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.

United Church of Canada’s GO Project comes to Stratford




United Church GO Project members including, from left, Jacob Robertson, Rick Gunn and Hillary MacDonald lend a hand at Stratford House of Blessing Wednesday. SCOTT WISHART The Beacon HeraldBy Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald

By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald

August 1, 2013Thursday, August 1, 2013

Broaden your horizons. Deepen your faith. Serve the community. Make a difference.

It’s GO time.

Some 22 young people from the across Canada are in Stratford this week for a unique 11-day summer program with mission and outreach at its core.

Participants in the United Church of Canada’s GO Project are volunteering at local food banks, participating in clean-up efforts, visiting people with disabilities, touring area farms, and even entertaining local seniors.

When they’re not at mission sites, they’re worshipping, sharing experiences, attending workshops, writing in journals, or just reflecting. There’s even some time set aside for fun.

“It’s busy, and it’s awesome and it’s really transformational for the youth to come alive and engage in the local community,” said Hillary MacDonald, Stratford site co-ordinator for the GO Project.

St. John’s United is the host church and home base for the participants in Stratford, but they spend a good portion of their day around the city.

Wednesday, they were at the House of Blessing, where one group was helping to organize shelves, arrange cutlery and wrap glassware in sheets of newspaper.

Another group provided some entertainment for residents at Spruce Lodge.

Earlier this week, they participated in a food justice bread-baking session, and toured the downtown core to consider the importance of local products.

“It’s exciting, because we’re learning about the community and it’s learning about us,” said MacDonald.

Indeed, one of the key elements of the initiative is encouraging participants to think about how they can take what they’ve learned back to their own communities, noted Michael Shewburg, minister to the GO Project.

He helped launch the first one in Toronto six years ago, and it has since spread to Halifax, Vancouver and St. John’s.

Stratford is the newest GO site, offered for the first time in partnership with the Huron Perth Presbytery, and it was chosen for a reason, said Shewburg.

“We wanted the project to have a strong rural focus,” he said, noting that the city’s location in the middle of an agricultural community make it an ideal spot to examine food and social justice issues.

Fifteen-year-old Jacob Robertson, of Bedford, Nova Scotia, participated in a GO Project in Newfoundland, and chose to come to Stratford specifically for that rural experience.

Big city or a small, the benefits are the same, he suggested.

“It’s a chance to give back to communities across Canada,” said Robertson.

Ruvimbo Musiyiwa, 17, who moved to Canada from Zimbabwe only a few years ago, got involved in the GO Project through her church in Toronto.

“It seemed like a great idea to make new friends and build my faith,” she said.

Musiyiwa said she has been struck by Stratford’s “small-town, friendly feel,” but noted that, like any city, there are challenges.

“You don’t think of it when you drive by. You see a lot of beauty, but you don’t see the poverty. You don’t see the depression,” she said.

The GO Project is an opportunity to learn, and to help, added Musiyiwa.

Only a few days into the 11-day program, the young people are already making an impression in the community.

“It’s so good to see youth involved in a cause,” said Spruce Lodge volunteer co-ordinator Susan Bray Wednesday after the group staged a talent show for residents at the long term care facility.

She was hoping for an “intergenerational experience” and a good connection between the young people and the residents, and that’s exactly what happened, said Bray.

GO Project participants will be in Stratford until the middle of next week, and this Sunday they will lead the worship service at St. John’s United Church in Stratford.

Lakefront restaurant will bring tourists to Goderich, says restaurateur



July 23, 2013

When Herb Marshall looks across Goderich’s shoreline, he sees a much broader vision than a lakefront restaurant created by moving the former CPR station closer to the beach.

As he looks at the heritage building that is now perched on steel beams, awaiting its move west to a prepared patch of ground, he contemplates an attraction that will not just feed hungry tourists during the summer season, but will whet their appetite for a much longer stay in Goderich.

“We’re in a huge competition for jobs with every other municipality around us. We have to get more people here to see what a perfect spot this is. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up opening a business here. But you have to get them here first. And when you get them here, you have to give them an experience that’s memorable,” Marshall said.

Indeed, Marshall, 64, and his wife, Sherri, were tourists from Toronto, visiting the area for decades before purchasing the historic Park House restaurant in 2006.

Last year, he bought the CPR station from the town for one dollar and entered into a 20-year lease of municipally owned land beside Southpier Terminal’s weigh station. He hired Sommer Brothers Construction as general contractors.

