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Stratford Shakespeare Festival: Summer Theater at its Best!

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, about an hour's drive west from Toronto, is Canada's premier summer theater spot, combining summer in the country with great performances from often internationally known stars.

The Festival Theater (shown below) on Queen St) is the festival's principal venue. It's unique design commemorates the idea of the original festival performances, back in 1953-56, which were were played out in a large tent.

Don't be put off by the festival's name, by the way. There are always as many shows (particularly musicals) that aren't by Shakespeare as there are by him.

After all, Elizabethan English can be quite difficult for modern ears to understand.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival -- Theaters

Stratford Ontario Festival Theater

The festival began in 1952 through the efforts of Tom Patterson, a local journalist, with the first performances the following year under actor Tyrone Guthrie as its first Artistic Director.

The very first performance opened in July 1953 with Alec Guinness in Richard III. Coincidentally, Richard has been in the news these past few years since his skeleton was excavated from under a car park in Leicester UK.

Of course it wasn't a car park when he was buried there. It was an Abbey.

The festival uses four theatres in total:

The Festival Theater, mentioned above

The Avon, on Downie St

The Studio, on George St. East

The Tom Patterson, on Lakeside Drive

See our link to the festival's website below for maps to each theater.

Stratford -- the City

Stratford Ontario lake

Adding to the excellence of the shows, Stratford has a suitably small-town charm that encourages lazy strolls around the lake, picnicing on the lawns that border the lake, or window-shopping along streets that still include small stores.

With so many visitors to entertain, Stratford has plenty of restaurants and bars so you have lots of choice. From the truly top-flight to the filling and cheerful, there's something for everyone.

Accommodation too is plentiful, from big hotels down to intimate bed and breakfast places.

Stratford Ontario city hall

Stratford looks like one of those pretty country spots that movie makers love to set homely feel-good movies in. This is the town hall. It's red brick with white trim looks right out of Hollywood but it's real. In days gone by, people made even working buildings with an eye to beauty and the future.

It's a credit to Stratford that it does look so good for it was once a light industrial city and a busy rail center and, on the edge of town, there are reminders of that not-so-distant past. They don't, however, intrude.

The town is changing more gracefully than most from an industrial to a service economy.

And the festivals have a lot to do with that change, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Stratford Ontario lake and bridge

Supporting that change in lifestyle are the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the associated Stratford Music Festival. Attending either and strolling around the picturesque lake in the center of town is the ideal way to spend time, any time from late spring to fall, when these pictures were taken.

Incidentally, for our younger readers, Stratford is also the hometown of Justin Bieber.

You may also want to visit our Niagara page, for information about the Shaw Festival that also runs throughout Ontario's summer and fall seasons.

And for the latest information on the Festival, visit their website here.

Return to Home Page from Stratford Shakespeare Festival

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