Celebrating Pride at the Stratford Festival

Provided by the Stratford Festival

A world première, new work by Brad Fraser and a week of events and performances dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ interests and topics

2SLGBTQ+ stories take centre stage at the Stratford Festival for Pride Month and throughout the 2023 season. The month begins with the world première of Casey and Diana by Nick Green and directed by Andrew Kushnir, as well as the openings of Rent, directed by Thom Allison, and Richard II, adapted by Brad Fraser, and conceived and directed by Jillian KeileyThe Meighen Forum will mark the month with the Festival’s inaugural Pride Week, June 5 through 11, featuring a series of performances, speakers and events that explore 2SLGBTQ+ topics, history and experiences.

Casey and Diana, a Stratford Festival commission, will take audiences inside the walls of Toronto AIDS hospice, Casey House, while residents and staff prepare for the historic visit of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1991, and become inspired to beat the odds as a plague continues to ravage a generation. This potent and moving drama vividly captures a moment in time when a rebel Princess, alongside less famous caregivers and advocates, reshaped the course of a pandemic – and how those stricken by the virus found hard-won dignity, community and love in the face of astonishing hardship. Casey and Diana has its official opening on June 1 and runs until June 17 in the Studio Theatre.

An all-new production of Rent offers timely fresh eyes on the beloved cohort of young East Village artists, performers and philosophers as they defiantly navigate poverty, societal discord and the AIDS crisis in the search for life, love and art. With a song list that includes the iconic “Seasons of Love,” Rent tells a story as relevant today as when it took Broadway by storm more than 25 years ago. Rent has its official opening on June 3 and runs until October 28 in the Festival Theatre.

In a revolutionary adaptation by Brad FraserRichard II is the story of a king who believes that God gives him the right to live above the rules and who ultimately suffers the consequences. The production takes inspiration from the glamour, grit and glitter of New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, a time of hard-fought freedom for the LGBT communities shadowed by the looming strain of conservatism and fear. Richard II has its official opening on June 17 and runs until September 28 in the Tom Patterson Theatre.

Pride Week at The Meighen ForumJune 5 to 11

The Stratford Festival’s Meighen Forum will mark its opening for the season with Pride Week, which includes a series of events programmed around 2SLGBTQ+ topics, history and stories. Artists, scholars and speaking guests will share their expertise and experiences as we reflect on this season’s productions of Casey and DianaRent and Richard II. Experts from Casey House, a Toronto-based specialty hospital providing care for those living with and at risk of HIV, as well as scholars of Queer history in Canada and prominent 2SLGBTQ+ advocates are some of the voices and perspectives coming to the Meighen Forum. Award-winning author and 2SLGBTQ+ advocate Suzette Mayr will join comedian and host Ali Hassan on stage for an exclusive interview.

Pride Week will also include a very special limited-run performance of The Real Poems, by Robert McQueen, a reflection on his experiences during the AIDS pandemic of the ’80s and ’90s, written during the 2020 lockdown.

Another limited-run performance has been specially programmed for Pride: Agit-Pop!, starring superstar drag comedienne Pearle Harbour, returning by popular demand for performances June 15 to 17.

Pride Week will feature the first of the Meighen Forum Dinner Series. Hosted by Pearle Harbour, Serving Pride: A Dinner and Celebration features a menu co-curated by Great Canadian Baking Show Finalist Colin Asuncion and the Stratford Festival’s Head Chef, Kendrick Prins and performance by fabulous vocal supergroup A.R.T.

Pride Week 2023 events include:

HIV Today
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Thursday, June 8
10:30 a.m. – noon
Canadians have come a long way in our understanding of both the medical and social aspects of HIV, and there is still work to be done. Join Yasser Ismail, Director of Data Strategy and Knowledge at Casey House, Dr. Gord Arbess Clinical Director, HIV Program at the St. Michael’s Hospital Family Health Team and on staff at Casey House, and Doris Peltier, a leader in HIV and Indigenous Health research and advocacy to see how HIV care and attitudes in Canada have evolved.

Caregivers and Advocates
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Friday, June 9
10:30 a.m. – noon
Join Andrew Kushnir (director of Casey and Diana) along with Refugee lawyer, Human dignity and Spiritual Liberation Activist, founder of Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, and cofounder and imam: el-Tawhid Juma Circle: The Unity Mosque El-Farouk Khaki as well as physician, researcher, educator, and advocate for improving treatment and care for people living with HIV Gregory Robinson for a conversation dedicated to the compassionate and devoted caregivers and the tireless work of advocates who have rallied around HIV-positive people, historically and today.