The CPR station has architectural and cultural significance, with its hipped roof over the central portion and a cross-gable and lunette trackside. Restored slate tiles top the cupola of the round waiting room. Original interior features include a true ceiling with three large medallions, wooden screens, interior doors, fixtures, trim and decorative plaster. On August 3, 1988, the last train stopped on the bridge to blow its whistle for a final time.

The new restaurant, which will be named Beach Street Station, is scheduled to open in May 2014. It will maintain the historic features of the former railway station, with an interior tastefully decorated with memorabilia. There will be seating for about 300 people, spread out over the former baggage area with the addition of a sunroom, round turret area that will serve as a breakfast nook and coffee bar through the day, catwalk running through the middle of the restaurant, and two outdoor patios. He would like to install a banquet tent next summer that will seat 250 people.

For comparison, the Park House seats 95 in the main restaurant, 68 on the patio, 35 in its dining room and 72 upstairs, for a total capacity of 270.

“What I did was I tried to extrapolate from my own business whether it was viable from May to October” to carry it through the off-season, Marshall said.  “I never approach anything I think I’m going to lose money on. But I never got into this thinking it was going to add a significant number of zeroes to my net worth. Do I believe that this is a venture that will pay for itself and the answer is yes.”

Now that he’s crunched all the numbers, he knows it will work.

“I’ve stopped waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I wake up now and I don’t go back to sleep just because I have things on my mind. I see it and I believe it,” he said.

Even though he knows it’s a good idea, Marshall said he will have to validate the idea to others.

“I’m going to prove that it works for everybody, that everybody is happy with it. I’m not trying to steal from myself or from any other food provider in town. My objective is to have that place full to overflowing so they come to town, they can’t get in and they’re going everywhere else,” he said.

When he’s done that, he’ll begin work on a plan to expand the restaurant to include a convention centre, banquet facility, hotel and theatre.

“That’s all way out there, blue sky thinking. But that’s how things happen,” he said.

For now, he’s focused on the building’s move from its current location to the leased land, which is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

This week, the CPR station that currently rests on 100-foot steel beams will be slid to the west in a job orchestrated by Laurie McCullough Building Moving, of Whitby, which specializes in historic and masonry buildings. It will be set upon a dozen or so 50-ton dollies that are hydraulically controlled in order to keep the building stable. They will be hitched to a tractor trailer and pulled down an excavated path, then swung around to wait for two more foundation walls to be completed before it’s set into place.

The project has created much talk among tourists, historians and residents who wander down to the waterfront to watch the project.

“The support has been fantastic. I haven’t heard one criticism. It’s just been huge, huge support. And I’ll make sure they get what they think they’re getting,” Marshall said.

Stratford Festival ticket sales up over last year


Antoni Cimolino

By Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald

July 26, 2013

It’s a simple philosophy but one that might turn the fortunes of the Stratford Festival around.

Artistic director Antoni Cimolino’s mantra for his first season at the artistic helm has been, “Give them something they can’t get anywhere else.”

“If we try to compete by being like everybody else, and I hope this never happens to the Festival, no one will come because they can get that back home,” he said.

“The idea behind the Stratford Festival is to take the world’s best plays, work with the best people under the best conditions, it’s a great idea.”

Cimolino isn’t the first artistic director to take over at a time of financial difficulty and he’s been around long enough that he’s experienced highs and lows. Last season was a low in terms of revenue. The Festival experienced a 5% drop in attendance which resulted in a $3.4 million deficit.

Cimolino’s response was a strong playbill and affordable peripheral activities through The Forum—an eclectic program of music, comedy, panels and guest speakers.

So far, it looks promising.

The Festival is about 32,000 ticket sales ahead of last year at this time, said executive director Anita Gaffney. Part of that is reflected in the 11% increase in the American market.

“That’s wonderful to see. They tend to come for a longer period of time and stay in the community,” Gaffney said.

Anecdotally speaking there are more Americans staying in bed and breakfasts and they’re staying a little bit longer, said Murray Sanderson, president of the Stratford and Area Bed & Breakfast Association.

Americans made up a substantial part of the Festival’s revenue for years. The after effects of 911, including the need for passports to cross the border, and a weak economy have made drawing in U.S. patrons tough for the past several years.

Many of the hurdles are still in place so why are they starting to come back?

