CANADA’S STRATFORD FESTIVAL CELEBRATES “A NEW BEGINNING”! By Larry Biddison
And HG is also celebrating! After a two-year pandemic hiatus, HG’s theatre trip to Canada’s Stratford Festival resumed on October 7-9 this year. As former trip coordinator, I’m especially happy that Thomas Putnam committed himself to this vital cultural experience. This is the umpteenth hat he has chosen to wear, and I don’t know how he does it. In addition to directing and acting in plays, conducting the HG choirs, scheduling the season’s plays and concerts, he also gardens, raises goats and chickens. Now the Stratford Trip, too!
On board the Benedict’s bus Friday morning were 37 fanciers of world-class theatre, more than a third of them first-timers. The others were happy to relive the Stratford experience, many of whom have been “regulars” since 2000. This year’s two-night, three-play weekend offered HG’s usual mix of a comedy (Moliere’s The Miser), a tragedy (Shakespeare’s Hamlet), and a musical (Kander & Ebb’s Chicago). Participants stayed in a centrally located vintage hotel (the same lodging I used for my Mansfield University students between 1988 and 1998). This year’s excursionists spent their “free” time sightseeing, shopping, sampling local foods and beverages, walking scenic paths, and enjoying the swans on the Avon River.
Our Benedict’s bus driver shuttled us to and from the theatre for all three plays. We saw all of them in the Festival’s largest venue, the Festival Theatre, which incorporates the original 1953 stage. The 2022 season’s other seven offerings were performed in the other three venues: The Avon, the Studio, and the brand-new Tom Patterson. Unfortunately, our tight schedule made it impossible to tour this magnificent piece of architecture, much less see any of the three plays being performed there. (Since the Stratford Festival is a residential repertory theatre company using its resident actors in several plays, Colm Feore, who had the lead in the Festival Theatre’s The Miser also had the lead in Richard III in the Tom Patterson theatre the next day.)
After getting settled into our rooms at the Windsor Hotel on Friday, several of us walked across Albert Street to have a festive meal at one of Stratford’s iconic pubs, Bentley’s Bar and Restaurant. (We returned to Bentley’s after the show for dessert and conversation about The Miser.) The number and variety of eating places always amazes first-timers. So much that is “not like at home”!
[NOTE: HG is hosting a day trip on December 17 to the SHAW FESTIVAL in Canada's Niagara-on-the-Lake. Call for reservations. The annual autumn trek to Stratford is already in the planning stages! We'll be traveling in late September or early October. Hope you can join us in these wonderful experiences. And thanks to Larry for pioneering and maintaining these trips for many years!]
With our stash of special mint smoothies to share with family and friends, we boarded the bus Sunday morning for the return trip. The mood I sensed on the bus was one of satisfaction. All’s well that ends well!