Stratford News

Never too much garlic at Garlic Fest


Calling all “Foodies”! The festival “that really stinks” is celebrating its seventh year on September 7th, 2013 from 9 am to 4 pm and September 8th, 2013 from 10 am to 4pm at the Old Stratford Fairgrounds, adjacent to the Rotary Complex in Stratford, Ontario. It’s two days long because “there’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

Credit: The Stratford Gazette

Calling all “Foodies”! The festival “that really stinks” is celebrating its seventh year on September 7th, 2013 from 9 am to 4 pm and September 8th, 2013 from 10 am to 4pm at the Old Stratford Fairgrounds, adjacent to the Rotary Complex in Stratford, Ontario. It’s two days long because “there’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

Back-to-back presentations by celebrity chefs, including: Elizabeth Baird, and Rose Murray, Emily Richards, Chef Darryl Fletcher, and Karen Stickel kick off the event. As well, experts Warren Ham and Roman Osadca will release previously classified information on growing techniques and nutraceutical properties.

The Ontario Garlic Market features locally grown garlic in every form, from bulbs to scapes, and a chance to meet the farmers to learn all about the different varieties of garlic they have to offer. The market also features garlic gadgetry, preserves, sauces and dips, garlic-inspired crafts of every description, not to mention a wildly diverse group of food vendors with garlic-related fare to tantalize taste buds – from garlic-bison sausage to garlic fudge.

On Sunday, visitors can catch a demonstration by veteran garlic grower/braider, Bryan Mailer, or sign up for his garlic-braiding workshop. This exclusive workshop provides hands-on braiding techniques, with all materials provided and participants take home their own garlic braid. Cost is $50, but sign up is limited to 10 students. Contact

First thing Sunday morning, the popular Black Box competition finds Mayor Dan Mathieson and Peter Maranger paired up with Stratford Chef’s School students in a fun-filled, culinary duel to create a garlic-inspired appetizer in one hour. The grand finale performance – the ever-popular Garlic Chef Competition – find Stratford’s finest chefs facing-off in a grueling, iron-chef style competition to prepare a gourmet three-course meal in one hour. This year’s competition features returning champ Yva Santini from Pazzo Taverna + Pizzeria against Robert Rose from Grub-to-Go.

Both days will feature an outstanding folk/roots musical line-up, showcasing popular performers such as Shawna Caspi, Manitoba Hal Brolund, Steadfast, and this year’s Stratford Star, Stephanie Wivell.

Proceeds from the event will go towards the Kiwanis Club of Stratford. Visitors can find out more about local and global Kiwanis initiatives by visiting the Kiwanis booth at the festival.

“The Festival celebrates the world-class garlic produced in Ontario while supporting local farmers, food processors, restaurants, artisan chefs, and crafters.” says festival chair Warren Ham.

For more information, visit

Enjoy Great Theatre, Support a Great Cause!


Stratford Festival’s Merchant of Venice gets a lot right: review


Scott Wentworth as Shylock and Sara Farb as his daughter, Jessica, in the 2013 Stratford Festival production of The Merchant of Venice.

Sarah Farb gives performance of unshakable honesty, Scott Wentworth digs into a bottomless pit of hatred and Antoni Cimolino masterfully stages the courtroom scene

By: Theatre Critic, from

August 16, 2013

By William Shakespeare. Directed by Antoni Cimolino. Until Oct. 18 at the Festival Theatre. 1-800-567-1600

STRATFORD—Antoni Cimolino’s production of The Merchant of Venice, which opened at the Festival Theatre on Thursday night, shares all the ups and downs of Shakespeare’s play itself.

The first half looks like a series of scenes from three different shows that stubbornly refuse to come together but, after intermission, the triumphant trial sequence unites everything with some breathtaking drama, while a perfectly realized final sequence offers bittersweet romance, rueful laughter and an emotionally gripping last image.

