Stratford Festival reveals outdoor summer lineup with COVID-19 protocols under tents

TORONTO — The Stratford Festival says its outdoor summer season will reflect the theme of "metamorphosis" and the idea of "vibrant change as a response to enforced isolation."

The renowned theatre company in southwestern Ontario has announced its 2021 lineup, which it will present under canopies to adhere to COVID-19 pandemic protocols, starting June 22.

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Productions include two Shakespeare plays about lovers kept apart – "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The lineup also includes two plays from the 2020 playbill – Edward Albee’s "Three Tall Women" and Tomson Highway’s "The Rez Sisters."

Two new plays includeMarcia Johnson’s "Serving Elizabeth," which centres on Princess Elizabeth's 1952 visit to Kenya; and Rebecca Deraspe's "I Am William," an imagined story of Margaret Shakespeare.

The season also has five cabarets, including "Why We Tell the Story: A Celebration of Black Musical Theatre" and "You Can’t Stop the Beat: The Enduring Power of Musical Theatre."

The other cabarets are "Play On! A Shakespeare-Inspired Mixtape," "Freedom: Spirit and Legacy of Black Music" and "Finally There’s Sun: A Cabaret of Resilience."

Organizers say due to health and safety protocols, performers will not be in multipleproductions at the same time, as is typical at the festival.

Instead, each play will have a distinct group of actors, with no more than eight cast members per production.

There will be no intermissions and each production will last about 90 minutes.

During most of the season, theatregoers will have three or more productions to choose from.

Stratford says the two canopied venues will accommodate 100 people each in physically distanced groups of one to four people, travelling and attending together.

Plexiglas barriers will stand between the audience and performers, and audience members must wear masks and undergo a health screening, as must ushers and other staff.

"We are hopeful that the current Ontario lockdown and the vaccination program will enable a successful outdoor summer season," festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino said in a statement Wednesday.

"As butterflies shedding their cocoons, we are poised to emerge from this pandemic."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021.

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