Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

December 22, 2006

Shakespeare Festival to Celebrate the Bard Canadian-Style

Shakespeare will take centre stage in Guelph starting Jan. 11 when the University, the City of Guelph, the Stratford Festival, Guelph Arts Council, and the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC) launch the regional “Shakespeare - Made in Canada" festival.

The extravaganza, which will run until May 2007, is in honour of the Sanders portrait - believed by many to be the only image of Shakespeare painted while he was alive - coming to the MSAC for a six-month exhibition.

“We wanted to find a unique way of celebrating the fact that this historically significant portrait was coming to our campus," said Sue Bennett, Guelph's director of University and community relations.

“We came up with the idea of making it the focal point of a community festival devoted to the works of Shakespeare, with the goal of increasing awareness of our regional cultural excellence. The concept received immediate and enthusiastic support from numerous community agencies, all of whom have teamed up to provide this special program of events."

The five-month-long festival will include an elaborate exhibit at MSAC, theatrical and musical performances, a speakers' series and children's educational programs. Sleeman's Brewery is making a special beer just for the festival, which will be sold locally until May. Proceeds from the sale of the beer will be donated to the festival.

“Shakespeare - Made in Canada" will be formally launched Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at a free public event at the art centre. The evening will feature tours, performances and remarks by honorary patron William Hutt, chancellor Lincoln Alexander, and president Alastair Summerlee. MSAC will also host a lecture by portrait owner Lloyd Sullivan Jan. 12 and a special day for families Jan. 13.

MSAC is devoting 80 per cent of its show space to the Shakespeare exhibit, the largest show the centre has ever mounted, said director Judith Nasby. The theatrical, visual arts and multimedia display will remain at the art centre for an unprecedented six months, closing June 10. Many of the art and cultural materials have been borrowed from more than 100 individual and corporate collections.

The dramatic exhibits range from theatrical set designs and the 17th-century fascination with mathematics to native Canadian adaptations of Shakespeare and the francophone relationship with his plays. Changes in portraiture from Shakespeare's time to the present will be showcased, and the Donald Forster Sculpture Park will offer a unique audio installation that focuses on the continuing influence of the Bard's words.

Other displays draw on the Stratford Festival's archives and the U of G Library's Canadian theatre archives. In addition, elementary and high school students will learn about the science behind authenticating portraits.

The centrepiece of the MSAC exhibit is the Sanders portrait, which is thought to depict the Bard at age 39 and has been in Sullivan's family for 400 years. At one time, it was stored under his grandmother's bed. Sullivan inherited it from his mother in 1972.

It's believed that Shakespeare sat for an ancestor of Sullivan's, an unknown actor and painter called John Sanders, in 1603. The portrait has been confirmed by years of forensic studies to date from around 1600, and it has not been altered since.

The Sanders portrait was the subject of the 2001 book Shakespeare's Face and is used by the Stratford Festival of Canada. It's also the signature image of U of G's Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), which has the largest and most complete website in the world dedicated to showing the playwright's cultural influence on Canada.

CASP is headed by English professor Daniel Fischlin, who is responsible for bringing the portrait to Guelph. He contacted Sullivan to obtain the rights to use the image of the controversial Sanders portrait, and the two became friends.

The portrait was also part of “Searching for Shakespeare," an international exhibit by the National Portrait Gallery in London that toured North America this year. It joined the gallery's famous Chandos painting and four other early “contender" portraits purporting to represent Shakespeare. It marked the first time the portraits had been displayed together.

Highlights of “Shakespeare - Made in Canada" festival events in January and February include:

Jan. 16 to April 1: “A Guelph Child's Perspective on Shakespeare," Guelph Children's Museum.
Jan. 14: “Shakespeare and Music," the Gallery Chamber Players, Wellington County Museum and Archives.
Jan. 27: “Willy at the Wooly" featuring the Great Wooden Trio, Woolwich Arms.
Jan. 28 and Feb. 11: film festival, McLaughlin Library.
Jan. 31 to Feb. 3: All My Sins Remembered, Fergus Grand Theatre.
Feb. 3, “Eat, Drink and Be Merry," a culinary feast at the River Run Centre.
Feb. 9: “Much Ado About Lettering," Royal City Calligraphy Guild, Guelph Civic Museum. Feb. 9 to April 29: “As You Like It: A History of Shakespearean Performances in Guelph," Guelph Civic Museum.
Feb. 16, Bell, Book and Candle, River Run Centre.
Feb. 18, Shakespeare concert, Guelph Symphony Orchestra, River Run Centre.

A full listing of events is available online.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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