After hosting the sold-out US premiere of the Stratford Festival’s groundbreaking production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus last fall, the Hopkins Center for the Arts brings back that “riveting, invigorating and smart” (Globe and Mail) production—this time as a high-definition (HD) video broadcast.
The screening takes place Friday, March 29, at 7 pm, in Spaulding Auditorium. It will be preceded at 6 pm by a pre-show discussion in the Top of the Hop titled “From Stage to Screen: The Art of HD Broadcasts,” featuring long-time Stratford film editor George Roulston and Julie Borchard-Young, co-founder of By Experience, the company that pioneered HD broadcasts. The two will discuss the art of delivering live theater (Coriolanus) and the Metropolitan Opera (Die Walküre) to the silver screen.
These events are part of weekend showcasing the work of the brilliant Canadian stage artist Robert Lepage, who directed and designed this Coriolanus. On Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31, the Hop presents Met Opera in HD: Die Walküre by Wagner, a revival of the production which Lepage created in 2011. Both productions demonstrate Lepage’s dazzling ability to tell mesmerizing stories through innovative high-tech stagecraft.
In Coriolanus, a great warrior-turned-politician is despised by his people—and the feeling is mutual. The Stratford Festival’s landmark production reveals the age-old tensions that tear at the heart of democracy—a theme that the Dartmouth campus explored this past fall with a dynamic series of talks by Stratford artists and Dartmouth scholars. In addition, Dartmouth students went to Stratford to see Coriolanus and other productions, meet artists and learn about the process of turning live theater into compelling HD video–so the screening brings this full circle. Students also engaged in a week of learning on the Dartmouth campus, during the winter break, while the Stratford artists were in residency. Their projects included shooting footage for a documentary about the transfer of Coriolanus from Stratford to Dartmouth; the documentary is expected to be completed in fall 2020. Both Stratford and the Hop regard the Coriolanus production as the start of a rich, ongoing creative and educational connection.
The HD video brings to the screen a work that critics greeted as groundbreaking in its technical effects and revelatory in how it brought Shakespeare’s themes and characters to bear on contemporary issues of political power and public opinion. Praising the “thrilling stagecraft,” The New York Times described the production as “essentially a live film” with innovative effects “used so incessantly here, with such technical skill and in such striking combinations, as to render them newly expressive.”
Robert Lepage’s Coriolanus
Live performances of Lepage’s Coriolanus ran at Stratford from July into November, and then transferred to the Hop for six shows in November, including two for area students. In his Coriolanus, Lepage used his signature cinematic storytelling to frame superb acting by a veteran Stratford cast, led by André Sills in the title role. The result was cutting-edge theatrical storytelling at its best and a mesmerizing critique of leadership and our media-obsessed present.
Wrote the Ontario arts weekly NOW: this “electric world premiere Stratford Festival production makes [Coriolanus] seem like an essential part of the canon. In an era in which public figures can be brought down by a tweet, this production is timely and urgent. Don’t miss one of the best shows of the year.”
Wrote the Toronto Star: “Rarely has Lepage’s reputation as a cinematic theatremaker been more earned: The action moves cleanly between locations, thanks to textual cuts and edits, and the world-class design and production team delivers effects that should be impossible in a stage context.”
The Globe and Mail called the show “a landmark production for the Stratford Festival. Maybe for William Shakespeare, too. [Lepage] takes this complex Roman tragedy and refuses to simplify it—instead, rendering a clear and cinematic version that’s riveting, invigorating and smart.”
The Stratford Festival’s production, created in collaboration with Lepage’s company, Ex Machina, marked Lepage’s directorial debut with the Stratford Festival, North America’s leading classical theatre company, described by The Globe and Mail as “an international mecca for Shakespeare.”
“This production has been carefully crafted using advanced technology in terms of scene changes, projections and the marrying of images on moving scenery,” says Stratford Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “While it is imbued with a leading-edge, contemporary style, it never loses touch with its Shakespearean roots.”