Stratford Festival of Canada

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The Exterior of the Straford Festival
The Stratford Festival of Canada is a summer-long celebration of theatre. It is held each year in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Theatergoers, actors, and playwrights flock to Stratford to take part - many of the greatest American and Canadian actors play roles at Stratford. It was one of the first and is still one of the most prominent arts festivals in Canada.

The Festival was founded as the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada, due mainly to Tom Patterson, a Stratford-native journalist who wanted to revitalize his town's economy by creating a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare. Stratford had originally been a major railway junction and had fallen into decline when the railway yards were moved. Mr. Patterson achieved his goal, and the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada became a legal entity on October 31, 1952. Legendary British actor and director Tyrone Guthrie agreed to become the festival's first Artistic Director. On July 13, 1953, actor Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York."

The Interior of the Straford Festival
The Interior of the Straford Festival
This first performance took place in a giant canvas tent on the banks of the River Avon. The season lasted six weeks and comprised just two plays: Richard III and All's Well That Ends Well. In the second year the playbill expanded, and included the first non-Shakespeare play, Oedipus Rex. The Festival Theatre was opened in 1957, and was deliberately designed to resemble a tent, in memory of those first performances. The stage of the festival Theatre, designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch resembles the thrust stage of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

As of 2005 the festival runs for seven months and there are four permanent festival venues: the Festival Theatre, the Avon, the Tom Patterson Theatre, and the Studio Theatre. Although originally named for Shakespeare, and still concentrating on his works, Shakespeare is not the only playwright produced. The current playbill includes classical, contemporary and musical performances.

The Festival Fringe features music concerts, readings from major authors, and lectures.

The success of the festival dramatically changed the image of Stratford into one of a city where the arts and tourism play important roles in its economy.

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