The Stratford Festival has generated a surplus of $1.4 million and an increase in attendance of 50,000 theatregoers in 2013, a year after posting a deficit of $3.4 million,.
Executive director Anita Gaffney said gains from last year’s festival will go towards the deficit from the previous year.
“This surplus will help us to get onto stable financial footing,” said Gaffney. “We feel that the momentum is continuing as we move into 2014.”
Patron attendance increased 11 per cent, the largest rise the festival has seen since 1999.
This season was Gaffney’s and artistic director Antoni Cimolino’s first time in their respective roles. Gaffney credited Cimolino for curating a 12-play season based on the theme “communities divided.”
High demand for tickets extended the productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Measure for Measure, Waiting for Godot, Taking Shakespeare and Mary Stuart.
Gaffney said a number of strategies were employed to increase attendance this year, including offering cheap transit options between Stratford and Toronto.
“We introduced a bus service that ran between Toronto and Stratford. It ran twice a day and was just $20 return. People really responded to that - we had 15,000 people use the bus last year,” Gaffney said.
Patrons purchased $1 million in bus tickets. In 2014, the Stratford Festival will be offering a $40-round trip bus service between Stratford and Detroit three days a week.
The Stratford Festival also introduced the Forum in 2013, a series of debates, workshops, concerts and other events, which it said attracted more than 30,000 people to roughly 150 events.
On Saturday, the festival announced a new film program called Stratford@Play. At least three productions are expected to be filmed each season and be available on DVD.
Gaffney said strategies are aimed at getting new theatregoers “hooked for life.”
“What we hear from our patrons is that the experiences they have at Stratford really change their lives. You know the stories we tell on our stages really resonate for people. It allows them to think about their own experiences and reflect on their lives,” said Gaffney.