Shopping at The Green Room; Stratford Canada

I just dropped $280 US on hats (it was like $350+ in Canadian dollars) in an easy to overlook store in Stratford Ontario. As I’ve said previously, Stratford is town that for the most part you go to for the Theater… that said, BECAUSE the theater draws in a regular stream of affluent well educated tourists from all over the world — the sort most likely to be interested in traveling vast distances for a really good Shakespeare/theater festival — it is able to support much better restaurants and stores than you would normally expect to find in a small Canadian town. The Green room is just such a store.

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NOT a photo I took, this is borrowed from Wikipedia

I had walked into this The Green Room MORE than a few times over the last two years without ever appreciating it. I would walk in, see the shoes and the stocking and such that are displayed up front (making me think it was mostly a shoe store), and then because of how dark and badly laid out it is, I missed most of what it had to offer and just walked back out. (Keep in mind, I taught marketing for many years; and as a former art major, how shops were laid out/curated — so as to to help or hinder the customer experience — is one of the things I would focus on with my students).

In a way the store reminds me of those old fashioned mercantile shops that used to exist back before professional store designers became a thing. It’s badly lit, has way too much stuff so that very little of it can be well displayed, but EVERYTHING you might want or need can be found crammed onto it’s shelves.

The Green room is a store that the fashion Icon Iris Apfel would LOVE (if you aren’t familiar with Iris, and think you give a damn about fashion, then you really should study up on her — she’s a legend in the industry).

One of the things Iris is famous for is she’s not a fan of spending more than she needs to, she’s a notorious negotiator, and she’s as likely to pick up accessories for her legendary collection (MUSEUMS have shown her outfits) at a street market as at Harry Winston’s (a name some of you will only recognize from the Marilyn Monroe’s version of Diamond’s are a girl’s best friend).

I think Iris would love the Green Room precisely because finding anything in it is an act of drive and perseverance, so that when you do find things you feel a real sense of achievement, in that you can honestly say to a friend who has herself been into the store 100 times…  “Look what I found in the Green Room!!” and for the most part they only have 1 of everything, so if you got it, your friend can’t run in there and get one for herself

…  In part the store has the same problem that the Louvre, which I have often described as the worst curated museum in the world — although I’ve heard that they’ve been working on improving that. The Louvre has reputedly 38,000 objects in their collection, and they insist of displaying ALL of them at once, so that the walls remind me of a game of Tetris… with only very special pieces like the Mona Lisa being hung with enough clear wall around them to allow you really appreciate them.

…. it overwhelm’s the brain.  And, it’s not a fashion store so much as it is a bit like British chain Accessorize. It’s a store that sells all the stuff that goes WITH your clothes: ie., scarves, jewelry, shoes, purses, belts, etc. Only it’s MASSIVE store that winds it’s way through a maze of rooms… and  …. Downstairs in the basement (I was there 6 times before I found the stairs down, which are way at the back of the main room…  they have a massive collection of hats at reasonable prices ($30 – $50 Canadian) many of which look structured when you wear them, but yet can be packed flat — so GREAT for my lifestyle. (Clearly whoever did the buying kept in mind that the ladies who fly into town are much more likely to leave having bought a hat, if they can then shove in a suitcase.) Let’s just say that I went a little bit nuts with the buying.

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When I told my friend Dayna, who I’m currently staying with, about my splurge she was like, “Oh yah, I LOVE that store. I call it the jeans and a white T-shirt store” in response to which I looked at her quizzically … “I mean, you go in there wearing just jeans and white t-shirt and then buy all the accessories you need to express yourself from them”

Day 1 @ Stratford Canada: a walk by the river, or “To many ducks in a row”

I have once again returned to Stratford Canada for my 2nd season of attending their world famous Shakespeare Festival; this time I bought tickets to MOST, but not ALL, of the shows. Last year I learned that the festival organizers seem to want to make most of their dramas “politically relevant”, and I was SO bored out of my skull by most of them (I found that they tended to be heavy handed and preachy in their politics — I am not a big fan of paying money to get preached at), that I decided to just not buy those tickets this this time around. This year I will be seeing all comedies and musicals.