“It’s a combination of things. Maybe they’re feeling a little more comfortable about the economy and (appreciate) the strong classical content and variety of the season. They’re really drawn by the programming this year,” Gaffney said.

The Forum is a big attraction for Americans too because of the time they spend in the city.

The Festival has been offering “two-for-one Tuesdays” to bring more people in mid-week and that seems to be working.

“Its been a little bit of a different season, I can tell you that,” Sanderson said. “We’re getting a lot mid-week, especially Tuesdays. Tuesday is usually very quiet for us but this year it’s very busy.”

Good programming is one thing but inadequate train service is another. To solve transportation issues for people in Toronto who don’t drive, the Festival hired a transportation company to manage a bus. Gaffney acknowledges it’s a loss leader for the theatre—tickets are only $20 round trip—but it’s worth it to get patrons in the door.

“The bus has been really good for us. There’s strong use of it and we’re seeing just over half of the people using it are new to us,” Gaffney said.

There’s been a surprise spin off too. Some of the people taking the bus are tourists to Toronto who have added Stratford to their vacations because it’s easy to get here now.

“We have marketed them but we didn’t expect the pick up would be what it has been,” Gaffney said.

The reviews in various media have been favourable, for the most part. Perhaps what’s more important are the reviews coming from regular patrons who pass on their thoughts to family and friends. Sanderson those reviews are better than last year’s overall.

Cimolino had no sense of how the season might be received until after opening week. He described the winter as “nerve wracking” wondering if patrons would come.

“In effect it’s like having a baby and you don’t want anyone to tell you your baby is ugly,” he said.

That’s not what he’s hearing. Mary Stuart, which he directed, as been extended three times and he’s been told Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best productions at the theatre in decades among other accolades.

It’s been a good inaugural year.

“On the simplest level it’s an enormous relief and on another level it’s the best thing that could happen to any person,” Cimolino said.

Stratford Perth Community Foundation wants to share your passion for community


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

July 22, 2013

The Stratford Perth Community Foundation is looking for people who want to share their love for our community.

And by share, the Stratford Perth Community Foundation means, potentially, with the entire country.

In late June, Canada’s 191 community foundations launched an online talent search for people to star in a national television and radio advertising campaign that promotes the message of “community.”

“We’ll be looking for people who embody the spirit of their community, as well as the campaign’s tagline: ‘Your Community Makes You. You Make Your Community,’” Ted Nation, the president of Yield Branding, the award-winning agency that’s producing the campaign, said at the time.

Given how passionately community-minded the residents of Stratford and Perth are — and the simplicity of “auditioning” for this talent search — the folk at the local community foundation are hoping for more than a few “Community Idol” participants.

“It’s exciting,” said Heidi Spannbauer, the executive director of the Stratford Perth Community Foundation. “We’re really putting our energy behind this.”

The audition itself is simple. The tryout involves downloading and recording a sample spoken-word audition poem that’s then uploaded to YouTube by “responding” to the Community Foundations of Canada’s own video. The actual details – and the poem – are available at

“(The audition) doesn’t have to be perfect,” Spannbauer said. “It’s just, ‘I love my community.’ It’s literally two minutes in length.”

To be eligible for this talent search, an entrant must be 18 years or older, involved in the local community, able to travel to Toronto, have access to a YouTube account and, in a stipulation more applicable to Stratford and Perth than other regions, not a professional actor.

The video submission can be as creative as the entrant likes but needs to include:

• The entrant’s first name;

• A short description of the entrant’s community involvement, and

• A performance of the audition poem, which is similar in style to the campaign anthem the winner will perform. Entrants are free to replace the middle verse with their own stanza about their community.

“You visit the Community Foundation website, and it shows you how to put the video up,” Spannbauer said.

The Community Foundations of Canada, who will be notifying the winners via YouTube message, will evaluate every submitted video after the Aug. 30 entry deadline. The talent search winners will be flown to Toronto, with all accommodations and transport paid, where they will star in the Community Foundations of Canada’s first television and radio advertisements, which feature a “powerful anthem about community.”

The Community Foundations of Canada is the national network for Canada’s 191 community foundations, which help Canadians invest in building “strong and resilient” places to live. The Stratford Perth Community Foundation engages local individuals and businesses as community builders by “matching their specific philanthropic interests with community needs.” Currently, the local foundations cares for about $1.5 million in endowments and, through this community philanthropy, has awarded more than $220,000 to local charities and not-for-profit organizations.

