Stratford’s Own Take the Stage at SpringWorks


Even in our current digital age of hyper-linked, tech influenced existence, people still appreciate what is close to home. Stratford definitely knows how to celebrate the Wonders of this region, and SpringWorks is no exception. As we count down to SpringWorks – 3 days until opening night! – we are celebrating our beloved local artists who will be taking the stage in the coming days.

Prefer to get your tickets in person? We have an app for that! SpringWorks tickets are now available at the Stratford Tourism Alliance @ 47 Downie Street – right across from City Hall! Starting Thursday May 9, SpringWorks will have operating box offices at Stratford City Hall until May 12 and at Factory163 from May 13 until May 19. Get your tickets today!

SpringWorks now has a step-by-step guide on how to plan your ideal SpringWorks experience. Check out our Guide to Fringing available to read on Facebook and our Blog!

By Donna-Michelle St. Bernard
Directed by Clare Preuss
Saturday May 11 @ 2:00pm at Stratford City Hall Auditorium

Queen, the single mother of two daughters (aged eleven and sixteen), re-enters the dating scene. She meets and marries Tom, who is then brought into the family home. At first Tom and his second income are a welcome addition to the household but, as this new arrangement develops, Queen must choose between instant material comfort and the long term well being of her family. Salome’s Clothes is a parable the examines Cote d’Ivoire’s struggle for sustainable self sufficiency.
Produced by New Harlem Productions, an artist centred company whose directive is to develop new works by people of colour to contribute to vital dialogues through artistic expression, to create a platform for necessary stories to be told.
Donna-Michelle has been a mainstay at SpringWorks since the beginning. She is an emcee, playwright, and arts administrator. Receipent of a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, Herman Voaden Playwriting Award, Enbridge PlayRites Award, and nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award. DM was also the General Manager of Native Earth Performing Arts until the end of 2012 and is the Artistic Director of New Harlem Productions.
Clare is a multidisciplinary theatre artist. She has collaborated with theatres across Canada including Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, The Blyth Festival, Buddies in Bad Times, Cahoots, Carlos Bulosan, Factory, fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre,Young People’s Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, Nightwood, Te-Amim Music Theatre, Theatre Direct Canada and is now the Artistic Director of Union Eight Theatre among others.
nisha ahuja is an actor, writer, and educator, and has performed and created classical, contemporary, and original work in Canada, the Netherlands, and India. She graduated from York University Theatre’s Creative Ensemble, minoring in International Development.
Virgilia is a graduate from the acting program at Ryerson Theatre School. She has explored storytelling, directing, singing, writing, and creation as a whole. She has worked with Tango Co. and The Innocents Collective, Obsidian Theatre, The Village Playhouse, The Empty Room, among others.

Tickets for Salome’s Clothes are available here, at The Stratford Tourism Alliance (47 Downie Street, Stratford), and through our Call Centre: 1-888-559-5077

By the late 1930s, Europe sat on the brink of another World War. As Hitler’s power strengthened Countries closed their doors to the thousands of refugees trying to flee their homeland. Over thirty thousand Jewish people fled to the only open port available to them- Shanghai. On the Other Side of the World is based on the memoirs of many, but especially those of eleven year old Ursula, who learned of her own resourcefulness and found within herself a fierce determination to survive when she and her family escaped to Shanghai. The play takes us back and forth in time, as Ursula shares her experiences growing up all too fast in a country like no other. Cast include Barbara Barsky, Shane Carty, Rong Fu, Ashleigh Hendry, Kevin Kruchkywich, Susan Lock, Derek Kwan, David Kirby, Brigit Wilson, and Dale Yim, with Grace Lou on the erhu.
A Bit About Brenley
Originally from Richmond, British Columbia, Brenley now calls Stratford home. She is a professional actor, director, playwright, and voice over artist. She is a graduate of University of Alberta BFA Conservatory acting program. Brenley has worked coast to coast in Canada and is the recent recipient of a Ontario Arts Council Creators Reserve Grant.
Brenley opens up about Stratford’s arts community, the difficulties of telling a forgotten story, and her favourite place in Stratford.
SWF: Is there a sense of comfort or trepidation, putting your work on in a town where you have spent so much time?
BRENLEY:  Both. It’s terribly nerve-wracking to have a new work put out for there for the whole world to hear or see; however, Stratford has such a supportive arts community, that I think it is the perfect place to do so.
SWF: This is such a fascinating untold war story. What was your research process like while writing this play? Did you find there was a lot of information, once you knew what to look for?
BRENLEY: The research was somewhat challenging. I grew up learning about WWII and the atrocities of the Holocaust, but not once had heard about the tens of thousands of refugees that fled to Shanghai. To be honest, there was not a lot of information out there, even once I knew what I was looking for. Most of the stories I found, were from the survivors themselves and it seems that only recently, more of these stories are coming to light. It’s been an interesting process and journey, that’s for sure. There is a fabulous documentary I watched,  The Shanghai Ghetto, that follows two survivors back to Shanghai, and to the ghettos where they lived. It’s quite the emotional journey. I think that it is important to tell these stories, to honour those to fought for freedom, to honour those who survived through unbelieveable experiences and journeys; and to honour those whose lives were lost. I’m hoping my play does just that.
SWF: Since we’re highlighting the local and the wonderful about Stratford, what one place to go or thing to do would you recommend to a first-timer to our fair town?
BRENLEY: It’s definitely hard to limit it to one thing… but I would recommend, in addition to the great theatre in town, popping down to Jen and Larry’s Ice Cream shop. Grab a fabulous homemade ice cream or milkshake by this family run business, and then take a stroll along the water. That’s where you’ll most likely find me.
Tickets for On the Other Side of the World are available here, at The Stratford Tourism Alliance (47 Downie Street, Stratford), and through our Call Centre: 1-888-559-5077

