HOW STRATFORD FESTIVAL IS ADAPTING TO A POST-#METOO WORLD

Issues of race, class and gender are at the forefront of audiences' minds, says actor Maev Beaty

Mrs. Page (Brigit Wilson) and Mrs. Ford (Sophia Walker) share a laugh in Stratford Festival's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Director, Antoni Cimolino says the play is a good example of how Shakespeare empowered women: 'in a very healthy and smart way [the women] straighten out the offender and at the same time cure a husband of his jealousy.' (Chris Young/Stratford Festival)

When the peak of the #MeToo movement hit in early 2018, many theatre companies in Canada were shaken by the allegations made against Soul Pepper Theatre in Toronto and its then-executive director Albert Schultz.

For its part, Stratford Festival says it has never faced allegations of harassment or sexual assault from actors or staff but artistic director Antoni Cimolino was repeatedly asked by audience members how he managed to “anticipate the movement” and reflect it in the season’s offering.

That summer, the festival put women in the spotlight casting Martha Henry as Prospero in The Tempest and changing nearly half the roles in Julius Caesar to women.

But Cimolino says, he didn’t really anticipate it. It just happened.

“There was something happening in society throughout 2017 [when the season was planned] that culminated in the #MeToo movement. So, yes. Unconsciously it was part of the formation of the season for 2018. Consciously it was part of the season formation for 2019.”

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