The Stratford Experience by Barbara Biddison
We left on the Benedict's bus Friday morning, heading for two days of theatre in Stratford, Ontario. Even the bus ride is a treat. Got there in time to check in to the hotel and for a few to see an unscheduled 2 o'clock show. All made, or had made before leaving home, reservations for an evening meal that would allow time to get to 8pm RENT in the Festival Theatre. This is a rock musical that first appeared on Broadway 25 years ago in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. I knew that much, but I was not prepared to be hit so hard as it began and throughout the first act. Intermission discussion helped me regain my balance, and I was ready for the second act. I've seen a lot of plays and musicals in my theatre life, many of them works that I had not seen or read before. This was a first for me in terms of wishing I had done more advance exploration. It would still be hard-hitting emotionally, but having heard the music and the lyrics before would have helped me jump right into the struggle and the emotional pain.
Back to the hotel for a quiet room and a night's sleep. And a morning free to walk about town and (one of my favorites) buy boxes of Rheo Thompson chocolates for myself as well as for hard-to-buy-for family members. Then off to the 2PM Shakespeare tragedy KING LEAR. I've seen this one before about an old king and his ill-treatment of his daughters. Of course, nobody ends up happy in this play, but we've satisfied the Shakespeare expectation for this trip to Stratford and we're ready for a bit of food.
Then to the 8PM Avon Theatre and MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT. What a treat! What a wonderful show! Great, full appreciative audience! Second and third row seats! Laughs and entertainment at its best!! Our travelers' handout sheet calls it "a hefty share of irreverence in a hilarious spoof of the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they go in search of the Holy Grail." When we got home our adult sons wanted to hear more and more about this show that we "got to see"!!!!
So, this was HG's 22nd trip to Canada's Stratford Festival. And it was wonderful. Larry Biddison "sorta retired" from the organizing and planning and all that goes into such a trip. And Thomas Putnam could not stand the idea of not going anymore, so he took over all that. And he did a wonderful job, so he's probably got it now. Of course, the Biddisons went on the trip and the only thing Larry wanted back was the microphone on the bus! He cannot get to Stratford without describing where we are as he asks the bus driver to drive around the Festival Theatre campus.
Here's to next year and another rich and rewarding trip!
[Registration for the 2024 trip will be available soon. Let us know if you are interested.]