Stratford Festival Theatre

55 Queen St, Stratford, ON.

Stratford Festival Theatre is one of the principal venues associated with the performing arts in Ontario during the post-war era.  The theatre is associated with its founding director Sir William Tyrone Guthrie, its theatre designer Tanya Moiseiwitsch, and its architect Rounthwaite and Fairfield.  The building is also an excellent example of the economic and urban renewal in Stratford in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fairfield’s design for a permanent home for the seasonal Shakespearean festival replaced a tent structure of his own design, which was the largest tent theatre in the world.  The building echoed the spirit of the tent and was influenced by the exuberant architecture of the Festival of Britain. As Fairfield described: “A building with a roof like a tent, with a roof which would have great strength, gaiety and dramatic emphasis at its centre.”

The theatre is renowned for its thrust stage and auditorium design, which had an international influence.  The building garnered a prestigious gold Massey Medal in 1958.  Shortly thereafter, the Stratford Festival Theatre was selected by a national panel of architects for Canadian Architect magazine’s “11 Best Buildings Since the War.”

KPMB Architects were responsible for a major renewal and expansion project, with Robert Fairfield as a consultant.  The project was completed in 1997.  Today, known as Festival Theatre, the building continues to serve as the main venue of the internationally renowned Stratford Festival, North America’s largest classical repertory theatre.

Image Credits:   Shakespeare Festival Theatre, 1957 (Ervina Boeve, Hekman Digital Archive),  Cut-away isometric drawing, 1957 (Hekman Digital Archive)

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