Created and Performed by Barbara Dunn-Prosser, Debora Joy, and Janet Martin
Thursday May 9 @ 8:00pm at Stratford City Hall Auditorium
Sunday May 19 @ 8:00pm at Factory163
“Everything is a source of fun” as these three soprano friends follow the path of their performing careers in a potpourri of classical, musical theatre, and popular songs.  Three Little Maids parodies the path to performance that many singing thespians have taken.  Starting with the passionate desire to connect to music and sing along with a radio blasting behind the bedroom door, to testing the performance nerves at Kiwanis music festivals, to experiencing the terror and trials of auditions, this classical cabaret includes practically every genre of singing from Mozart to McCartney.  There are moments of pure silliness and fun as well as some tenderness and reflection on the frustrations of not having enough time to just hang out with friends. Gently poking fun at the clichés of performing, the underlying theme of needing to connect to our friends and making time for what nurtures our souls at every stage of life will speak to audience of all ages.MEET THE ARTISTS
Barbara makes her home in Stratford. From Donna Elvira opposite Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Rhombus Media’s Don Giovanni and Mme. Cuzzoni in Classical Kids’ Hallelujah Handel to her one-woman show Come to the Woods about pioneer artist and writer Anne Langton to pop concerts with Symphonies across Canada and as a member of the Canadian Opera Company and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival acting company, Barbara has had a very versatile performing career.
Debora has enjoyed five seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She is a Tyrone Guthrie award winner, has toured to Broadway and the Old Vic in London. She has performed all over Canada and is head of voice at the George Brown Theatre School. This summer you can find Debora at the Toronto Fringe Festival in new play Kin by Bathsheba Doran.
Janet most recently played Shakespeare at Theatre By The Bay in Barrie and at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, but she also had the pleasure of spending two seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She has also done many shows for Mirvish in Toronto, including The Sound of Music and spent seven years in The Phantom of the Opera. She has toured the globe in numerous large scale musicals.
SpringWorks talks to Barbara about performing in her hometown, the creation of Three Little Maids, and the best things to do in Stratford, before heading off to rehearse this production via Skype. Theatre creation in the digital age!SWF: Is there a sense of comfort or trepidation, putting your work on in your hometown?
BARBARA: Yes there is a sense of trepidation especially since we have all worked at the Stratford Festival and our show includes some reflections on that time and we want to as good as we can possibly be.  But at the same time,  there are people here who really support artistic ventures and the efforts of thespians like us to  keep performing as much as we can, so we know that many of those who do come to see the shows are friends and colleagues. And that is very comforting.
SWF: I imagine the creation and rehearsal process of this show has been quite the roller coaster – emotional and otherwise. Did this trip down memory lane easily, as in all three of your pretty much knew the shape and material when you started, or was it a challenge to find exactly the right songs?BARBARA: It has been a roller coster for many reasons.  All three of us are incredibly busy and live in three different cities.  We have braved snowstorms, rescheduled students and family commitments to make the time to get together, which was the purpose of writing this show in the first place. (I actually had to be in Vancouver for 10 days adjudicating a music festival and only just got back Sunday)  We had no idea where to start but once we started brainstorming things started to take a shape and a direction.  Most of the material came quite easily but we did a lot of rewriting lyrics to help tell the story.  We feel that in some ways this is still the “workshop” phase but we sincerely hope that the show will have a life and “grow legs” as they say.SWF: Since we’re highlighting the local and the wonderful about Stratford, what one place to go or thing to do would you recommend to a first-timer to our fair town?

BARBARA: You have to take a walk around the river and maybe even through the Shakespeare Gardens.  Poke around in some of the shops downtown and of course see a show at Springworks or the Festival!
Tickets for Three Little Maids are available here, at The Stratford Tourism Alliance (47 Downie Street, Stratford), and through our Call Centre: 1-888-559-5077

With Kate Ashby-Craft & Gail Selkirk
Saturday May 18 @ 8:00pm at The Church Restaurant
Award nominated singer/songwriter Kate Ashby-Craft will take you on a musical journey through three decades of her original music. You will hear songs from most genres such as pop, rock, country and folk along with behind the scenes stories of the various recordings. Accompanying Kate on piano will be the multi-talented Gail Selkirk. Kate and Gail have performed and recorded together for over 20 years.A BIT ABOUT KATE
Kate, originally from Nova Scotia, now lives in Stratford with her husband Mark, Rourke the cat, and lots of wildlife. She started performing at the age of 12, playing the lead in Cinderella. Kate has toured across Canada and the US and sings and writes in most genres of music. Her first album The Many Faces Of received considerable airplay on Easy Listening radio stations. In the 90s, Kate taught herself to play the piano, began seriously songwriting and released her second album The Heart and the Mind. In 2006, she followed up with a third album Love Is All There Is. Kate has performed at the CNE, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Bluebird North, Canada Day celebrations in London and the Canterbury Folk Festival in Ingersoll.Go here for a sample of Kate’s music!