Happily, I am once again able to stay at the home of a my friend, Dayna Manning, who (as I mentioned previously) is a not only a solo recording artist (since she was a teenager), but is also (for the last few years) a member of the popular Canadian folk band Trent Severn, not to mention a teacher & music producer — which means whenever stay with her I get to hear lots of great music. (As lay in my bed, sipping coffee and writing this blog post, the band is having a rehearsal in her living room for an upcoming fund raising concert of Beatles music; and since Trent Severn will be taking part in the concert, Dayna has been happily focused on arranging their performances — and telling me all about it. Yah, sucks to be me — GRIN)

Yesterday was my first morning at Dayna’s, and we took advantage of fabulous weather and went for a brisk 1 mile walk around the river (see my post from last year). While we were walking, she mentioned to me how the city has started working to curb the size of the local duck population. Apparently, whenever they find a nest, they’ve been putting some sort of oil on the eggs that keeps them from hatching. The poor ducks don’t know this and rather than laying more, as they would had the eggs been stollen by a predator, continue sitting on them, but for naught. That said, when we walked past this, I was much better able to understand the concern of the city council.

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While the city nurtures their swan population (see my post from last year where I discuss this), and the Canadian Geese are just passing through… when you add the ducks to those two groups, well, that is a bit much. (The gutsy lady with the walker mowing down the swan gave us both a giggle.)

After that we walked past Stratford’s Art in the Park, a regular venue for local artists to show their goods to the affluent tourists that come into town for the festival (i.e., this is NOT a place to find cheap art, the prices take fully into account the demographics of tourist population — which is mostly affluent retired folks from surrounding major metropolitan areas, that are as far afield as Chicago).

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Among the artists was a glass worker, Brad Jesson, who Dayna said was a childhood friend. I have to say I was very impressed with some of his pieces, where he achieved optical illusions I’d not seen before within his glass marbles, paperweights, and pendents (none of the images on his page do them justice). My favorite work however were 2D prints on textured paper by Mathias Muleme where he combines his Ugandan and Canadian influences. Every one of his works captured movement in a way that’s actually very hard to achieve. If I had a home I’d be tempted to buy The Cello and The Soloist to display side by side, or on either side of a doorway.

For dinner I was able to get a 5pm seating at my favorite Stratford farm to table restaurant, Bijou. The food here is ALWAYS good (I became something of a regular last year), and from my perspective it has a massive advantage over the other restaurants in that one of the owners (the woman who works as their mixologist) is also a trained dietitian — I tell her my medical issues and she not only directs me, but goes into the kitchen to discuss it with the chef. If the dish that shows up doesn’t meet those medical requirements, she’ll take issue with it usually before I do.

Tonight I had as my appetizer a dish called: “Textures of cucumber” with smoked trout, goat mousse, puffed rice, and trout roe — where the cucumber was presented four different ways.

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And for my main I had Fishermen’s Stew: octopus, scallops, razor clams, ratatouille, couscous. The cook modified it to make it lower fat, because the clams were initially intended to be fried, but for me they steamed them. Also, there was supposed to be more couscous (not great for my diet), so they reduced the amount of that and added more veggies.

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I ended up having to get a To-go box and forego dessert, I was too full by the end and at least a third of the stew was leftover.

Finally I had theater tickets. Tonight I saw the Shakespeare classic, Twelfth Night, the play that partially inspired the movie “Shakespeare in Love” (which the festival produced last year as a play again, see that posting) a fictional tale about his creation of “Romeo and Juliet” which I have tickets to see tomorrow night.

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Initially I was stunned by just how empty the theater was. I had purchased the tickets at the oh so affordable, $30/pop sale rate, where you don’t get to choose your seats… and in spite of the fact that the place was only 40% or less sold, they put me up in the nose bleeds… but the balcony was sooooo empty that pretty much all of us ultimately moved into the first 3 rows center, irrelevant of where we’d been put.

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Pictures taken JUST before the lights dimmed and the show started

If my mother had been alive she’d have insisted I move downstairs, there was no shortage of empty seats in the most expensive seating areas. Once the show got going I began to understand just WHY the place was so empty… Dayna had warned me earlier in the day that the production was ‘lack luster’ and light on laughs, but I decided she was (per usual) being kind.


It was, at best, ok.  I’ve seen the show done numerous times, and better; and, that would include high school performances of it. The first half was so slow I was almost dozing off but it picked up in the 2nd half, with a rousing finish (but for the one horrible performer). 

A few of the actors turned in really good performances, but … NOT however the girl who played Viola; and that was kind of the whole problem, since her’s is, essentially, the central character to the whole play; not only was she not believable in the part, but she kind of tripped on her lines so that they lost meaning. That said, The guy who played the duke was very good, and the the actor who played the fool was REALLY good (he’s the one in the picture). Everyone else in the cast turned in decent to respectable performances… but … that said…  when your leading actor is turning out a weak performance … well…..