What might “dinner and a show” have looked like in Shakespeare’s time? It would not yet have included potatoes or tomatoes, coffee or chocolate, white tablecloth or instagrammable dishes. The grounds of the Globe Theatre would have been a mob of activity with food stalls selling pies and ales, meats on a spit and a “ploughman’s lunch.” In celebration of Shakespeare, and to enhance and enrich the theatrical experience, The Stratford Festival Forum has elevated dining and theatre-going by encompassing special performances, panel discussions, interactive workshops and dining that incorporate the themes of the play bill.
The Elizabethan Feast: Re-Boot (June 8 and August 9, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm) explores the Sixteenth Century banquets and delicacies enjoyed by nobility. Led by Brian Cowan, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Early Modern British History, McGill University, Jeffrey Pilcher, Professor, University of Toronto Department of History and David Prosser, Literary and Editorial Director, we are guided through a four-course Elizabethan meal prepared by The Stratford Festival’s renowned culinary team in the Paul D. Fleck Marquee, Festival Theatre.
A fantastical Hero’s Quest Lunch transports families into the world of The Neverending Story. Each child is invited to make their own pizza with a selection of their favourite delicacies for toppings; followed by decorating their own cupcakes for dessert. Meanwhile, puppeteers instruct how to build Atreyu’s horse, Artax, and make him walk and gallop. For those with a fashion sense, you can create your own Auryn, the protective medallion the Empress gives to Atreyu, and then wear it to the performance! Face painting enables the daring to paint their own “fantasy face” and apply temporary tattoos. There are plenty of fun games to challenge your inner hero. (Sunday, July 7; Saturday, July 27; Sunday, August 18.)
“Tafathalo” is an Arabic word meaning “an invitation to dinner.” The Tafathalo—Near Eastern Dinner and Talk (August 25, 5:30 pm) invites us on a culinary journey through the medieval Near-Eastern world. Acclaimed chefs from Diwan, Mark McEwan’s award-winning restaurant at the Aga Khan museum, in partnership with the Stratford Festival’s chefs, prepare an authentic Levantine meal in the Paul D. Fleck Marquee, Festival Theatre, while Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip, curator of the Aga Khan, leads a discussion of the history, art and customs of the time.
“The play’s the thing” wherein a delicious buffet will bring together an artist and an academic for an engaging dialogue over lunch. The Table Talk series that runs on Fridays during the Festival season is a popular way to enjoy probing the themes of the play in the Paul D. Fleck Marquee, Festival Theatre. A cash bar is also on hand. (July 12 – Private Lives; July 19 – Nathan the Wise; July 26 – Henry VIII; August 2 – Birds of a Kind; August 9 – Mother’s Daughter; August 16 – The Merry Wives of Windsor; August 23 – The Front Page Friday; August 30 – The Crucible.)
The Forum turns watching a show into a participatory experience in which the audience can live and breathe the world of the play through dining, interactive workshops and discussions that transcend the proscenium arch to engage our palates as much as our intellectual curiosities.
For more information about The Forum: Special Performances, Speakers, Panels, Meal events and Workshops, go to www.stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/TheForum
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.