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Secrets of Audrey Two, Centrepiece of Little Shop of Horrors

To whet your appetite for this cult favourite musical, we invite you to meat… er, meet… Audrey Two, the bloodthirsty man-eating plant!

In the labyrinth of workshops below the Festival Theatre, master props builder Ken Dubblestyne and his team - including senior prop maker Eric Ball and journeyman Nina Mueller - are hard at work creating weird and wonderful things for Little Shop of Horrors that will truly snap up your attention.

In the midst of director-choreographer Donna Feore's trademark eye-popping dance numbers, performed by her company of stellar musical performers, the carnivorous alien potted plant Audrey Two is bound to become a star in her own right. Named by the show's protagonist, florist's clerk Seymour Krelborn, in loving tribute to his heart's desire (his co-worker Audrey), Audrey Two grows from a sickly little seedling into an enormous, insatiable behemoth. Achieving this feat requires a succession of four separate Audrey Twos of various sizes.

"We began the process at the end of October," says Mr. Dubblestyne. "A meeting was held with Donna, the show's set designer, Michael Gianfrancesco, Head of Props Dona Hrabluk and myself to discuss the details of Audrey Two and together make up a list of the different requirements for each of the four incarnations. From there, I worked from Michael's design sketches, creating scale models to work out the problems and challenges ahead of the actual builds."

The first and smallest table-top version - which Mr. Dubblestyne calls Audrey 1 - sits in a coffee can and is operated with levers and pulleys by a puppeteer hidden under the table. Repurposed pieces from broken umbrellas are cleverly incorporated to give the leaves and tendrils a more fluid and lifelike motion.

As Audrey Two grows, the next size up - Audrey 2 - is carried in a bucket and hand-operated by the actor holding it. "To make it appear that the performer is carrying the bucket, Nina will cast a false arm so that the actor can use his real hand to manipulate the Audrey through a slot in the back. Most productions use a traditional hand puppet, but we want it to appear more like a realistic plant stem and not like a camouflaged arm. The plant will be mechanically operated with levers and pulleys from inside the bucket. As requested by the director, Audrey 2 will be capable of naughty lip and tongue motions!"

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Of the four versions, Audrey 3 is the most complex. "Audrey 3 is in a large pot with an operator sitting inside hidden by leaves and tendrils," says Mr. Dubblestyne. "The welded frame is the most intricate, and the internal mechanics are the most complicated. I've incorporated drum foot-pedals for the operator to move the tendrils, and there is a sophisticated pulley-and-lever system to move the head up and down, and industrial bungee 'tendons' to pull her head back and forth, with a handlebar for steering and bicycle levers to open and shut her mouth. It's going to take a lot of rehearsal and muscle memory to make this Audrey come alive; the mechanical advantage makes it easier on the operator for the long run of the show. We don't want anyone suffering from repetitive strain injuries."

For the largest incarnation of Audrey Two - dubbed Audrey 4 - it took Mr. Dubblestyne about 32 hours to work through the issues, and another eight hours to make up a "cut list" and decide what bearings and pivots were needed before the actual build could begin. With a lot of work to do in the show, Audrey 4 needs not only to move in a variety of ways but also to be secure and safe for the performers to interact with, and for the hidden team of two to operate.

"Audrey 4 has three main positions," says Mr. Dubblestyne. "In what we call the 'pod' position, she stands about 10 feet tall and has to be lowered at a downward angle to her 'feed' position before being tilted back to her 'swallow' position. The jointed gullet is large enough to accommodate the actors who are swallowed. The metal frame is counter-weighted so the operators can lift a body's weight with one hand. After I did the initial engineering, it took Eric and myself about four weeks to get the frame and the basic mechanics working."

The dressing process comes last, with Mr. Dubblestyne guiding Nina to bring this Audrey to full Technicolor life with paint and cheesecloth leaves and tendrils - which also serve to camouflage the operators at the rear.

Donna Feore had a wish list of features she wanted incorporated in order to make her production's four versions of Audrey Two truly memorable and spectacular - including a flicking tongue that can lick the plant's expressive lips, and special tendril arms with leaf "hands" and "fingers" that it can snap.

"I'm pleased to say that Donna's wish list was met with the help of Eric, Nina and others on the team," says Mr. Dubblestyne. "I always try to give the directors and designers more than what they ask for, and anticipate any needs that might develop. I have learned through 42 seasons to give more than what's needed, rather than make changes after the build - but you never really know until the rehearsal process starts!"

