In the last few months I have been to Stratford to see a musical and a Shakespeare play. If you have never been to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, you must put this on your ‘bucket list’. Located an hour from Toronto or London, you can drive or take a bus directly to the theatre from Toronto. Stratford is a quaint town that has amazing restaurants, a lovely lazy river that runs through the town and some unique shops. You can spend the day or a weekend in Stratford. The Stratford Festival begins in April with previews and then the season begins in earnest during the late spring and summer. This festival is full of tradition and every spring, they open the season with the Swan Parade and end it in November with their most popular play showing to the bitter end. I have to say with such fantastic productions, it is a shame that some plays don’t run through the winter. We usually take in a musical, we saw a Chorus Line this summer, as well as a Shakespeare play. This year’s production of Macbeth did not disappoint. It was riveting and my teens loved it. The thing is if you have seen good live theatre… I mean first class theatre, you know you will not go wrong with Stratford.
In over 25 years of attending, I have only been to one bad production: Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. It was AWFUL. The only memorable part of that production was that Christopher Plummer (yes, Capt. Von Trapp) was watching it just a few rows away…until the intermission then he left. Like a few more people. All I know was that we were dying to walk out but chose not to because we hoped (in vain) that the second act would be better. Nope. Still just as disappointing. That does not happen often at Stratford but it does happen.
As most people, we are big fans of musicals and this summer my daughter brought a friend that had never been to Stratford before. She love the play and walking around the gardens and sculpture grounds. We also took a walk to the small island that you can access from a walking bridge. We were watching the swans as the paddle around. So very enchanting.
Macbeth on the other hand was dramatic and loud and wickedly fun. We enjoyed the three conniving witches and all of the top notch acting. I would love to see it again. I enjoyed it so much I barely noticed the little things around me. Just barely… I have to say what has really made me a bit nutty is the lack of etiquette by theatre patrons. I am amazed how people (young and old) are being disrespectful towards other patrons and the production. Is it that they don’t know that you should compose yourself in a particular manner? Or is it that they just plain don’t care? I know it is not just me because when I posted this commentary on my FB, I had plenty of people chime in with their pet peeves. These are a few of the things I have witnessed in my last few visits to the theatre.
- forgetting to turn off your phone (this is a basic one – just turn it off)
- checking phone once the production has started (no matter how discreet you think you are being, we can all see the glow of your phone)
- talking loudly as the curtain falls or during the performance (please don’t explain the plot as the play is going on- do a bit of research before)
- kicking the seat in front of you (if someone is turning around and glaring at you, think about what you maybe doing to annoy the patron in front of you)
- knocking someone’s head with your knees (yes, this happened to my daughter’s boyfriend – numerous times)
unwrap candies (yup, those are Werther’s candy wrappers that the people behind me just tossed on the ground)
- pop out chicklettes from the package (doing it quickly, still doesn’t make it right, nor is it passing it over to your GF)
- drinking water from a water bottle WITH ICE in it (yes, I kid you not)
- my all time *facepalm is the guy that arrived with his bicycle helmet in hand and who didn’t believe in using deodorant so the body odour was pretty strong (these are really, really close seats). Oh and thanks for scrolling through your phone during the performance. I can’t believe the usher had to tell you twice to put it away
- I realize that just about anyone that goes to the theatre will have to deal with a person that may be sick (coughing or sneezing) but if you are almost coughing up a lung, you really should be at home in bed and not contaminating the rest of us. I realize that you paid a small fortune for those tickets but guess what? so did we.
Like I said before , I took a small survey of what makes people crazy when they are in a theatre, here are some of the responses:
- People who arrive late (it is disruptive) the production company has worked pretty hard to get to this point!
- People that leave during a performance (go to the bathroom before the start)
- Walking on-stage (some theatres are pretty small and intimate, don’t just walk onto the stage because you can. Those sets are expensive and not playgrounds for young children. Take them when there are kid-friendly productions)
- Whispering is still talking
- Snoring during the performance (honestly, have a red bull before you get here)
I am a big fan of live theatre because you are restricted to the space on the stage. I am always amazed by the quick costume changes and elaborate set designs. You never know what you are going to get: great actors, off key singers, spellbinding performances. It is all a different experience for each person. I did learn something this year, many young folks have never been to a professional theatre production. I was happy to be the catalyst to introduce them to this lovely art form, especially when they studied the play in school! It is one thing to read Shakespeare and quite another to watch it being performed live on a small stage.
- Take a kid to the Theatre (whether as a school outing or as a family, discounts are available to make it available to all. You just have to find deals on-line)
- Get there early (there is a Festival Shop to peak at, have a lovely lunch or walk the garden – see pictures below)
- Go to the washroom before the start of the play or during intermission
- Read the program (it usually has a synopsis of the play, the actors credentials and last minute cast changes)
- Be mindful of your personal space (it is a tight squeeze at the theatre so remember to share your space)
- Watch out on Facebook and on-line for deep discounted tickets (you can save through corporate discounts too)
- Pre-purchase your snack or drink when you buy your tickets or when you arrive (this will save you time at intermission)
- Clap extra loud when a child performer takes their bow – we want to encourage future thespians as much as we can!
- Keep going… attending a live performance is not a one time event, every year there is a new production whether at Stratford or your local company