Theatre is a complex collaborative form of art. Any successful theatrical production depends upon the generous contributions of many talented people working together to one end. This is especially so at Canada’s largest theatre, the Stratford Festival. Drawing on the experience and expertise of several Festival artists and educators, this course provides a behind the scenes look at the creative process involved in producing plays at the Festival.

Oct 12: The Art of Theatre at the Stratford Festival

Looking through the lens of the history of the Stratford Festival, this talk provides an overview of the challenges and achievements in the Festival’s remarkable 65 year existence.

Pat Quigley is the retired Director of Education at Stratford Festival. She holds a BA and a BEd from the University of Toronto. She taught secondary school English, Drama and Guidance and later on taught Drama and Guidance Specialist Courses at the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto. She began a second career in Education at the Stratford Festival initiating and developing education programs and in 2004 was named Director of Education. She became Education Consultant with the Festival when she retired in 2010.

Oct 19: Getting Scripts up on Stage

Drawing on their experience as actors and directors, Seana McKenna and Miles Potter talk about the collaborative process of bringing dramatic scripts to life on stage, at Stratford and elsewhere in Canada. This presentation focuses on the creative challenges facing directors and actors, as they come to terms with specific plays (old and new), the physical features of stages and playhouses, the acting companies, the organizational structures of theatres, and the audiences.

Seana McKenna is one of Canada’s most sought after female actors, who is now making a name for herself playing leading male roles such as Richard III, King Lear, and Julius Caesar. She has played over fifty-four roles in her twenty-seven seasons at the Stratford Festival. She has received three Dora Mavor Moore awards, two for acting and one for directing, a Jessie award for her role in Wit, and a Genie for her role in the film The Hanging Garden. She is also a recipient of an Honorary MFA in acting from ACT in San Francisco, a Doctor of Sacred Letters from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, and a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Miles Potter is one of the most respected directors in Canada. He has directed across the country at virtually all of Canada’s major theatres including sixteen productions at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and three commercial shows for Mirvish Productions. He has both acted and directed at Stratford, directing plays on all of the Stratford Festival stages. His directing credits at Stratford include The Physicists, Medea, The Glass Menagerie, and Richard III. He has won several awards for directing: a Dora award for The Drawer Boy, a Jessie award for The Taming of the Shrew, and a Masque award for Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Oct 26: Revising Shakespeare for Stratford Stages

From Shakespeare’s first typesetters, through centuries of editors, to contemporary directors, people have been ‘re-writing’ the bard’s works—correcting, editing, revising, improving, censoring, and up-dating them for their own purposes. This talk focuses on Stratford Festival directors: what text do they start with? how do they change it? and why do they do so?

Ted McGee completed his BA, MA and PhD at The University of Toronto. He is a professor emeritus of the English Department of the University of Waterloo. He regularly taught courses on editing, interpreting, and staging Shakespeare’s plays. His publications on Stratford productions include articles on love at first sight, Juliet’s costumes, Canadian settings for Shakespeare’s stories, and the controversies stirred up by The Merchant of Venice.

Nov 2: Creating the Physical ‘World’ of a Play

Using costumes and other artifacts from the Archives, this talk provides an insight into the role of an archivist and an introduction to the aims, the art and the practicalities of design as it relates to the Stratford theatres.

Liza Giffen has been the Director of Archives at the Stratford Festival since 2014. She holds a PhD from Edinburgh University and has been an archivist at The Women’s Library (London, UK), the Business Archives Council of Scotland, Head of (Special) Collections at the University of Leeds, Strategic Engagement Manager at The National Archives (UK) and Head of Archives at DC Thomson.

Nov 9: Running the Show: The Art of Stage Management

This talk reveals the indispensable work of the person behind the scenes. It will cover what is involved in a career in stage management and how the theater works and sometimes doesn’t.

Nora Polley was Stage Manager of the Stratford Festival for 40 years. She is now in her 54th season with the Festival. After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1969 (Honours BA), she apprenticed in stage management at Stratford. Her career has taken her across Canada and America to Australia, Denmark, Holland, Poland and Russia. After retiring from stage managing in 2009 she now works part-time in the Stratford Festival Archives.

Nov 16: Reviewing the Stratford Festival, Responding to Reception

This presentation explores the role of theatre reviewers and their influence – if any – on Stratford artists and audiences.

David Prosser is the Literary and Editorial Director of the Stratford Festival and former award-winning theatre critic. He holds an MA in English from Queen’s University and an MA in English Literature and Language from the University of Aberdeen. In his former career as a journalist, he won seven national awards for theatre criticism. At the Stratford Festival, in addition to overseeing each season’s publications, he has worked on two commemorative coffee-table books and co-authored former Artistic Director Richard Monette’s 2007 memoir, This Rough Magic. He presents a popular series of Lobby Talks before selected Festival performances.

(In May 2019 a special bus trip to the Stratford Festival will be offered to GTLLI members. Further information will be provided at the first lecture of this series.)