Let’s be honest: The Merchant of Venice is not an easy play to produce or even to attend. Is it a romantic comedy with the venomous serpent of racism hidden coiled in its centre? Or is it a melodramatic saga of ethnic hatred run rampant, which happens to have a series of love plots swirling around it like satellite moons?

Some productions downplay the racism, others boost the romance, but Cimolino has the intelligence and honesty to largely play it as it lays. Virtually everyone in the show, with the exception of the clear-eyed Bassiano (an excellent Stratford debut from Tyrell Crews), harbours hatred for someone and doesn’t hesitate to express it.

“May all of his complexion choose me so,” sighs Portia with relief after the dark-skinned Prince of Morocco fails to win her hand and she’s supposed to be our heroine. It’s to Michelle Giroux’s credit that her initially madcap heiress character can mature into someone with the capacity for empathy.

And the unrelenting anti-semitism of Jonathan Goad’s Gratiano is delivered with such swaggering panache and cockeyed charm that it’s impossible to hate the hater.

By the time Antoine Yared’s Prince of Aragon is delivering a non-stop Spanish caricature to the delight of everyone onstage and in the audience (except, apparently, me), it becomes obvious that Cimolino’s tactic is to implicate us all in the web of hatred that fuels Shylock’s revenge and his tragic final end.

Intellectually, it’s a sound idea, but there are some practical things wrong with the first half that make us keep our distance. Cimolino has set his play in Fascist Italy, just before the start of the Second World War, which means there’s a sumptuous setting from Douglas Paraschuk, achingly lovely 1930s costumes from Charlotte Dean, deliciously dappled lighting by Robert Thomson and the mother of all pastiche Italian movie scores from Keith Thomas.

Cimolino has also staged his café scenes with a loving eye for the period, but there’s just a bit too much of it. Sometimes things just stop dead so we can all go, “Oh yes, Fascist carabinieri, impending doom, we get it.”

And the chosen period doesn’t really jibe with the seemingly endlessly scenes of Portia’s suitors trying to choose her by way of a series of metallic caskets. It takes a long time for Antonio to go into debt and Shylock to demand the pound of flesh he’s negotiated in case of a default.

Scott Wentworth begins by playing Shylock in an almost jovial mood, but when he loses his daughter Jessica (Sara Farb in a performance of unshakable honesty that is, hands down, the best onstage) to a gold-digging gentile named Lorenzo (Tyrone Savage, finding, as always, the decency in whomever he plays), this seemingly impervious moneylender starts to lose it.

When Wentworth suddenly screams, “Hath not a Jew eyes?” to a chorus of evil urchins who are baiting him, we irrevocably cross the line. The stakes are higher, the game is for real and the play can swing into high gear.

The courtroom scene has been masterfully staged by Cimolino and is played with precision by all involved. Tom McCamus’s almost invisibly low-key Antonio (the play is named after him?) comes to life as the knife draws near his breast, while Wayne Best offers us a commanding Duke of Venice and Giroux’s Portia pulls off the hardest cross-dressing scene in all of Shakespeare by passing herself off convincingly as a young male lawyer.

It’s a powerful scene but almost impossible to watch as Wentworth’s Shylock allows himself to dig deeper and deeper into the seemingly bottomless pit of hatred inside him. It makes us see in graphic detail what the final price of racism can be and it’s a horrible thing to witness.

A trial scene that powerful normally makes the final sequence that follows — where all the lovers, quarrel, joke, kiss and make up — difficult to finesse, but Cimolino and company pull it off admirably, although I found the repeated use of newscast speeches from Mussolini and Hitler a bit obvious.

Without revealing what happens, I will tell you that the final moment of the production, which leaves Giroux’s reformed Portia and Farb’s conflicted Jessica to share a unique last wordless exchange, unites everything that has gone before and lets us end with a feeling of rueful resolution.

Is there such a thing as a perfect production of The Merchant of Venice? In a post-Holocaust world, I highly doubt that’s possible. But the one now on view at Stratford gets enough things right to make you ultimately forgive the ones that are wrong.

