Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Ah, Stratford!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we went to the Stratford Festival in Ontario last weekend. On Saturday, we saw a matinee of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, starring a wonderful actor named Tom McCamus in the role of Sir Robert Chiltern. The following day, we took in a matinee of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, featuring Graham Greene in the role of Shylock. If that name sounds familiar, it might be due to the fact that Mr. Greene was nominated for an Oscar some years back for his performance in Dances With Wolves. As Shylock, he’s not bad, exactly, but I was left with the feeling that either a) age has taken its toll on Mr. Greene, compromising his expressiveness and mobility somewhat; or b) that he is more comfortable in front of a camera than in front of a live audience. In any case, it was my first exposure to the play, and I can see why it has provoked such extended debate with regard to its possible anti-Semitic script elements. I will pass on the opportunity to explore that theme here and now, and proceed to lighter fare.

One very cool thing we did was going on the tour of the Stratford Costume Warehouse. It’s an enormous building with a well ordered and glorious stock amassed over the past half-century. It’s where I took most of my photos on the trip. If you’d like to see those photos, plus a few others…

This is Stratford’s Festival Theatre. It is the largest and oldest of the Festival’s four theaters, and it’s where we saw both of the shows we attended on this trip.

That’s me (on the left) next to a statue of The Bard himself.

Now we’re in the Costume Warehouse. Lots of pretty things in there . . .

. . . aisle after aisle, rack after rack . . .

. . . oh, and hats. Did I mention they had hats there too?

Though there were a few items there that could hardly be called pretty!

The coat of mail armor on the left has actually been put together by metalworkers out of real metal, while the one on the right has been knitted from yarn. It all depends on what the play or scene calls for… it also depends on whether you can find/afford someone to make real armor for you! At Stratford, of course, only the best will do.

We were expressly forbidden to touch any of the costumes, except for one particular rack that our guide told us we could use to play dress-up. I took a pass on the opportunity, but CC had to try on this hat.

So who in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is Richard Monette? He is one of the most celebrated individuals of Canadian theater, and more to the point, he has been the Artistic Director at Stratford for the past 14 years. In honor of his retirement, a retrospective of his career is on display in a building next to the Festival Theatre. CC has a direct connection to Mr. Monette. In 1974, she was working in wardrobe for a production of The Rivals at the Roundabout Theatre in New York. The male ingénue was played by none other than Richard Monette, and it was CC’s job to make sure his boots were polished and his costume was otherwise impeccable. It tickled us both to see that designer Susan Benson’s original costume rendering of Monette in that costume from that production was hanging on a wall as part of this retrospective.

Let me sum it up this way: You need to go to the Stratford Festival. Yes, you. I may never give you better advice than that, so I hope you put it to good use!

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