Kate tells SpringWorks about performing at home, the evolution of her style, and her favourite thing to do in Stratford.

SWF: Is there a sense of comfort or trepidation, putting your work on in your hometown?
KATE: Both….I have been doing concerts in Stratford for quite a few years now and it is always wonderful to see familiar faces at my shows. I do however always get nervous before any show no matter where it is. I have been told though that this is a good thing as it keeps you on your toes so to speak.
SWF: This show looks at the span of your career. How do you think your singer-songwriting style has changed from when you started to where you are now?KATE: When I decided to do a retrospective I was in a bit of a shock as I couldn’t believe that I was old enough to do one..YIKES ! Putting this together has been a labour of love as I got to revisit my babies and to go down memory lane remembering how they came to be. My style has changed tremendously and hopefully for the better. I do feel that I am a much better writer now than when I started out though I do still love those early songs.SWF: Since we’re highlighting the local and the wonderful about Stratford, what one place to go or thing to do would you recommend to a first-timer to our fair town?

KATE: Well…..I would definitely recommend walking around the river  that runs through Stratford. It is a glorious spot with lots of wonderful birds to observe such as the beloved swans, geese and many varieties of ducks.Tickets for Retrospective are available here, at The Stratford Tourism Alliance (47 Downie Street, Stratford), and through our Call Centre: 1-888-559-5077

The mysterious writings scrolling inexplicably across the scenery make sinister hints at some all-knowing thing at the centre of human self-motivation, but this doesn’t sit well with George and Byron, two inquisitive travelers who just happened to be passing by. The self-proclaimed voice of fate goads our two protagonists on, preying on their fears and anxieties, tempting them towards a profound understanding – or so it claims…
The company includes Veronica Derby, Megan Holt, Kevin Ray, Nic Turcotte. SpringWorks is Third Person’s first stop on a cross-Canada fringe tour.

Alumnus of Stratford Central Secondary School, Brandon is a Stratford boy all the way. He recently completed his BFA in Playwriting at Concordia University, where Third Person premiered as part of Concordia’s Student Initiated Production Assignment (SIPA) Festival.Brandon discusses the double-edged sword of performing in his hometown, absurist theatre, and his go-to activity when he comes home.
SWF: Is there a sense of comfort or trepidation, putting your work on in your hometown?
BRANDON: I would say mostly it’s a sense of comfort coming back home, although there’s certainly some anxiety there too. Stratford’s where I got my start in the theatre when I first acted with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival at the age of 12, so there’s certainly a welcome sense of familiarity here. I also got the chance to bring a pair of my short plays to the inaugural SpringWorks Festival in 2011, so I’m honoured and excited to be making a return to the wonderful Factory 163. On the other hand, our appearances at SpringWorks will be kicking off my first ever cross-Canada tour with a new company and a new production, so the experience is not without its share of butterflies either. All that being said, in a daunting summer tour schedule including Montreal, Hamilton, and Vancouver Fringe Festivals, there’s nowhere I’d rather be starting out than back home in Stratford.
SWF: As a budding playwright, what writers or plays have influenced your work and style the most?
BRANDON: I’ve always been a big fan of the absurdist tradition in theatre, with the work of playwrights like Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter serving as great inspiration for my love of theatre in general. I think Third Person borrows a fair bit from absurdist theatre, with two very relate-able human protagonists being menaced by an unknown force which seems to defy all understanding. On the other hand while most theatre of the absurd takes aim at the meaninglessness of human existence and communication, I’d like to think that Third Person shifts the focus to what meaning we can create for ourselves, through communication, cooperation, and love during those times we find ourselves exasperated by the vast, incomprehensible, and often apparently meaningless nature of the world around us.
SWF: Since we’re highlighting the local and the wonderful about Stratford, what one place to go or thing to do would you recommend to a first-timer to our fair town?
BRANDON: I would prompt anyone visiting for the first time to take an afternoon to share a walk along the river and pack a picnic to enjoy on Tom Patterson Island. The city has such a wonderful buzz about it during the Spring and Summer time, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than in the shade under the willow trees.Tickets for Third Person are available here, at The Stratford Tourism Alliance (47 Downie Street, Stratford), and through our Call Centre: 1-888-559-5077

Did you know that it’s now easier than ever to get to Stratford and SpringWorks? The Stratford Festival Bus (Toronto to Stratford) is now available! For just $10 one way or $20 return, come down, stay for a few days, explore all this region has to offer and then head back. Go here for details.


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