The Stratford Festival of Canada is restoring the word Shakespeare to its name in a bid to cement its image as North America's leading classical repertory theatre.
Beginning in November, the theatre festival in the southwestern Ontario town of Stratford will be known as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
"What is do or die for us is doing Shakespeare and doing it well. That's what gets people in their cars and driving to Stratford," said general director Antoni Cimolino, who added the name change has been under discussion for about 18 months.
"It's really about identity, about calling yourself who you really are," he said in an interview with CBC News.
The theatre festival dropped Shakespeare from itsname in the 1970s.
The name change and a partial schedule for the 2008 season were announced Tuesday.
Shakespeare remains front and centre in the coming season, the first under Cimolino and artistic directors Marti Maraden, Des McAnuff and Don Shipley.
The program includes much-loved Shakespearean works such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, All's Well That Ends Welland Love's Labour's Lost as well as the more controversial The Taming of the Shrew.
The new artistic team are making their mark with a more international thrust in selection of plays and recruitment of talent.
There will be German and Spanish plays andinternational acting and production talent have been recruited to work with Stratford's resident company.
Hamlet will be directed by Adrian Noble, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.
"We've always gone out to the world and brought in the best of the outside world. We're very aware of what is going on internationally," Cimolino said.
Now the festival is taking advantage of a new trend toward international collaboration to build its ties with theatre talent from other countries, he said.
Ottawa's National Arts Centre, under artistic director Peter Hinton, is mounting a co-production of Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K.
"What Peter Hinton has done is part of bigger movement to make sure that we are watching the best of what is happening internationally," Cimolino said.
It's especially important for a repertory company to work with actors and directors from outside as it stretches them artistically, he said.
One international play, Emilia Galotti, will be performed by a group of German actors who will hold workshops with the resident company to compare text analyses and the acting process.
"This production of Emilia Galotti has achieved cult status around the world, touring to Dublin, New York and Tokyo," said Shipley, whohelped recruit Berlin's Michael Thalheimer to direct.
The play will be performed in German with English surtitles. "But the piece is so visual that one will be able to get the story even without the surtitles," he said.
The other major European work is Fuente Ovejuna written during Shakespeare's time, one of the richest periods of Spanish classical drama, by Spain's Lope de Vega.
Fuente Ovejuna, about people joining together to rebel against tyranny, is to be directed by Britain's Laurence Boswell.
Stratford is also tapping talent from across the country to give artistic rigour to its work.
One of the most controversial plays in Shakespeare's canon, The Taming of the Shrew, will be directed by the NAC's Hinton.
"It's really a discussion of the battle of the sexes, which is always with us," Cimolino said. Hinton "will take a unique approach to that material."
The Trojan Women, a play that has never been produced at Stratford, is also on the schedule and other plays, including the musicals, have yet to be announced.