Little Shop of Horrors runs at the Avon Theatre from April 26 to November 1.

Production support for Little Shop of Horrors is generously provided by Mary Ann & Robert Gorlin.


Accessible Theatre Options

Our special accessible performances make live theatre exciting for all of our audience members!

The Festival strives to ensure that everyone's visit is extraordinary by offering programs, facilities and services that provide patrons with disabilities with everything they need to have an enjoyable experience. Our buildings and facilities are wheelchair accessible, and special access seating is available in each of our theatres.

Guide dogs or other trained and accredited service animals are welcome: if you are planning to see a performance with your service animal, please advise the Box Office representative when you purchase your tickets so that an appropriate seat can be assigned to you.

Stratford also welcomes patrons with disabilities who are accompanied by a support person. Complimentary admission for one companion accompanying a patron with a valid CNIB card or an Access2Entertainment card will be granted. The Festival will also consider additional requests on a case-by-case basis, so please feel free to enquire at any time.

Audio Described Performances

If you are blind or low-vision, we offer Braille house programs and magnifying sheets at our theatres: simply ask one of our friendly front-of-house staff. For a truly special experience, we invite you to check out our acclaimed live audio description service.

Offered on selected dates throughout the season, these performances are designed to enhance the experience for patrons who are blind or have compromised vision. A live audio describer gives details of costumes, sets and key on-stage action. Delivered via headset, the description supplements the spoken dialogue without interfering with it.

Here is a list of our 2019 audio described performances:*

  • Billy Elliot the Musical: June 23 at 2 p.m. and August 30 at 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.
  • The Neverending Story: July 27 at 2 p.m., Avon Theatre.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: August 10 at 2 p.m. and September 29, Avon Theatre.
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor: August 16 at 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.
  • Othello: September 13 at 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.
  • Private Lives: October 18 at 2 p.m., Avon Theatre.

Touch Tours

If you are coming to an audio described performance, you can also join us for free touch tours before selected performances. Starting at noon, our audio describer will lead you through a 45-minute tour in which you'll be able to handle fabrics, props and costume items for the play you are about to attend. Touch tour dates for 2019 are as follows:

  • The Neverending Story: July 27, 12 p.m., Avon Theatre.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: August 10, 12 p.m., Avon Theatre
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor: July 20, 12 p.m., Festival Theatre

To book a touch tour, please phone our Box Office at 1.800.567.1600.

Services for Deaf and Deafened Patrons

All four of our theatres are equipped with infrared assistive listening systems for patrons with hearing disabilities or who require hearing assistance. We encourage you to reserve your hearing assistive receivers in advance, but on-site requests can be accommodated if quantities permit.

This season, we also offer an ASL interpreted performance, at which professional American Sign Language theatre interpreters, stationed at the level of the stage, will provide interpretation for deaf and deafened patrons. Designated seating has been reserved for best viewing of the stage and the ASL interpreters. We hope you can join us for this special performance:*

  • Billy Elliot the Musical: July 13, 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.

An open captioning service will be available on selected dates. During such designated performances, the dialogue and sound effects of the play will be shown as text on a screen in front of a reserved section of seating. These captions will be displayed in sync with the actors' spoken lines. Designated seating has been reserved for best viewing of the stage and the screen.

Please join us on these dates:*

  • Little Shop of Horrors: July 28 at 2 p.m., Avon Theatre.
  • Othello: October 16, 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.

Relaxed Performances

These performances are specifically designed to welcome patrons who will benefit from a less restricted audience environment. Patrons of all abilities are welcome, including but not limited to those with intellectual or learning disabilities, sensory processing conditions or autism. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement within the auditorium, and some minor production changes may be made to reduce the intensity of light, sound and other potentially startling effects. Babes in arms are also welcome! Two relaxed performance dates are offered in 2019:*

  • Billy Elliot the Musical: August 7 at 2 p.m., Festival Theatre.
  • The Neverending Story: October 2 at 2 p.m., Avon Theatre.

*Indicates cases in which additional enhanced performance dates may be scheduled for groups of 20 or more. For further information please email our Groups department.

To book tickets for any of our enhanced performance dates, please call our Box Office at 1.800.567.1600.


Treat Your Valentine to Private Lives

Sweep your sweetheart away to a night at the theatre with Noël Coward’s hilarious and passionate tale of irresistible love.

