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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: November ::
Stratford Festival Stage
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0631  Wednesday, 5 November 2008

[1] From:   Tanya Gough <
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 >
     Date:   Sunday, 2 Nov 2008 19:44:47 -0500 (EST)
     Subt:   Stratford Festival Stage, Official Version

[2] From:   Gloria J Betcher <
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 >
     Date:   Monday, 03 Nov 2008 15:42:01 -0600
     Subt:   Fwd: RE: Festival Theatre Stage


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Tanya Gough <
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 >
Date:       Sunday, 2 Nov 2008 19:44:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject:    Stratford Festival Stage, Official Version

Here's the Stratford Festival's official statement on the changes to the 
Stratford stage.

http://www.stratfordbeaconherald.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1277390

Tanya Gough

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Gloria J Betcher <
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 >
Date:       Monday, 03 Nov 2008 15:42:01 -0600
Subject:    Fwd: RE: Festival Theatre Stage

Those of you who had planned to write in protest of the planned destruction of 
the Tanya stage at Stratford, might want to read the response from the Festival 
Administrators below, forwarded by a colleague at VMI. You may still choose to 
lodge a complaint, but you would be doing it with more information than the 
article from the Stratford Gazette supplied. The response below will especially 
appeal to those of you who want to learn more about the evolution of the Tanya 
Moiseiwitsch thrust stage from Guthrie's conception of it to the present.

Gloria Betcher

 >From: David Prosser [mailto:
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 ]
 >Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 2:22 PM
 >To: Baragona, Alan
 >Subject: Festival Theatre stage
 >
 >Dear Professor Baragona:
 >
 >Thank you for your e-mail of November 2 , to which I have been asked to
 >reply.
 >
 >Please be assured that there is no truth whatsoever to the absurd rumour
 >that we plan to replace the Festival Theatre's famed stage with some kind of
 >proscenium-arch arrangement. The Tanya Moiseiwitsch thrust stage is the
 >embodiment of a brilliant idea - one that has proven itself over and over
 >again to be ideal for Shakespeare and astonishingly versatile for all kinds
 >of other repertoire as well - and we would be insane to do away with it.
 >
 >It is true that we continue to seek ways of improving the stage and its
 >facilities - as we have done throughout the past 55 years. Tyrone Guthrie
 >himself (our first artistic director) was among the first to anticipate  -
 >and approve - the idea of future changes. "Detailed modifications and
 >improvements will be made to our stage and particularly to our auditorium,"
 >he wrote after our first season in 1953. "We were all aware, I know, of
 >deficiencies."
 >
 >The evolution began in 1954, when, in accordance with a suggestion from Alec
 >Guinness (the star of our first season), the stage was deepened by
 >two-and-a-half feet. Far more substantial changes followed in 1962, when
 >then artistic director Michael Langham had the back wall rebuilt to
 >accommodate his staging of Romeo and Juliet (and also to make the stage feel
 >more "masculine"). Two balconied windows originally included in the wall
 >were removed, the side entrances were moved farther apart and the onstage
 >staircases rearranged, and additional upstage entrances were created by
 >means of new hinged wall panels.
 >
 >The nine pillars that had supported the onstage balcony were replaced by
 >five thicker ones, a trapdoor was installed in the balcony floor, and the
 >entire balcony was raised by eight inches to sit on its own "island." The
 >overhanging canopies known as "eyebrows" were also installed at this time.
 >
 >Major changes were also made in 1974, at the instigation of artistic
 >director designate Robin Phillips. It was he who made the balcony removable
 >(something both his immediate predecessors had desired but had been unable
 >to accomplish), and it was he who installed the "Cymbeline floor," a
 >wrap-around addition that raises the topmost platform of the stage to the
 >same level as the "island" under the balcony. Nowadays, the stage is almost
 >never used without that floor.
 >
 >In short, the stage has already changed significantly from what our first
 >audiences saw in 1953. It is not even true, alas, that its oaken boards are
 >the same ones that Guinness trod, for the entire surface was replaced in
 >1959, when dry rot was discovered to have set in. The boards were replaced
 >again in 1962 as part of the Langham redesign, and the boards in the upstage
 >area, where water damage had occurred, were replaced for a third time during
 >the renovation of 1996-97. And this is to say nothing of the fact that
 >pieces of the stage are routinely replaced, from season to season, to repair
 >damage and normal wear and tear. Any claim that the actual fabric of the
 >stage is "original" and "historic" thus rests on doubtful foundations; what
 >matters is the concept that fabric embodies. And that concept will not
 >change, for all the excellent reasons you articulate in your e-mail.
 >
 >The Festival stage, like any working stage, has evolved to meet the changing
 >needs of changing times, and to accommodate artistic and technical
 >innovations. It will certainly continue to do so - indeed, must do so in
 >order to keep pace with the demands and expectations of the audiences of
 >today and tomorrow. If we did not embrace new ideas and opportunities, we
 >would very soon cease to be a living theatre and would become a museum. But,
 >to repeat, we have no intention of doing away with the basic design that has
 >served us so well for more than half a century.
 >
 >At present, we are again considering what we need to do to enhance the
 >Festival experience for our audiences and maximize the opportunities for our
 >artists. Specifically, we are studying the theatre's acoustics and lighting,
 >as well as the spaces above and below the stage. If we can find better ways
 >of "flying" in scenic elements, and if we can enlarge the existing trap in
 >the stage floor, then we will immensely increase the flexibility of the
 >stage without in any way changing its essential character.
 >
 >All of this is still some years in the future. We are far from having a
 >"plan" at this point; we are still in the study phase. When a plan does
 >begin to take shape, however, one thing will be certain: it will have been
 >arrived at by a process of consultation with those who know the theatre best
 >and have its best interests at heart, and it will fully respect the
 >principles of the open thrust stage as developed by Guthrie, Moiseiwitsch
 >and Langham.
 >
 >On behalf of everyone here, please accept my warmest for caring so deeply
 >about the future of our theatre. If I can do anything further to set your
 >mind at rest, please do not hesitate to contact me.
 >
 >Yours sincerely,
 >--
 >David Prosser
 >Director of Literary Services
 >
 >Stratford Shakespeare Festival
 >North America's Leading Classical Theatre
 >55 Queen Street | PO Box 520 | Stratford ON | N5A 6V2
 >
 >Toll Free 1.800.561.1233 | 519.271.0055 x2304


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