“We love the concept of community engagement and ownership of the foundation,” Spannbauer said. We hold assets for the community and we’re owned by the community.

“It just keeps growing.”

Robertson shares highs and lows of career



Chet Greason Gazette staff
Famous newsman Lloyd Robertson signs a newspaper clipping about his last visit to Stratford following a public talk Saturday as part of the Stratford Festival’s new Forum series at the Studio Theatre.

Chet Greason, Stratford Gazette staff

July, 16, 2013

The Forum, a series of talks, discussions, and presentations offered by the Stratford Festival, is offering 150 different events this season. On Saturday morning, storied newsman and Stratford native Lloyd Robertson, accompanied by popular CTV personality Seamus O’Regan, spoke before a gathered audience in the Studio Theatre.

Robertson addressed a number of topics, beginning with the early days of the Stratford Festival, which was one of his earliest assignments when he worked for local radio station CJCS at the age of 18.

According to Robertson, there was a deep divide amongst local citizens regarding the theatrical initiative. He explained how there were two sides to the idea: “The Long-haired actor types, and those of us who carry our lunch pails.”

He had been one of the former, while his father and station manager were among the latter, he added, noting, for many, a Shakespearean theatre simply did not seem like a viable replacement for the loss of the CN Rail manufacturing sector.

As part of the Festival’s opening, Robertson interviewed actor Alec Guinness.

“That tape is long gone … taped over for a Boyd’s shoe commercial,” he said. “We didn’t keep anything back then.”

Robertson’s deep baritone and rich vocabulary make him an engaging subject to listen to. One story he shared included a run-in with a prostitute along Jarvis Street in Toronto while walking to an interview with the CBC. The woman offered Robertson an array of “sexual services on a graduated economic scale,” and he politely declined. By all accounts, a non-event; yet somehow, out of Robertson’s mouth, the story gained magnitude.

Robertson also talked about his decision to leave the CBC for CTV, and how it did not come easy.

“The CBC taught me everything I knew … But the opposition came at me really hard.”

According to Robertson, at the time CBC had strict rules, enforced by unions, dictating who could do what job. Announcers read, reporters wrote, and as a member of the announcers’ union, Robertson could never get truly involved in the telling of a story, as contemporaries in the US like Walter Cronkite were doing.

“I knew that had to be broken … CTV said to me, ‘Come here, you can do it all.’”

Robertson knew CTV was the way to go when he was approached by a union member who told him, “You’re the battering ram being used by the CBC to break us.”

“So I knew I had to go.”

O’Regan pointed out how frank Robertson has been in his recent book, “The Kind of Life Its Been,” about his mother’s mental illness. Robertson explained that there were no medications available at the time to help his mother function normally; she was given a lobotomy when he was 14.

“They were non-persons,” Robertson said of the mentally ill at the time. “They were hidden in attics, experimented on. No one was discriminated against as much as the mentally ill in those days.”

Robertson also turned the tables on O’Regan, noted he had overheard a rumour that the CTV correspondent had chosen to run for the Rosedale Liberal nomination for the empty seat left by Bob Rae.

“Can you believe him?” laughed O’Regan, before answering with an emphatic “No!”

“I just returned from two weeks in Newfoundland, which is what nominees for Toronto Centre typically do,” he added sarcastically.

Both Robertson and O’Regan fielded questions from the audience, the first dealing with the divide between advocacy and journalism.

Robertson said advocacy journalism existed, citing environmentalist David Suzuki as an example, and O’Regan brought up climate change as an issue where the line between advocacy and journalism was often muddied, noting on CTV news programs it is common practice to get a commentator from both sides on a given show.

“The problem was, almost all of the scientists were on the one side. The other side was just denial, denial, denial. And it ultimately came out that they were false groups put there by oil companies.

“We can’t allow ourselves to be used that way,” O’Regan said, adding that it’s a journalist’s job to pursue the facts.

Robertson was asked his best and worst moments as a journalist. After a moment’s thought, he said covering the moon landing was a definite highlight, noting he found himself looking up at the moon from a parking lot afterwards, asking how it was that he was so lucky to be covering such a momentous occasion.

As for a low point, Robertson claimed the massacre at École Polytechnique in 1989, when a gunman killed 14 women, mostly engineering students, had deeply affected him.

“I was angry. As a father of four daughters, I still get choked up. You can never be immune to what’s around you as a journalist,” he said.