Ruled – and overcome – by passion at the Stratford Festival’s production of Othello


Graham Abbey, left, as Iago and Dion Johnstone as Othello star in the Stratford Festival production of Othello.

By Bruce Urquhart, Woodstock Sentinel-Review and Stratford Beacon Herald

August 15, 2013

Director Chris Abraham artfully sets a fatalistic tone in the opening moments of his ominous – and mesmerizing – production of Othello.

Blood-red wooden panels open on designer Julie Fox’s haunting set as the Avon Theatre stage shifts from an uneven geometric shape to a darkened Venetian street, revealing the scheming Iago and hapless Roderigo. A droning rumble – part of the brooding score by composer and sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne – underscores Iago’s opening soliloquy while flashes of lightning punctuate every villainous word.

From this opening scene until Othello’s final doomed moments, the staging is masterful, using a rotating rhomboid stage, spare but well-placed props and Michael Walton’s skillful lighting to create throne rooms, claustrophobic streetscapes and stormy seas.

But as stunning as this stage design is, it’s more than matched by the performances of the two leads. Graham Abbey is a brilliant Iago, bringing unexpected nuance to arguably the most evil of Shakespeare’s antagonists. Abbey explores the hurt at the centre of Iago’s malice, showing how the spurned ensign’s love for his general has turned to hate. While Abbey reveals Iago’s spite in his soliloquies and asides, he also uncovers the underlying feelings of betrayal that trigger his Machiavellian plotting.

But Abbey is just as compelling as “honest Iago,” bringing laughter and open smiles to his character’s myriad false faces. His Iago is everyone’s friend, patting backs and dispensing advice while scheming to bring the whole thing down in blood and flames.

Even at the end, his unrepentant Iago seems to take joy in the suffering he’s caused while offering his captors no satisfaction: “Demand me nothing; know what you know.”

As his opposite, Dion Johnstone brings an emotional heft to his Othello. In the opening scenes, Johnstone’s Othello, speaking in a rich patois, brims with joy as he holds his beloved Desdemona. That joy turns to madness as Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona has strayed with Cassio, Othello’s former lieutenant.

His passion corrupted, the noble Othello becomes someone detestable, his jealousy mirroring the malignancy in Iago’s own wicked heart.

Johnstone particularly shines in the scene in which Iago’s sinister plot is finally revealed. His Othello, a proud, battle-hardened warrior, visibly crumples as he realizes the extent of his folly – and his doom.

Abbey’s malevolence and Johnstone’s blind honour are bolstered by an able supporting case. Bethany Jillard brings an early timidity to Desdemona but shows a quiet strength during a poignant scene when she asks Deborah Hay’s Emilia to shroud her in her wedding sheets. Brad Hodder’s Cassio, while noble, struggles with his own insecurities, demonstrating that vulnerability in an early scene where he’s easily goaded into a career-ruining brawl. As Roderigo, Mike Shara balances the gullibility of a romantic with an increasingly desperate thuggishness.

In a Stratford Festival season marked by triumphs, Abraham’s Othello continues that winning run. Elevated by its bold production design and a wonderful cast, this enthralling Othello is one that demands attention.

Othello continues through Oct. 19 at the Avon Theatre. Tickets are available at 519-273-1600 or online at

Lindsay Kroes interviews 50 Stratford seniors’ for book Gather by the Avon


University of Waterloo student Lindsay Kroes, who lives in the Amulree area northeast of Stratford, is author of Gather by the Avon: The Stratford Story Project. The 250-page book captures the historical stories of 50 Stratford seniors between the ages of 70 to 98 years. (SCOTT WISHART The Beacon Herald)

By Laura Cudworth, The Stratford Beacon Herald

August 13, 2013

AMULREE - The memories of 50 Stratford seniors won’t be forgotten and may well become ingrained in the community’s consciousness.

Some rode on the wagon with workers during Stratford’s infamous general strike in 1933, others participated in the war effort both at home and abroad and others rode the rails during the Great Depression. All of those stories have been anthologized in a book called “Gather by the Avon” by Lindsay Kroes.

