- 3 Days
- 3 Days
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Shaw & Stratford Festival
This is Ontario’s summer theatre at its finest! When the Canada National Railway left Stratford in 1952, a theatre troupe saved the town by creating a new industry that has attracted crowds for over 60 years. Your Stratford Festival experience begins with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Festival’s Archives followed by an evening performance of Chicago. Set in the legendary city during the roaring “jazz hot” 20s, Chicago tells the story of two rival vaudevillian murderesses locked up in jail.
In the morning, meander the quaint Mennonite village of St. Jacob’s, replete with horses and carriages. After lunch, travel to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a performance at the Shaw Festival. See the production Gypsy, loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on Gypsy’s mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with “the ultimate show business mother.”
Round out your stay with a visit to Fort George Historic Site and a wine tasting, tour, and lunch at a local Winery.
Stratford Archives Tour
Tour the new exhibition of costumes, props and images from past productions of Othello and Antony and Cleopatra, plays that focus on relationships – and clashes – between people from very different backgrounds.
Founded in 1967, the Archives hold records of our story right back to 1952. We house many rare and unique artefacts, including the robe worn by Alec Guinness in the inaugural 1953 production of Richard III, archival videos of productions, a chair reputed to have been owned by William Shakespeare and a copy of the Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s works.
We also hold the personal archives of such Festival artists as Tanya Moiseiwitsch, Brian Jackson, Richard Monette and Stanley Silverman.
When the railway industry pulled out of Stratford in the early 1950s, journalist Tom Patterson had an idea for breathing new life into his native city’s economy: a festival of Shakespearean theatre.
Canadian theatre pioneer Dora Mavor Moore put him in touch with legendary British director Tyrone Guthrie. Intrigued by a transatlantic telephone call, Guthrie visited Stratford to see if Patterson’s idea might be viable – and ended up becoming the first Artistic Director.
The Festival was legally incorporated on October 31, 1952.
A concrete amphitheatre was built to hold a revolutionary thrust stage conceived by Guthrie and designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch – the same stage that is the heart of the Festival Theatre today. For the inaugural season, though, and the three that followed it, the stage and auditorium were housed under a giant canvas tent.
The road to completion was fraught with difficulty. In May 1953, it seemed as if the entire daring venture would founder for lack of funds. But building contractor Oliver Gaffney kept his men working regardless, until last-minute donations by Governor General Vincent Massey and the Perth Mutual Insurance Company saved the day.
On the night of July 13, 1953, the first season opened with Guthrie’s production of Richard III, starring Alec Guinness in the title role. The play’s opening lines – “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York” – marked the beginning of an astonishing new chapter in Canadian theatre.
That first season’s company included several young actors who would go on to become major figures on the Canadian cultural landscape, including Douglas Campbell, Timothy Findley, Don Harron, William Hutt and Douglas Rain.
Drawing inspiration from the Elizabethan apron stage, the ancient Greek amphitheatres and the Roman arenas, the thrust stage designed by Tanya Moiseiwitsch revolutionized the performance of Shakespeare.
The theatre seats well over 1,800 people, yet no spectator is more than 65 feet from the stage.
In 1956, under Artistic Director Michael Langham, work began on a permanent theatre to house the Moiseiwitsch stage. Designed by Robert Fairfield, the Festival Theatre has a circular floor plan and a “pie-crust” roof, echoing the Festival’s origins under canvas.
Despite the challenges posed by Stratford’s location in a snow belt, building was completed in time for the next season. The new Festival Theatre was dedicated on Sunday, June 30, 1957, and the following night saw the opening of Langham’s production of Hamlet, with Christopher Plummer in the title role.
Over the ensuing decades, the Festival attracted some of the world’s most celebrated actors, including Alan Bates, Zoe Caldwell, Paul Scofield, Maggie Smith and Peter Ustinov, and became a long-time home for such no less stellar artists as Brian Bedford, Brent Carver, Colm Feore, Martha Henry and Stephen Ouimette, to name just a few.
The Village of St. Jacobs is a beloved destination steeped in history and set in a charming location along the Conestoga River.