"There isn't a particle of you that I don't know, remember, and want." - Elyot to Amanda, in Private Lives

Rather than the standard Valentine's Day gifts of flowers and chocolate, why not surprise your darling with theatre tickets? Immersed in an elegant bygone world of sparkling luxury and cocktails, you'll both delight in the equally sparkling repartee of Coward's most iconic comedy, Private Lives.

Shakespeare's adage that "the course of true love never did run smooth" has never been truer than in this deliciously witty comedy of manners. Bruised by their volatile past marriage, Elyot and Amanda have each found themselves doting (but rather dull) new spouses - and, as chance would have it, both arrive separately at the same elegant resort on the French seaside for their honeymoons. What's more, their hotel-room terraces are side by side.

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Their initial mutual horror at this coincidence fast turns to delight, once frictions arise between Elyot and Sibyl - and the fledgling marriage of Amanda and Victor seems similarly marked for doom right out of the gate. It is soon clear that loving "wisely" and "sweetly" is not the path to happiness for either Elyot or Amanda, and they gleefully run off to Paris together to begin anew in one another's arms.

The whirlwind headiness of rekindling their former passion is soon tainted by their equally formidable tempers - despite their best efforts to use a code-word to cool off whenever an argument threatens to break their bubble! Having been reunited by fate, can their irresistibly seductive chemistry overcome their seemingly uncontrollable urge to tear strips off one another? All might be lost - until their eminently reasonable spouses track them down, and show them by contrast that it is never too late for a second - or a third - chance at true love.

Directed by Carey Perloff, Private Lives will make for an uproarious elegant and ever-so-slightly heartbreaking evening at the theatre. Festival favourites Geraint Wyn Davies and Lucy Peacock will shine in their roles as Elyot and Amanda, and with Mike Shara and Sophia Walker as their hapless spouses, Victor and Sibyl, and Sarah Dodd as the all-seeing Parisian maid, this is truly a powerhouse comedic cast!

Set designer Ken MacDonald and costume designer Christina Poddubiuk team up with lighting designer Kimberly Purtell and sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne to transform the Avon Theatre stage into a sumptuous world of elegant sophistication and 1930s glamour.

Private Lives runs at the Avon Theatre from April 24 to October 26. Promise your Valentine an unforgettable experience, and book your tickets today!

Production support for Private Lives is  generously provided by M. Fainer.

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Pre-Season Forum Events and Celebrated Speakers

Get a head start on our 2019 season offerings with the Forum’s free lecture series.

With behind-the-scenes preparations well underway and rehearsals about to begin, now is your chance to delve into our plays and discover fun and fascinating facts about this year's productions.

Library Lectures

March 7 - May 22

Fabulous free talks related to the 2019 season will be held at the Guelph, London, Kitchener, Toronto and Hamilton public libraries on various dates throughout March, April and May. Please join us at a location near you. 

Guelph Public Library

  • Thursday, March 7
  • Thursday, March 14
  • Thursday, March 21
  • Thursday, March 28 

Toronto Reference Library

  • Tuesday, March 12
  • Tuesday, March 19
  • Tuesday, March 26 

Kitchener Public Library

  • Thursday, April 4
  • Thursday, April 11
  • Thursday, April 18
  • Thursday, April 25 

Hamilton Public Library - Dundas Branch

  • Tuesday, April 9
  • Tuesday, April 16
  • Tuesday, April 23
  • Tuesday, April 30

London Public Library - Central Branch

  • Wednesday, May 1
  • Wednesday, May 8
  • Wednesday, May 15
  • Wednesday, May 22

Michigan Members Speakers Series

On April 10, Liza Giffen, the Festival's Director of Archives, and Nora Polley, Archives Assistant and retired stage manager, will present "A Look Behind the Curtain" at Bloomfield Township Public Library, 1099 Lone Pine Road, Bloomfield Township, Michigan. They'll discuss the artistic heritage and intriguing stories that spur new creativity each season at the Festival. Their talk begins at 7 p.m.

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Celebrated Speakers Series

We're pleased and proud to bring some truly remarkable people to the Festival for engaging talks filled with insight and food for thought. Here are just a few of the Forum's fascinating guest speakers we're sure you won't want to miss!

The Generative Power of Conflict 

June 29

Award-winning artists Sarah Schulman and Marcus Youssef have made names for themselves by creating art that questions and challenges how we treat each other across projections and perceptions of difference. The two will sit down to discuss their work as artists, activists and advocates.

