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Best Theatre By a nose…

Professor Arnie Greenberg

Donna & Colm Fiore

When I heard they were doing Cyrano de Bergerac, I remembered how excited I was years ago when it was first staged.

I had waited all these years but it was certainly worth it. For me, Stratford Ontario has the most successful theatre offerings in North America. This year was equal to their best.

It started over 55 years ago with Alec Guinness when this season’s, headliner, Calm Fiore was not even born yet. But time moves swiftly and this Canadian trained actor gave what I think is one of the best performances I’ve seen. You may have seen him on Broadway or Norh American TV or film. He’s destined to be a household name.

Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac was raised to new heights with Fiore’s performance and his wife Donna’s direction. They pulled out all the stops, allowed certain lines to be spoken in French and added their teen-aged son to appear on stage. A family affair you say? Perhaps, but the supporting cast also rose to great heights. With Amanda Lyman as believable Roxanne and Mike Shari adept as Christian the audience was drawn into what was a three hour production. It was difficult to believe that for these two actors this was their debut season.

But three hours quickly flew by. Professional stage productions can do that when they enter into your imagination. This production did just that.

Calm Fiore is a Canadian-American actor who was born in Boston but educated for the stage at the National Theatre School in Montreal.

Stepping into the lead, he and his supporting cast took Donne Fore’s excellent direction and gave the audience an unforgettable performance. The cheering and standing ovation said it all.

Calm Fiore has been at Stratford before. It was only a matter of time that he would be their company’s featured performer. He was also seen in a modern rendition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth

As for Donna, this was her 17th year with the Festival. She’s a true professional as her talents show. Together thay gave the audience something to cheer about.

Rotund the author of Cyrano.

This play was probably the author’s greatest success. Cyrano, the long-nosed Musketeer is a romantic look at a fierce warrior. Cyrano proves that it takes courage to stand up against, prejudice, cowardice and convention,


But this year’s Festival offerings include offerings for other tastes. Aside from West Side Story ably directed by Gary Griffen, complete with vibrant dances and a rediscovery of the passion of the streets of New York.

Add a modern dress version of Macbeth  as the Thane of Cawdor who dies in anguish, also played by Colm Fiore as well as  Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The Importance of Being Ernest with Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. (Yes, he was up to the task.)

A wonderful production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by the experienced Martha Henry and a whole array of plays like Phedre and the ever popular, A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum with Bruce Dow as Pseudolus

Or a Midsummer Night’s Dream ably directed by David Grindley, all added to another ‘smash’ year.

But the year is hardly over and I take this opportunity to suggest that if you can steal a few days and get up to Stratford Ontario, you’re in for a theatrical experience.

There are four theatres to attract you. The studio Theatre, which offers novices a chance to shine has 260 seats in a small but intimate thrust stage experience. The Tom Patterson, named after the man whose idea the Stratford Festival was, is a 480 seat thrust stage where viewing is great from any seat. The Avon, a converted movie theatre on Downie Street holds almost 1100 people in a comfortably reconditioned venue.

But, to go to Stratford without attending the 1800 seat Festival Theatre is to miss something spectacular. It is located on the slope near the Avon River and one is heralded into this masterpiece of architecture by a drummer and a host of trumpeters. I still get a chill when that sound starts the proceedings.

But there are other reasons to attend the Festival. Stratford itself is a rather gentle town, even with the hundreds of visitors. There are restaurants enough for everyone and they will see to it that the service is hastened if you are due at the theatre at a specific time.

I rarely go to Stratford without eating at The Church Restaurant. The façade and interior still have the look of the original building but inside there are seats on the main floor or in the belfry where you can eat to your heart’s delight. The chefs are truly innovative and the service adds to the winning experience. There are cafes, Italian specialists like Fellini’s or Chinese offerings at Gene’s on Ontario Street. There’s even a selection of fast food stops for those in a hurry.

Shakespeare gardens

Add to the interest by listening to a concert or buying art and unusual crafts at their craft fairs. There are Barbershop Quartets, markets, golf and a store with tartans and other Scottish items or a souvenir shop that has some of the most exotic Inuit pieces I have seen. At one end of town there’s a huge barn which offers antiques from old windows, furniture or even old baseball cards.

Stratford is more than a happening. It’s an event. It is a short car drive from both Detroit and Toronto. It’s a chance to see what the Canadian landscape is like in this traditional farm region. One call to the festival Theater will get you information on hotels, b&b’s or quaint motels. The season runs from Mid April to late October. The box office is only a phone call away. If you are senior, there’s a discount. If you want a tour of the lush gardens or if you want to go back stage, it’s all there for you.

There are hearing devices available and wheel chair arrangements. This is no ordinary theatre offering.

For more information, Call 519 273 1600 or Toll Free at 1 800 567 1600


Their address is: Stratford Shakespeare Festival P.O. Box 520 Stratford, Ontario, N5a 6V2

Sales begin in January for the coming year. Presale on your American express puts you at the FRONT OF THE LINE.

Arnie Greenberg

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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