Thursday, August 04, 2011

Trip to Stratford

I had high hopes for August. The rest of the summer has had some pretty memorable lows for me, and I'd hoped that this month would turn things around as I head back to work into a new academic year. Unfortunately, four days in, August is mostly like a kick in the teeth.

Rather than focus on the various pieces of friends and family drama that are going on around me, though, I wanted to share a much more cheerful story.

First, I must confess to a small shame: I had never been to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, ON. It probably sounds like it isn't really a big deal to you, but when you are a bibliophile like me and you teach university English courses, this is tantamount to being a Beatles fan who has never listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's just silly.

(In case you don't know, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is kind of a big deal: Tyrone Guthrie was the first Artistic Director and Sir Alec Guinness starred in Richard III that first season; more recent actors include Christopher Plummer, Colm Feore, William Shatner, and Brian Dennehy. In addition to being the premiere locale for classical theatre in Canada, Stratford is also the hometown of Justin Bieber.)

When I had the opportunity to snap up some tickets to this year's production of Titus Andronicus for a paltry $10 apiece, I jumped on it, and Youngest Sister, our friend Ryan, and myself headed down to Stratford. We had a delightful picnic on the banks of the river Avon, which afforded me the opportunity to take approximately one hundred pictures of various swans, ducks, and geese, and then headed up to the theatre.


The production was excellent. I've only seen one other Shakespearean play performed (a version of Much Ado that had it transplanted to Mussolini's Italy) and I'd never imagined that Titus was one of the plays that I would get to see. The theatre uses a thrust stage, and the production did not shy away from the violence of the play. Watching the actress who played Lavinia was heart wrenching. Aaron the Moor stole the show, though: he was very athletic and evil in his movements around the stage.

On the way into Stratford, we'd passed a pub called The Boar's Head, which seemed like an optimal place to go for dinner after the show. As we were walking up towards the restaurant, I noticed a head that looked vaguely familiar...and then realized that the head was not just familiar, it actually belonged to my friend Greg. Greg, whom I'd actually seen in Ottawa just a few short weeks ago, was down in London visiting his parents with his wife, and had come up to see a high school friend of his perform the role of Chiron (one of Tamora's sons) in Titus. They had come up to The Boar's Head for dinner as well, and they invited us to join them. It was a lovely serendipitous moment, and it was unbelievably cool to have dinner with one of the actors from our play.

This might be the only good thing for a while, so I'm going to hold on to it with all I've got.

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