Sketches from Stratford: A cultural summer unlike any other kicks off with familiar faces on stage at an unfamiliar festival

By J. Kelly Nestruck,

Stratford, Ont., is one of Canada’s iconic arts destinations – home of the Stratford Festival, North America’s largest not-for-profit theatre company until the pandemic. For the summer, theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck will be on site in the cultural city chronicling the ups and downs of its reemergence as the live arts come back to life across the country.

”Many alternative theatre festivals have come and gone in Stratford over the decades, as young creators not invited to be part of the flagship festival have attempted to challenge it on its own turf. (John Palmer, the “enfant terrible” nationalist director who died last year at 77, tried twice in the 1960s before going on to co-found Toronto Free Theatre.)

Here for Now’s New Works Festival may, however, last longer as it’s not in opposition to the big festival, but in a symbiotic relationship with it. There are always more great theatre artists living in Stratford than can fit in a single season – a fact that is just not always as pronounced as it is now.

It was never unusual in “normal” times for stage actors to go from earning a solid living on the largest stages in the country to acting in a makeshift venue in a no-budget show. Head to any Fringe Festival in the country and you’ll find professional actors with asterisks beside their names in the program indicating they’re performing with “permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.”

Source: The Globe and Mail