Founded in 1952, the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of Canada produced its first play, Richard III (boo, hiss), in 1953 in a tent 0n the banks of the River Avon in . . . wait for it . . . Stratford, Ontario. That first season it produced two plays.
Today, it has four permanent venues and about 14 productions, done in repertory. The 2015 season saw attendance of 475,000, including 102,000 tickets sold to people who had never been to Stratford before.
Since 1952 it has gone through a few other names (Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Shakespeare Festival) and is now known as the Stratford Festival, but who knows what next year might bring? Although their “”primary mandate” is Shakespeare, only 1/3 of the shows are, you know, Shakespeare.
Every stage actor who matters has appeared there, I’m sure, as well as actors I know only through film or television: Lorne Greene, Julie Harris, Don Harron, James Mason, John Neville, Christopher Plummer, Sarah Polley, Jason Robards, William Shatner, Maggie Smith, Peter Ustinov.
And Christopher Walken as Romeo. Yikes.