Trust: The Rt. Hon. David Johnston

September 14

Former Governor General David Johnston engages in conversation with Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino to discuss life, our democratic institutions and his book Trust: Twenty Ways to Build a Better Country. The talk will be followed by a book signing.

The Integrity of Journalism

October 5

In this ever-changing world, the integrity of journalists is constantly tested by government, the public and colleagues. When did reporting the news turn into a 24-hour commentary and opinion piece? Veteran journalist Jeffrey Dvorkin (CBC and NPR), Maclean's senior editor Paul Wells and others discuss this phenomenon and their impression of the future of news reporting.

Visit What's On  for a full list of Forum events and to book your tickets.

Support for the Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and The T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.


Our Playbill in a Nutshell: Part Three

The final installment of our three-part series taking a peek at our 2019 productions and exploring what each one is all about.

Welcome to part three of our special SceneNotes series in which we offer a quick peek at each of our 2019 plays and musicals to give you a better idea of what each production has in store, who the key players are, and why you should rush to book your tickets now. With such an amazing and varied line-up of theatrical offerings - together with stellar direction, spectacular choreography and guaranteed powerhouse performances - we're sure you won't want to miss a single one!

The Front Page
World première adaptation commissioned by the Stratford Festival
By Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
Adaptation by Michael Healey
Directed by Graham Abbey
Festival Theatre: July 30 to October 25

Originally written in 1928, and newly adapted for the Festival by playwright Michael Healey (who adapted The Physicists for our 2015 production), this dark comedy-drama is set in Chicago, in the heyday of newspaper journalism. It takes a satirical look at the perversion of justice for political and financial gain, and examines the power of the spoken and written word to uncover the truth behind the lies.

The action takes place in the press room of Chicago's Criminal Courts Building, overlooking the courtyard in which a supposed Communist agitator, Earl Williams, is to be hanged for the shooting of an African-American police officer. Reporters from all but one of the city's major newspapers are there, killing time as they await the 7 a.m. execution. The exception is Hildy Johnson, star reporter for the Examiner, who arrives only to announce that he's getting married and quitting the newspaper business.

Meanwhile, the Governor's office has sent a man carrying a reprieve for Williams, but the mayor bribes the official not to deliver the document. Hildy's determination to seek a new life is suddenly thwarted when Williams escapes from jail and clambers through the window into the office of which Hildy is now the sole occupant. Neither a Communist nor an intentional killer, Williams has become the unwilling pawn of corrupt local authorities - and Hildy is determined to get the story, even if it costs him the love of his life.

The outstanding cast is headed by Ben Carlson as Hildy Johnson and Maev Beaty as his editor, Penelope Burns. The stellar onstage lineup includes Michelle Giroux as McCue, Randy Hughson  as Murphy, Juan Chioran as the Mayor, Mike Shara as Sheriff Hartman, Michael Blake as Diamond Louis and Johnathan Sousa as Earl Williams.

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Jonathan Goad
Avon Theatre: August 1 to October 25

Written in 1953, this American classic tells a fictionalized story of the Salem, Massachusetts, witch trials that took place in the 17th century. Miller wrote it as an allegory of the 1950s anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era, when the House Un-American Activities Committee levelled accusations of subversion or treason on the flimsiest of evidence; however, the play also resonates powerfully with the concerns of our own times, since the tragedy it depicts is set in motion by the protagonist's sexual exploitation of a young woman in his employ.

In the Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts, farmer John Proctor has been conducting an illicit relationship with his employee Abigail Williams, the 17-year-old niece of Reverend Parris. Abigail and other teenage girls have been caught dancing in the forest with Tituba, an African-Caribbean slave. Seemingly possessed with hallucinations and seizures, the girls claim that some members of the community have used witchcraft on them.

Rumours spread, and the town is gripped in a frenzy of hysteria and wrongful accusations - including the vengeful Abigail's claim that her lover's wife, Elizabeth Proctor, practises witchcraft. The epidemic of fear and suspicion engulfs the guilty and the innocent alike, exploding into trials filled with angry denunciations and lies that see many townspeople sent to the hangman - including John Proctor himself.

In a truly powerful cast for this intense and resonant tragedy, Tim Campbell takes on John Proctor, with Wayne Best as Deputy Governor Danforth, Katelyn McCulloch as Abigail Williams, Shannon Taylor as Elizabeth Proctor, Scott Wentworth as Reverend Parris, Rylan Wilkie as Reverend Hale, Mamie Zwettler as Mary Warren, Sean Arbuckle as Thomas Putnam and Ijeoma Emesowum as Tituba.

