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…..

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