Like many other high school students in Southern Ontario over the last 60 years or so, I first encountered the Stratford Festival on a field trip. I could be wrong, but I believe we saw Julius Caesar (which we had studied in Grade 10).
I might not remember the play, but I do remember the thrill of seeing a live performance. Also, I was fascinated by the Festival Theatre’s famous thrust stage, which allows seating on three sides and makes you feel as though you are right in the middle of the action.
If I’d realized at the time that the stars of one of my favourite television shows and one of my favourite movies had each appeared in Henry V on that stage almost 30 years earlier, I’d have been even more excited about the trip. (For the record, that would be Star Trek’s William Shatner and The Sound of Music’s Christopher Plummer; the two recounted their Henry V experience at Stratford in 2010.)
Since that first visit in the early 1980s, I’ve been to Stratford many times. The festival is well worth a visit for theatre and literature fans. The town itself is wonderful; it has a thriving restaurant scene (spurred by graduates from a local culinary school), quirky shops, several food trails and swans gliding regally along the Thames River. I love the fact that the Festival Theatre (shown in the photo) looks like a big brick crown. And the festival’s history is inspiring—it began as an economic rejuvenation project to save the town from ruin after CN closed its railway repair shops there in the early 1950s.
Sure, Stratford is a bit of a hike from Ottawa, but you don’t have to drive. You can get there on VIA Rail (usually with a change of trains in Toronto), or you can get yourself to Toronto and then hop on the festival’s Direct Bus.
Productions this year include Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, HMS Pinafore and Treasure Island.
Throughout July and August 2017, I’ll be posting one photo a day (more or less) that I’ve taken somewhere across Canada, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Want to see more photos in this series? Click the “Canada 150 photo” text in bold near the top of this post.