It’s a community known for originality and its dozens of independent, one-of-a-kind shops.
St. Jacobs is renowned among savvy shoppers as a place that blends the pleasures of a pastoral setting with a remarkable shopping experience!
The real magic is in visiting St. Jacobs, finding your favourite things while getting to know the shopkeepers and the charm of the town.
The area is also home to approximately 4,000 Old Order Mennonites whose farms dot the surrounding countryside, lending a pastoral tranquility to the area much as they have for generations.
The Shaw Festival: In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival provokes the mind and stirs the soul through a theatre experience so compelling that, year after year, ever broadening groups of artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond.
Niagara-on-the-Lake sits on the shores of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Niagara River. It’s known for its wineries and the summer Shaw Festival, a series of theatre productions. The flower-filled, tree-lined old town features 19th-century buildings, mainly along Queen Street. Near the river, 19th-century Fort George was built by the British to defend against American attacks.
Niagara-on-the-Lake was originally known as Butlersburg, in honour of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler’s Rangers. The Town received an official status in 1781 when it became known as Newark, a British military site and haven for British loyalists fleeing the United States in the volatile aftermath of the American Revolution. Later, it changed names again, this time to Niagara. Niagara was named the first capitol of Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario), and the first provincial parliament was convened at Navy Hall in 1792 by Lieutenant-Govenor John Graves Simcoe. During the War of 1812, the capitol was moved to York (later to be renamed as Toronto) so as to be farther from the areas of combat.
The Town played a central part in the War or 1812. It was taken by American forces after a two-day bombardment by cannons from Fort Niagara and the American Fleet, followed by a bloody battle. Later in the war the Town was razed and burnt to the ground by American soldiers as they withdrew to Fort Niagara. Undaunted by this setback, the citizens rebuilt the Town after the War, with the residential quarter around Queen Street and toward King Street, where the new Court House was rebuilt out of firing range of the cannons of Fort Niagara.
You will find whimsical boutiques, antique shops, delightful bistros – and maybe even a horse drawn carriage or two!
Soldiers in redcoats fire muskets, clouding the air with black powder smoke. Fifers’ and Drummers’ tunes drift past blockhouses, a historic powder magazine and cannons on the lookout. Step straight from the genteel Victorian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake into the War of 1812 at Fort George, a military post that defended Upper Canada against American attacks. Experience that era by tasting food cooked 19th century-style over an open flame, then fire a musket yourself!
Deluxe motorcoach transportation, 2 nights accommodation, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, all highlights listed, Tour Director, Connections Program and all taxes.
Prices are in Canadian dollars, are per person and include HST.
• Stratford Festival archives tour
• Stratford Festival Performance: Chicago
• Shaw Festival Performance: Gypsy
• St. Jacobs
• Winery tour, wine tasting, and lunch
Stratford: Best Western Plus Arden Park Hotel (1 night)
Niagara-on-the-Lake: The Queen’s Landing (1 night)
Stratford Festival Archives Tour and Performance
This afternoon, enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Stratford Festival archives, a fascinating costume and prop warehouse, home to thousands of costumes and hundreds of props – one of the largest collections in North America. Check into your hotel late afternoon before enjoying dinner with fellow guests followed by a performance of Chicago.
Stay: Best Western Plus The Arden Park Hotel, Stratford
St. Jacobs, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Shaw Festival Performance
Travel to St. Jacobs this morning where you will have time to explore lovely shops and sample tasty local fare. Arrive in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake with time to relax at the hotel before indulging in another fabulous dinner before your evening performance of Gypsy at the Shaw Festival.
Stay: The Queen’s Landing, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Meals: B, L, D
Fort George and Winery
After breakfast at the hotel and visit Fort George, enjoy a farewell lunch. Before heading home one last taste of Niagara-the-Lake with a Winery visit.
Journey home with fond memories of your Shaw and Stratford experience.
Meals: B, L
Travellers could be required to walk a distance of up to 500 metres (1,600 feet) on fairly level terrain. Walking one flight of stairs with railings may be necessary. There is time during the day for you to rest on your own. Ocean cruising would fall into this category, although participants may take part in more demanding excursions if they choose.