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Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Every fall, the Carthage English Department takes a faculty-student trip to Ontario, Canada, for the acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The trip leaves students with new acquaintances, unforgettable memories, and a fresh appreciation for the magic of theatre.

“You’re getting to be a habit with me,” the character Dorothy Brock sings in the performance of 42nd Street. So, too, has the trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, for Carthage.

Students in costume at the Stratford Shakespeare FestivalThe annual trip to Stratford is one of Carthage’s longest continuing traditions. Started in 1967 by Don Michie, professor emeritus of English, and Shandy Holland, former professor of theatre, the trip is open to all students, staff, faculty and alumni. The trip’s current coordinator, Justin Zahn ’04, manager for payroll and benefits, first attended the trip when he was a student at Carthage – specifically, a student in Maria Carrig’s Shakespeare class.

Prof. Carrig, associate professor of English, theatre and Great Ideas, who assists in hosting the trip, first went to the Stratford festival in 1976. “I was not able to return for many years, so I feel extremely fortunate to take this trip every year and share this place that I love so much with my students,” she said.

Five plays in 2.5 days 

The 2012 trip included a group of faculty members and students from various departments, including EnglishTheatreGreat IdeasPolitical ScienceEducation, and Mathematics. In two and a half days, those on the trip were able to see five different plays. After boarding a bus at 4 a.m. and riding for nine hours, attendees arrived in Stratford ready for The Matchmaker. Other performances included Much Ado About Nothing42nd StreetPirates of Penzance, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

The festival is recognized internationally, and actors from around the world dedicate their talents to this tradition each year. The festival shows take place at the Festival Theater and the Avon Theater. Festival Theater performances are done on a thrust stage, which juts out into the audience, and, much like the design of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, utilizes props to assist with scenery instead of large changes in sets. The festival is put on by a repertory theatre company, a group of performers who put on multiple plays in a season. When the festival started, only two shows were done each year. Now the festival lasts for six months of the year and presents more than 15 shows. Each year, festival performances include Shakespearean plays, classic theater of both the American and the European repertoire, and musicals.

With the wide array of students from different areas of study, the shows brought about a different experience for each attendee. “It was really fun to look at the piece after having had a semester of Music Theatre History,” said music theater major Kati Schwaber ’15.

Unforgettable experience 

Even students without a theatre background can gain a great deal from the trip. English and Great Ideas major Jason Lund ’13 said, “Of the two non-musicals, The Matchmaker was definitely the best. The laughter was immediately gratifying, but it still felt like it left you some things to think about afterward. 42nd Street was just unrivaled as far as musicals go. The music just moved something inside of me, and I got goosebumps twice. It actually changed my mind about what musicals are capable of doing.”

A group of students posing in Ontario for the annual Shakespeare Festival Trip.The Stratford trip allowed participants to see a broad range of performances while enjoying the quaint qualities of the town itself. Students were also able to participate in a behind-the-scenes theatre tour as well as a costume and prop warehouse tour, where students could try on retired costumes.

“Most students who go on this trip have said that it was one of their most joyous experiences at Carthage,” Prof. Carrig said.

It was an unforgettable time for both students and faculty. “The opportunity to engage in lively thoughtful discourse with all the participants before and after the plays was the best part for me,” Jason Lund shared.

Join the fun in 2013 

The 2013 Stratford Festival trip dates have already been planned for Sept. 26-29. Plays will include OthelloRomeo and JulietThe Merchant of VeniceThe Three MusketeersFiddler on the Roof, and Tommy and Blithe Spirit. Any interested students can contact Prof. Carrig for more information.

All members of the Carthage community with a love for theatre are encouraged to attend the trip. Participants will be able to view a number of impressive shows in a short amount of time, which makes for a truly enriching experience.

“You see the connections between the shows and why they put them in repertory,” Kati Schwaber said. “It is just such a great experience to take in that much at one time.” 

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