It all started when the University of Waterloo student was doing a work term at Doon Heritage Village.

“It was amazing to me that so many senior visitors saw things, like the gramophone, and recognized it from their childhoods,” said Kroes, a Stratford Central graduate who lives near Amulree. “Their stories were historically rich, fun and interesting.”

That gave Kroes an excellent idea to document the stories of Stratford seniors and share them.

Students create their own business for the enterprise co-op program at UW. Kroes decided to publish a book of short stories based on the recollections of Stratford residents between 70 and 98 years old. The result is a 250-page book with photos detailing poignant moments in Stratford’s history and in the lives of some of the people who live here.

“It’s been really neat to hear about people’s adventures and where a life can go. It made me think of my own life and where it could go,” Kroes said.

Kroes will host a book launch on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus.

Kroes went to three city retirement homes and took referrals to find her storytellers.

It was an enriching experience and several of the stories surprised her. One woman spoke of her time on the carnival circuit working the goldfish game. A man originally from out West talked about riding the boxcars during the Great Depression to find work.

“I can’t imagine what kind of life that was,” Kroes said.

Aidan Ware brings experience from Guelph


Aidan Ware

By Laura Cudworth, The  Stratford Beacon Herald

August 13, 2013

Gallery Stratford has a new executive director.

Aidan Ware hopes to bring new energy and vision to the gallery.

“I am honoured to be joining Gallery Stratford and I’m looking forward to working with the Board and the staff to support the gallery’s pursuit of excellence through its exhibitions and education programs. Stratford is impressive in its cultural scope and density; I am excited to be a part of that rich artistic vitality,” she said.

Ware has come to the position from Guelph, where she was named one of the Top 40 Under 40. She has nine years of experience in the non-profit art gallery sector there. Her focus has been on fundraising and development, marketing and education.

“The Board of Trustees of Gallery Stratford feels that Aidan’s experiences and skills match beautifully with our goals for continued growth as a public art gallery,” said Barbara Vallis, chair.

Ware’s devotion to public art intensified while she was part of an international studies program that took her to Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England. From there she studied in other parts of England and travelled to European galleries in Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, France and Hungary.

“The first year of my studies at Herstmonceux was deeply compelling. It laid the foundation for a lifelong personal and professional dedication to the visual arts. I am a profound advocate of the power of human creativity and imagination and I believe that art has the ability to change lives, to build communities, to open vital communication channels, and to be a catalyst for innovation,” she said.

Ware replaces Zhe Gu, who spent six years as the gallery’s executive director before moving on to become visual arts director with the Ontario Arts Council in July.

Stratford illustrator Scott McKowen exhibits work at Gallery Stratford


Scott McKowen is shown with some of the illustrations featured in his solo exhibition at the Gallery Stratford entitled Light Revealed. (SCOTT WISHART, The Beacon Herald)

By Laura Cudworth, The  Stratford Beacon Herald

July 31, 2013

In a world of ever-changing technology, Scott McKowen speaks to every generation with a simple X-Acto knife.

McKowen is a well-respected and prolific Stratford illustrator with a major exhibit showing at Gallery Stratford through Oct. 6. The show features the highlights of his career over the past 30 years. There have been many.

“The work is different than what you might see at Gallery Stratford. I’m an illustrator rather than a fine artist,” he stressed.

Though the technical skills are the same, fine artists work from an exploration of an idea, he said.

His work, on the other hand, is primarily commissioned for theatres, books and music posters.

“I love nothing more than being given a script and asked, ‘How would you distill this down into a single poster image?’ It’s the most elusive yet exciting part of the process,” he said.

McKowen’s work is different for reasons other than his title as an illustrator. McKowen works in scratchboard, an unusual medium these days whether an artist or illustrator. With an X-Acto knife he etches into the black scratchboard revealing the white surface underneath. It’s the opposite of working in pen and ink, which he used to do, where shadows are drawn onto the paper. In this case, the highlights are carved in to create the image, McKowen explained.

Any colour is added digitally by McKowen.

