Ontario’s Stratford Festival has long aimed to set the standard for classical theatre in North America, bringing classical and contemporary theatre alive for an increasingly diverse audience. This year, supported by Sun Life Financial’s award-winning Making the Arts More Accessible™ program, the Stratford Festival launched a new initiative – Stratford Festival HD. Three of the Festival’s Shakespearean stage productions — King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra and King John — were filmed and shown in over 600 cinemas across Canada, the U.S. and internationally.

Sun Life believes that arts and culture should be celebrated within communities and made accessible to individuals and families, regardless of their means. Stratford Festival HD provides both financial and geographical accessibility to these great works of Shakespeare.

Wider accessibility to arts and culture is also an important motivator for Canadian film and television star Colm Feore, who starred in Stratford’s 2015 production of King Lear — the first production captured for Stratford Festival HD — and makes a point of returning to his roots in stage productions as often as possible.

When asked about the challenges of translating a stage performance to the screen, Feore replied: “We were fairly confident about what we were doing. There’s a terror of immortalizing it on film, especially when you only have one take. But we got over that.”

“Sponsorships have a huge impact on the arts and culture community,” says Feore. “Stratford is a great place. People who have made the journey directly know that well, but filming its productions will now make it possible for them to reach others as far away as Vancouver or even New Mexico — as far as you can imagine.”

He added that the technology can add an important layer for education too. “It’s going to have hugely positive repercussions in terms of education,” says Feore. “Getting the message out about Shakespeare to people who would otherwise not get it — but who can now pick it up on a smartphone or in their classroom in Calgary — is a fantastic element of our outreach.”

While the cinema screenings have been wildly successful, Stratford Festival HD is now moving into a television broadcast phase. Be sure to check your local service provider for the CBC’s upcoming broadcasts of this year’s films (air times remain the same across all time zones):

  • King Lear — Sunday, September 6th at 3:00 p.m.
  • Antony and Cleopatra — Sunday September 20th at 3:00 p.m.
  • King John — Sunday September 27th at 3:00 p.m.
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