Funny Forum Friday: Tranna Wintour
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Friday, June 9
9 – 10:30 p.m.
Celebrate Pride Month with Tranna Wintour, Quebec’s most buzzed-about comedy export, who has taken the stand-up world by storm with her fresh and funny pop culture obsessions.
Tranna Wintour is a bilingual comedian, singer, writer, and producer—she’s basically Barbra Streisand minus the fame, fortune, and cloned dogs. She was one of Just For Laughs’ New Faces Canada (2019) and was named by Fashion magazine as one of the queens of Canadian comedy. Tranna also performs in French and did her first Juste Pour Rire gala in 2021, which led her to Québec’s Big Brother Célébrités. Tranna was hailed as the show’s breakthrough star by the Journal Métro, which proclaimed her groundbreaking run to the top 4 as the best moment on Québec TV in years. In addition to her work as a performer, Tranna co-hosts and co-produces CBC Podcasts’ Chosen Family with her creative partner/comedy soulmate, Thomas Leblanc. Chosen Family reached the top 10 of iTunes Canada’s top comedy podcasts and was named one of Apple’s Best Podcasts for two consecutive years. Her debut album, a mix of original songs and covers, Safe From Your Affection, is available on all streaming platforms.
Opener: Tamara Shevon
Tamara Shevon is a Toronto-based comic who started her comedic story-telling through wine-coloured glasses in Beijing, China. Since then, she has been blazing through the Toronto scene with her characteristic wit and her lovable ability to flirt with the boundaries of socially acceptable. Tamara currently has her debut album Purse Wine and sophomore album, Table Wine, available on bandcamp.com and all other streaming platforms.

Queer History in Canada
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Saturday, June 10
10:30 a.m. – noon
Scholars and experts join host Thom Allison (director of Rent) in a conversation about Canada’s 2SLGBTQ+ history, focusing on post-WW2 through to the present. Guests include Rev. Brent Hawkes, founder of Rainbow Faith and Freedom (an organization working to confront and decrease religious-based 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination worldwide), Raegan Swanson, Executive Director of the ArQuives (the preeminent archivists for 2SLGBTQ+ histories and resources in Canada) and Professo Patrizia Gentile from the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University. 

Serving Pride: A Dinner and Celebration
Festival Marquee
Saturday, June 10
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Celebrate Pride Week and amazing food with a menu co-curated by Great Canadian Baking Show Finalist Colin Asuncion and the Stratford Festival’s Head Chef, Kendrick Prins. Wash it down with fabulous entertainment from the vocal supergroup A.R.T. and hosted by award-winning Drag Star Pearle Harbour

In Conversation with Suzette Mayr
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
Sunday, June 11
10:30 a.m. – noon
Winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel, The Sleeping Car Porter, author and 2SLGBTQ+ advocate Suzette Mayr joins the Meighen Forum for a conversation with Canada’s favourite host and comedian, Ali Hassan to discuss the story behind her writing and thoughts on the issues affecting her community.

The Real Poems by Robert McQueen
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
June 8 – June 10
Various times
From inside the lockdowns of 2020, Robert McQueen sat at his kitchen table and wrote about his experiences as a young queer man, living between Vancouver and New York during the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 90s. The Real Poems is at once spoken witness to the joy of youth and a memorial to the lives of colleagues, lovers and friends lost. An audience Q&A will follow the final performance.

Agit-Pop! Starring Pearle Harbour
Lazaridis Hall, Tom Patterson Theatre
June 15 – June 17
Various times
She’s baaack! Superstar drag comedienne Pearle Harbour returns with her doomsday cabaret Agit-Pop! Think Judy Garland at Carnegie (on acid) – laughs, tears, a whole lotta makeup, and the pop hits of David Bowie, Britney Spears, Roy Orbison and more, as you’ve never heard them before.

Pride Week is the first of six themed weeks introduced for the 2023 season of the Stratford Festival’s Meighen Forum, each featuring curated performances, celebrated speakers, culinary experiences and timely discussions with artists and experts:

  • Pride Week – June 5 to June 11
  • 2023 Season Deep Dive – July 3 to July 9
  • CBC Ideas Week: The Shock of the New – July 17 to July 23
  • Global Theatre Week – August 7 to August 13
  • Readers and Writers Week – August 21 to August 27
  • Scholars and Experts Week – September 11 to September 17


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