The medium was most popular during the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

Even so, it gained popularity with two Grade 12 Central Secondary School students who went to the show at the gallery Tuesday afternoon to get a look at his work.

“I first saw his work mainly on book covers. For Christmas I got his book, A Fine Line, and I thought it was really amazing,” said Ross Edwards, who currently works in pen and ink.

The art form was new to Tianna Voort but she was delighted with what she saw.

“Oh my gosh, I think it’s amazing. I’m so impressed. I love seeing the covers of the books I’ve read,”she said.

The images of Alice in Wonderland or Gulliver’s Travels hanging in the gallery are immediately recognizable, yet they’re not like any other images created for those stories before.

“How many (illustrators) get to do a published edition of (Alice in Wonderland)? You get to be a little part of the published history of these great books,” he said.

In addition to the scratchboard posters and book covers, the exhibit includes some pen and ink drawings, pencil sketches and a recreation of his work space which includes his desk.

What’s most difficult is when he’s asked to create an image for a play he’s done just a few years before. He created one of a corset for Tartuffe, which is included in this exhibit, where the laces swirl around and spell the name of the play. It’s one of his favourites. Just a few years later he was asked to do another poster for the same play.

“I thought, ‘Ah, I can’t do that again.’ You have to find a different approach.”

All of this happens, of course, on a deadline. He recently had a tight one with the New York Times which turned into another job for them working on an illustration for a review of a never-before-published J.R.R. Tolkien epic poem about King Arthur.

“Every time the phone rings you never know what new direction it’s going to take you off to,” he said.

Scott Wentworth plays both Tevye and Shylock at Stratford Festival


By: from
August 09, 2013

You know that famous Shakespeare quote about how “some have greatness thrust upon them”?

Scott Wentworth knows what that feels like this summer.

When the Stratford Festival offered him his parts for the 2013 season, it was a nice package: Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and the massive leading role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

“I remember joking to a friend that I was playing two guys who both had problems with their daughters,” laughs Wentworth from his home in Stratford. “Boy, if I’d only known!”

Wentworth opened in both roles and did smashingly, but on Aug. 15 he turns the one-two play into a hat trick as he tackles Shylock in Antoni Cimolino’s production of The Merchant of Venice.

So he’s portraying both the most beloved and the most disliked Jewish characters in dramatic literature, sometimes on the same day. And, yes, he has daughter troubles as Shylock, as well.

Brian Bedford was originally announced for the role of Shylock and was ready to step into rehearsals after directing the festival’s hit production of Blithe Spirit, when a sudden illness struck him down.

“It was my first free day,” recalls Wentworth about how his life changed with a phone call. “The Friday after opening week. I was in the antique market when Antoni phoned me. He told me Brian had been in the hospital and wasn’t going to be able to make the first day of rehearsals next week.

“He asked me if I’d be willing to babysit the part until Brian got better and I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll take one for the team.’ But then I paused and thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what if Brian doesn’t get better?’”

Luckily, Wentworth doesn’t panic. He’s known in the theatre world as a consummate professional with an awesome memory.

“And besides,” he volunteers, “Shylock only has five scenes. It’s an important role, but not a big one.” He also admits that he had been thinking about it ever since he played Antonio in Stratford’s last production of the play in 2007.

“I just crammed it into my head and showed up to work with a bunch of people I respect and love. The first week was kind of a tightrope walk. I didn’t want to make too many choices the cast might have to undo later.”

But Bedford’s health didn’t improve and he withdrew from the role in another week. Cimolino came right back to Wentworth.

“I’ll tell you the most wonderful thing, the cast didn’t have to switch Shylocks,” Wentworth says with the other-directed attitude that makes him a company favourite.

Wentworth normally likes to do a lot of background reading on a role, but he exasperatedly points out that, “I have never done a major Shakespeare role where I find the critical writing less helpful than with Shylock. There’s a lot of large assumptions, like Harold Bloom insisting he’s a broad commedia dell’arte figure and I want to shake him and say, ‘Have you read this play?’”

