Stratford Festival in-person rehearsals begin amid planning for summer season

The Stratford Festival has started in-person rehearsals, with actors in A Midsummer Night's Dream gathering on the weekend under tents in the parking lot. Actor André Sills says interaction is so important to theatre actors and being able to see people in-person was 'amazing.'

Ticket sales still on hold until Ontario says how many people can attend each show

The Stratford Festival started in-person rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream this past weekend. In-person rehearsals for Rez Sisters get underway this week. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

For Toronto-based actor André Sills, standing under a tent in a parking lot this past weekend felt pretty great.

In-person rehearsals got underway for Ontario's Stratford Festival. Sills plays the role of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"It was interesting," he said in an interview Tuesday on CBC K-W's The Morning Edition.

"We've been away for a long time. So, from everybody seeing everybody's faces in little rectangular boxes on Zoom to seeing real life people ... to actually see bodies was amazing."

Actor André Sills plays Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, part of the 2021 outdoor season for the Stratford Festival. (Stratford Festival)

Prior to this past weekend, the actors had been rehearsing via online meetings, which has been tough, he said.

"One thing with actors, especially actors who work in the theatre, it is about the interaction, and the interaction with your scene partners and the interaction with the audience. So it was tough to lose that and also not knowing how long we're going to lose it for."

Listen to the full interview with André Sills:

In-person rehearsals got underway at the Stratford Festival over the weekend. Actor André Sills describes what it was like to be in the same area - under a tent in a parking lot - with other actors as he prepares for his roll as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. 7:00

'People are so excited'

Ann Swerdfager, the festival's publicity director, said there was a buzz in the city as actors resumed in-person rehearsals. 

"None of us can go, but apparently there was a steady stream of cars driving past to look at the tents and sort of wave from afar," she said.

"It's wonderful. People are so excited. The actors are so happy to be back working and the creative teams are thrilled to be putting together shows."

The Stratford Festival has put up outdoor canopies to hold shows outside this year. But when exactly the performances will go before a live audience has yet to be determined, she said.

It may not look like much, but this is currently the in-person rehearsal space for actors and the creative team preparing A Midsummer Night's Dream for this summer's outdoor season of the Stratford Festival. (Ann Swerdfager/Stratford Festival)

While performances will be allowed in Step 2 of the province's three-step reopening plan, the government has yet to say how many people can attend each performance.

"We're still in a bit of a holding pattern," Swerdfager said, noting until the province says how many people can attend a show, the festival can't sell any tickets. 

The province has said Step 2 can begin 21 days after the first step began, which was on June 11. As well, for the second step to proceed, 70 per cent of adults must have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent must be fully vaccinated.


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