• Oliver Welles (Stephen Ouimette), the Artistic Director, who has become something of a hack.In addition to the main core of characters, a laundry list of famous Canadian actors either guest-starred or had cameos on the show, including (but not limited to; full imdb list of cast and characters) :
• Richard Smith-Jones (Mark McKinney), the Executive Director, the business side of things;a bean counter
• Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), formerly a star within the New Burbage company. He has something of an antic disposition, and a burning desire to always find the truth and passion in every play he directs.
• Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), Geoffrey's former lover (and Paul Gross' real-life wife since 1988) and the diva of the acting company.
• Anna Conroy (Susan Coyne), the
secretaryAssociate Administrative Director of the festival. She is, somehow, quintessentially Canadian.
• Don McKellar (who collaborated with Bob Martin on The Drowsy Chaperone) as a theatre-hating pseudo post-modern director. He appears in every season.Each season is six episodes long, based on the British miniseries model (the original House of Cards is noted as an influence by the writers) and follows the trials and tribulations of mounting a Shakespearian play:
• Rachel McAdams as an ingénue (she unfortunately had to leave the show after the first episode of the second season, due to her sudden breakout in Hollywood.)
• Luke Kirby as a Hollywood star recruited to play Hamlet (a barely-veiled reference to Keanu Reeves' turn as The Danish Prince at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in 1995; on the DVD extras, Paul Gross--who has played Hamlet himself at Stratford--expressed sincere regret that he hadn't seen Reeves' performance).
• Graham Greene and Veronica Tennant as themselves.
• Aaron Abrams, currently playing Brian Zeller on MeFi's favourite, Hannibal.
• David Alpay, later to be seen starring on such shows as The Tudors, The Borgias, and The Vampire Diaries.
• Oscar-nominated Sarah Polley, a Canadian actor turned director, whose second movie, Take This Waltz, starred several alumni from Slings & Arrows. Her father also stars in the series as one of the festival's veteran--and queer--actors.
• Comedian Seán Cullen (former lead singer of Corky and the Juice Pigs), as a local theatre critic who is perhaps too intimately involved with the festival. He has also performed onstage at Stratford in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum.
• Damien Atkins, a playwright and actor, and yet another S&A alumnus who has spent time on Stratford's stages.
• The late William Hutt, a legendary Canadian actor who has been referred to as a "national treasure", as aging actor Charles Kingman.
The tail end of Midsummer Nights' Dream [PDF], followed by Hamlet, with a B-plot involving Geoffrey teaching a corporate teambuilding class (in which Bob Martin appears on-screen to recite the "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" soliloquy fromSeason 2 (AVClub full recaps):
Mackers The Scottish TragedyMacbeth, dammit), and another B-plot involving Richard's seduction by a power-hungry American corporate type.
Episode titles and summaries: Oliver's Dream - Geoffrey Returns - Madness in Great Ones - Outrageous Fortune - A Mirror Up to Nature - Playing the Swan
Begins with the closing night of Hamlet, and the sudden announcement that the programming of the season has changed, and Tennant will be forced to direct a production of Macbeth [PDF] ("A play that is extraordinarily difficult to stage effectively") starring a major international actor (played by Geraint Wyn Davies) with an ego to match. The B-plots involve a bizarre production of Romeo & Juliet [PDF], and Richard's hiring of an avant-garde advertising agency run by Sanjay Rainer (Colm Feore, yet another Stratfordian) as the director of said agency. The third subplot (it's a complex show) involves workshopping a new Canadian play by fictional playwright Lionel Train, played by Jonathan Crombie (who the observant will notice pops up in a very different role elsewhere in the series, and is yet another actor who has played multiple roles at Stratford, and worked on The Drowsy Chaperone).
Episode titles and summaries: Season's End - Fallow Time - Rarer Monsters - Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair - Steeped in Blood - Birnam Wood
The major production in the third and final season is King Lear starrring Charles Kingman (William Hutt; Susan Coyne had played Regan to his Lear at the Stratford Festival). As an interesting side note, the scenes of Hutt playing Lear are the only known recordings of him playing the role. The B-plot involves Richard finally getting involved in the creative process by producing a new musical called East Hastings, which becomes a runaway success. Despite rumours to the contrary (found in the interview links below), this was the planned final season of the show, and no fourth season will be coming.Each of the three seasons is introduced with a different theme song, a humorous take on that season's flagship production, sung by a gay couple who are veterans of the festival.
Episode titles and summaries: Divided Kingdom - Vex Not His Ghost - That Way Madness Lies - Every Inch a King - All Blessed Secrets - The Promised End
Season 1: Cheer Up Hamlet (lyrics).Almost every episode concludes with the song Call The Understudy playing over the closing credits, a song about being too drunk to perform onstage. Season 2 Episode 1 closes with the haunting and sad All I Have Is Memories (the first few seconds are NSFW; no nudity but TV-sex happens).
Season 2: I Won't Play Mackers (lyrics).
Season 3: Nice To Take A Walk In The Rain (lyrics).
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