And then, of course, there’s the philosophical elephant in the room, which Wentworth addresses.

“In a post-Holocaust world, this play becomes infinitely more complicated. There are two big traditions to playing Shylock: one as a monster, one as a victim. People ask me which I’m playing and I say, ‘Yes!’” Another hearty laugh.

“I believe that what happens to Shylock in the end happens because he is an individual, not a representative of a race. Yes, prejudice may have put him in a terrible position, but he does the rest himself. He’s a tragic hero, trapped in a comedy.”

But the real revelation for Wentworth has been how playing Tevye at the same time as Shylock isn’t just a neat parlour trick but a way of getting deeper into the inner life of both characters.

“I believe that Sholem Aleichem was either consciously or unconsciously providing an alternative to Shylock,” Wentworth says, referring to the great 19th-century Yiddish author who created the milkman Tevye in 1894.

“You have to remember that in the 19th century, Merchant was the second most performed Shakespeare play after Hamlet,” says Wentworth. “That meant that for countless people Shylock was the only Jew they’d ever seen onstage.

“I believe Aleichem wanted to create a real Jew, a real person. His Tevye is a clear alternative to Shylock. They both have to face racial prejudice, they both have trouble with daughters who marry outside their faith, they both see their whole worlds being taken away from them.”

The difference is in how they act in the face of all this. Shylock embraces the doctrine of retributive violence, building in his most famous speech to the climactic line, “And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Tevye, on the other hand, calms down an irate fellow citizen of Anatevka who is demanding the Russians be treated with “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” by saying, “Very good and then the whole world will be blind and toothless.”

Wentworth speaks sadly, thinking of Shylock. “He’s a damaged individual. Yes, maybe it’s because of his outsiderness. He’s open to the tragic equation.”

It’s no wonder that the deeper Wentworth is forced to look into Shylock, the more he appreciates the chance to balance that by playing Tevye.

“Tevye is the great Jewish role in literature, arguably the most beloved Jewish character ever created and I’m not Jewish. That gave me a very great feeling of responsibility. Donna (Feore, the director) was also concerned about that; we worked so hard together to make sure the production was respectful of that reality.”

Wentworth has worked in the past with Fiddler’s lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, and he talks about the email he sent Harnick on opening night.

“I told him he didn’t need me to let him know what a wonderful show he had written, but it’s true. Everything is distilled in the script and lyrics. The more I get out of the way of the writing, the better my performance gets.

“It’s my job to be in the moment and tell the truth with wit and integrity. It’s also a gift to do this show, written for a conventional proscenium, on the thrust stage of the Festival Theatre. It puts the story at the centre, it throws the story into the middle of the room and we’ve got to keep it there.”

Wentworth returns to Shylock after a long pause.

“He’s a very damaged man. When he hears that his daughter Jessica has taken a ring that his late wife had given him and traded it for a monkey, he says, ‘I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.’ What a heartbreaking line.”

As The Merchant of Venice moves toward its opening, Wentworth is full of praise for Cimolino’s vision of the play, which “admits some of the people you want to like say the most horrible racist things.

“It’s a terribly complicated play, but so far during the previews, the audience accepts the complications, because Antoni has allowed them room on the stage. That’s the magic of Shakespeare.”

He gets ready for another day where he’ll have to be the philosophical dairyman of Anatevka, followed by the vengeful moneylender of Venice. He admits it’s the kind of challenge “that could make your head explode,” but Wentworth stays sane by repeating his mantra for the season.

“One can only find the universal story by inhabiting the personal one.”

William Shatner spent three seasons at Stratford Festival in 1950s; to receive theatre’s Legacy Award


William Shatner

By Donal O’Connor, The Stratford Beacon Herald

August 6, 2013

William Shatner will be the 2013 recipient of the Stratford Festival’s Legacy Award.

“I am proud and happy to be a Canadian and proud and happy to receive this Canadian award,” Shatner said in a release from the Festival.

Shatner will be honoured Oct. 21 at a gala at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.

