their chance to have a trip to Stratford with their grade. After seeing their high school put on another incredible play this season, I was determined to bring them again with some school friends. And that is exactly what we are doing this summer.

Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom in Something Rotten!. Stratford Festival 2024. Photo: Ann Baggley.

What is the Stratford Festival?

Th Stratford Festival was the brainchild of journalist Tom Patterson back in 1952. Stratford is the largest classical repertory theatre company in North America. With four venues, the Stratford Festival presents approximately a dozen productions each season. Originally a festival to showcase Shakespeare plays, the festival has many other productions. This year, the lineup of productions is outstanding, and there is something for everyone.

What to see this season with your kids

There are twelve productions this season and the range in plays are vast. If you are looking to bring your children to see a play for the first time, I would recommend Wendy and Peter Pan. Children will be wowed with the pirate ship aboard the stage, and the magic of pixie dust will surely excite them as they see Petter and Wendy fly!

For teens studying Shakespeare at school, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet are part of this year’s lineup. Both productions will bring Shakespeare’s plays to life, as it was meant to be seen. As a teen, I got a real kick out of seeing what I read performed in front of me. It changes everything for teens to have Shakespeare’s works performed, and they can understand it so much better.

La Cage aux Folles is closely based on the 1983 Broadway musical that won six Tony Awards. The 90s film, The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane was based on the French play. Some familiar characters from this film will be in this musical production. (Please note the musical will be in English).

I saved the best (I think) production for last – Something Rotten is being performed! This comedy musical that has everything; dance numbers, comedy, fantastic music and a great story. This musical hit Broadway in 2015, with rave reviews, include ten Tony nominations (and one win). I was not familiar with this play until last year and I love it.

Mark Uhre as Nick Bottom (centre-left) and Henry Firmston as Nigel Bottom with members of the company in Something Rotten!. Stratford Festival 2024. Photo: David Hou.

Here is Stratford Festival’s synopsis for Something Rotten:

The Bottom brothers, two struggling playwrights in Renaissance London, need a hit. That’s easier said than done when your chief competition is local rockstar William Shakespeare. The Bottom brothers’ plan: write the world’s first musical! This rollicking song-and-dance extravaganza, which was nominated for ten Tony Awards during its smash Broadway run, sends up the Bard and Broadway and everything in between. Best of all, it can be enjoyed without CliffsNotes!

I can’t tell you how excited we all are to see this play at Stratford! It is so much fun! This play is exceptionally fun for teens, but loads of fun for adults as well.

For more details on all the plays, click here to read the Digital Visitor’s Guide.

We are really looking forward to visiting Stratford again, and this time with my teens. It’s a full circle moment for me and I know we will all have a wonderful time!

Disclosure: All photography, images and logos are the property of the Stratford Festival. Stratford Festival is a registered trademark of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada.

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