Antoni Cimolino officially became artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Nov. 1 and, while unveiling a new logo, immediately changed the organization's name back to the original Stratford Festival. It had been renamed the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2008.
“‘Stratford Festival’ is the name that we have used for most of our 60 years,” Cimolino said in a press release. “It is simple and direct, it resonates with people, and it carries our legacy of quality and success. The name connects powerfully with audiences and allows us to best convey the breadth and depth of the seasons we are planning to present. We have discussed this idea for some time, and it has broad support amongst artists and staff, as well as members of the Board, who agreed this was the right time to make the change.”
Inspired by the Festival’s founding principles, Cimolino said he will focus his tenure on establishing the Festival as a place to become immersed in the theatre experience. “Tyrone Guthrie, our first artistic director, conceived of the Festival as a place removed from a major metropolis, where you could lay aside for a moment the demands of daily life and give yourself time to enjoy, to think, and to feel—and then go home refreshed, restored, and inspired.”
Cimolino has planned the 2013 season around a cluster of themes, especially the drama of communities—communities in conflict—and the role of the outsider in those communities. “I was drawn to examining how we reach across our differences to find our common humanity with people we have identified as the ‘other,’ how we find healing. Because that’s what these plays are all about: bringing people together.”
These thematic strands run through a playbill that offers a variety of dramatic experiences, starting with Shakespeare and balancing intimate pieces with productions of greater scope, comedy with tragedy, ancient with modern. “Most of our patrons come to Stratford to see more than one production,” Cimolino said. “By offering works that complement each other, we’re giving our audiences a fuller opportunity to reflect on ideas that touch our lives at the deepest levels.”
Central to Cimolino’s vision for the Festival is the introduction of The Forum, a wide-ranging series of events that invite audiences to enjoy theatre in a deeper and more dynamic way, using the work they see on stage to spark ideas, raise questions, and open the door to good-hearted and open-minded debate.
“Stratford is a storehouse of brilliant material, presented by great artists working under the best conditions,” he says. “People come here from all over the world to immerse themselves in these stories and to reflect on what they tell us about our lives. Our patrons love it when we provide context, insight, illumination—anything that enriches and enlarges upon their enjoyment of the work we do on stage.”
The Forum has been created to meet that ever-growing demand for enrichment and to achieve Cimolino’s larger aim of placing the Festival firmly at the center of society. Encompassing panels, chats, debates and other interactive discussions, as well as keynote speakers, dramatic readings, concerts, and other presentations, The Forum will be offered continuously throughout the season, with each month from June through September featuring a supercharged “Forum Foray” week that will have a particularly high concentration of events.
“The ancient Greeks used theatre as an imaginative arena for exploring ideas, issues, and possibilities that were of profound importance to their society,” Cimolina said. “I believe the Festival plays that same role for us today.”
November 4, 2012