“As a screen and television actor, William Shatner has had a legendary career,” said Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino. “He is known around the world for his iconic portrayal of ‘Star Trek’s’ Captain Kirk and for a host of other leading roles, including T.J. Hooker and ‘Boston Legal’s’ Denny Crane. But many people may not realize that he has also won acclaim as a classical actor.”

Cimolino said one of his favourite pieces of Stratford lore is the story of Shatner going on as the understudy for Christopher Plummer’s “Henry V” in 1956.

“He became an overnight sensation. In fact, Chris later reflected: ‘I knew then that he was going to be a star.’”

Shatner was a member of the Stratford Festival company for three years beginning in 1954 when he played Lucentio in “The Taming of the Shrew”, the Young Lord in “Measure for Measure” and a member of the chorus in “Oedipus Rex”.

In 1955, his roles included Lucius to Lorne Greene’s Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and Gratiano in “The Merchant of Venice”. The following year he famously understudied Plummer and played Gloucester in “Henry V” and Fenton in “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.

He later toured to Broadway, playing Usumcasane in the Festival’s production of “Tamburlaine the Great”.

Shatner continues to tour with his one-man show, “Shatner’s World”.

He was last in Stratford in 2009 for a screening of the documentary “Gonzo Ballet” at the Avon Theatre as part of DocFest.

Apart from his many acting and directing successes, Shatner is the author of nearly 30 best-sellers, both fiction and non-fiction, and of a comic book series. A longtime dedicated breeder of American quarter horses, he founded the Hollywood Charity Horse Show that is held annually in support of Los Angeles-based children’s charities.

Tables for the Festival’s Legacy Award presentation are available at two levels — silver at $25,000 and bronze at $15,000. Rachel Smith-Spencer is taking reservations at 519-271-4040, ext. 2402.

Last year the award was presented to Maggie Smith, who was a Festival company member for four seasons between 1976 and 1980. Plummer was the first recipient in 2011.

Forum event explores astrology in The Merchant of Venice

Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald
August 2, 2013

William Shakespeare was a Taurus.

According to general astrological charts he would have been stubborn and inflexible with an appreciation of all things beautiful. He would have enjoyed his possessions as well.

He was born April 23, 1564 but no one knows the time—a critical component to a deeper astrological understanding of a person.

The stars must have aligned at the time of his birth though because centuries later he is still the most popular and well-known playwright in the English language.

Shakespeare would have known quite a lot about astrology, said Priscilla Costello in the Festival Theatre Lobby as part of The Forum.

Her talk called Astrology and Shakespeare: The Secret Key to the Merchant of Venice was from her upcoming book which explores the role of astrology in Shakespeare’s plays.

Several references to astrological symbols in his work indicate he understood the concepts well, she suggested. He makes more than 100 separate astrological illusions.

“His audience would know these too,” she said.

There is a sense in his plays though that characters with a strong constitution might avert the destiny of the stars, she said.

Astrology is basically the study of the heavenly bodies and how they correlate with human experience. That’s the stuff of Shakespeare’s day.

Most audiences now have a flimsy understanding of astrology.

Today that philosophy, once considered scholarly, has been largely relegated to a spot next to the crossword in the back of the newspapers. Astrology has become astronomy which is the study of those heavenly bodies but without any correlation to personality and human experience.

Astrology is an ancient art, still alive and well in many cultures particularly in the east, and was prominent in Chaucer’s work as well as Dante’s.

Costello argued the characters in Merchant can be understood more deeply using astrology. For those at her talk without a background in the art or a strong belief in it, some of the concepts were murky.

Costello says Shakespeare links Venus, which represents wealth and love, to Taurus and Libra. Venus and Taurus together can be especially concerned with money. So, when Shylock’s daughter leaves with his coins and gems he’s not sure what loss upsets him most as a result, Costello suggests.

Costello’s lecture explored the depths of astrology in Shakespeare’s texts as they inform themes and how characters behave.

Whether Shakespeare intended to imply such a tight connection between his characters and astrology is anyone’s guess.