Stratford Festival: The Classics in Canada
Canada: the land of the maple leaf and the Mountie. If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, let this article be your travel guru. The truth is that you don’t need to go to a bustling city or massive landmark to bask in the wealth of Canada. It’s entirely possible that some of the most fun you’ll ever have is just a few hours drive from the Michigan border.
So, what exactly am I referring to? Only the Stratford Festival of course. Previously known as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, this magnificent spectacle is held in the tiny town of Stratford, Ontario from April through October. If you’re a fan of the theater and anything related to the classic literary genius—it’s a must-see event.
It all began over half a century ago when the railway industry departed the city of Stratford, Ontario. The Shakespeare Festival was born in hopes of a way to bolster the economy. With help from Canadian theater pioneer Dora Mayor and British director Tyrone Guthrie, the festival saw its first play of Richard III on the July 13th, 1953.
Now in the 21st century, the Stratford Festival has grown immensely in both size and popularity. As North America’s leading classical theatre, it draws half a million visitors a year. Between their four impressive venues the entertainment possibilities are endless. Some past shows include classics like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Othello. The Festival has also attracted the work of some notable actors for both long and short periods. It’s been the long-time home for thespians like Brian Bedford, Brent Carver, and Colm Feore, just to name a few. This list grows larger and larger as the years go by.
It seems perfectly fitting that such a place should host an entire event dedicated to the writer. In fact, William Shakespeare himself was born in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England (see what they did there?) nearly 400 years ago. I attended this magical event during the summer and learned a few tidbits of information.
For example, Shakespeare isn’t the only famous person to leave an impression on the city. In his early years before the fame, pop star Justin Bieber used to play guitar outside the Avon Theatre. I was even lucky enough to stand next to the gold star on the sidewalk, which commemorates Bieber for his success.
In front of Avon Theatre, Stratford
If by some momentous feat you’ve seen every play in the Festival, the fun doesn’t have to end. Spend a moment with a handcrafted latte at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. Afterwards, take a drive northeast and in two hours you’ll find yourself in Toronto. Between the Stratford Festival and various attractions, one day in Canada certainly isn’t enough.