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Nathan the Wise
by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
In a version by Edward Kemp
Director Birgit Schreyer Duarte
Studio Theatre: May 25 to October 11

Exploring the 2019 season theme of Breaking Boundaries, Nathan the Wise is a rarely seen masterpiece of the 18th-century Enlightenment by German dramatist and philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, whose other plays include Emilia Galotti, presented here at the Festival in 2008.

As moving as it is gently humorous, Nathan the Wise celebrates the common humanity that unites us all - and presents complex questions about who we are at the core of ourselves, and the tensions between the demands of tradition and society, and the desire to truly follow our hearts.

Set in an imagined version of Jerusalem in 1192, the play depicts a society in which Muslims, Christians and Jews live together in a state of uneasy truce. Nevertheless, the Muslim Sultan, Saladin, has taken prisoner a young Knight Templar ­- only to pardon this Christian crusader when he rescues Rachel, beloved daughter of the rich Jew Nathan, from a house fire.

Rachel has now fallen in love with the Templar, who steadfastly resists her because of the difference in their religions. Meanwhile, Nathan is being importuned by the Sultan and his sister Sittah, who want to borrow money from him, while the Templar is approached by the community's Christian Patriarch, who wants him to ambush, rob and kill the Sultan.

The Sultan and Sittah increase pressure on Nathan by demanding that he answer a loaded question ­- which is the one true faith? - which Nathan cleverly deflects. But the problem of how Rachel and the Templar can reconcile their love with their different faiths remains ­- until Nathan begins to suspect that, unknown to the young lovers, there may exist a different kind of bond between them. 

Nathan is played by Diane Flacks, with Sarah Orenstein as Daya, the Christian nurse whom Nathan employs. Oksana Sirju plays Rachel, with Jakob Ehman as the Templar. Also in the cast are Danny Ghantous as Saladin; Shelly Antony as his treasurer, the dervish Al-Hafi; Miranda Calderon as Sittah; Ron Kennell as the Lay Brother; and Harry Nelkin as the Patriarch. 

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Birds of a Kind
by Wajdi Mouawad
English translation by Linda Gaboriau
Director Antoni Cimolino
Studio Theatre: July 30 to October 13

About a decade ago, Antoni Cimolino brought the book Trickster Travels, by Holberg Prize-winning author and historian Natalie Zemon Davis, to the attention of Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad. The result was a new play, Tous des Oiseaux, that premièred last fall in Paris, receiving great praise and winning the prestigious Grand Prix de la Critique.

Now the English-language version, Birds of a Kind, receives its world première here at the Festival. It's a powerful drama that raises profound questions about the role of fate and chance in our lives, and about the ambivalent nature of identity. What really determines who we are? Our families? Our faith? Or is it in our genes?

Wahida, an Arab-American woman, and Eitan, a Jewish geneticist, meet at a university library in the United States and fall in love. Eitan's parents, David and Norah, are shocked when he informs them of this; David, the son of a Holocaust survivor and a fervent Zionist, is particularly bitter in his opposition to the match.

Suspecting that he may not be David's biological child, Eitan secretly conducts a DNA test, which yields a surprising result: although David is indeed his father, David is not the real son of his father, Etgar. With Wahida, Eitan travels to Israel to seek answers from his grandmother, Leah, who has been estranged from Etgar and the rest of the family for many years. Only she can tell him who his grandfather really was.

On arrival in Israel, however, Eitan is injured in a terrorist bomb attack and hospitalized, leaving Wahida to try to worm the truth out of Leah. When the long-buried family secret is finally uncovered, it proves more devastating to David than anyone could have anticipated - and it also has a profound effect on Wahida, one that will dramatically change the course of her life.

Alon Nashman and Sarah Orenstein return to Stratford to take on the roles of David and Norah, with Jakob Ehman as Eitan, Baraka Rahmani as Wahida, Deb Filler as Leah Kimhi and Harry Nelkin as Etgar. 

Production support for The Front Page  is generously provided by Nora Macdonald Heaslip

Production support for The Crucible is generously provided by Sylvia D. Chrominska, by Martie & Bob Sachs, by Alice & Tim Thornton, and by the Tremain Family.

Production support for Nathan the Wise is generously provided by Esther Sarick

Production support for Birds of a Kind is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert, by Sylvia Soyka, and by Catherine & David Wilkes.