BACKSTAGE WITH STRAND

Shakespeare festival's tensest drama: who won't come and why

BARBARA MOON February 28 1959
BACKSTAGE WITH STRAND

Shakespeare festival's tensest drama: who won't come and why

BARBARA MOON February 28 1959

BACKSTAGE WITH STRAND

Shakespeare festival's tensest drama: who won't come and why

SOME OF the most dramatic moments of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival were acted out long before the official announcement that “big name” imports this year will be limited to U. K. actress

Irene Worth and British director Peter Wood. The abrupt and serious illness of Festival Director Michael Langham left plans indefinite until only a month before tickets went on sale, and resulted in eight weeks of talent hunting as frantic as a chase in a bad TV western.

Rex Harrison, the star of My Fair Lady, was approached to play lago in Othello, but due to disagreements over his co-star was later temporarily cast as Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. He agreed to come only if Peter Glenville were hired to direct him. Glenville had a previous commitment, so Harrison declined. Other actors who were approached but said

“no”: Sir John Gielgud (who may come in I960 or '61); Sir Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, Jason Robards Jr., Eileen Herlie and Julie Harris.

“Name” directors who were asked to come, but pleaded other commitments or demanded stars who were not available, included New York's Jose Quintero, London’s Peter Hall and Peter Brook and Tyrone Guthrie, the Festival’s first director. Tanya Moiseiwitsch, the talented designer whose work highlighted many of Stratford’s performances, won't be back either.

This summer’s twelve-week season will feature Othello and As You Like It, despite a shower of requests from Ontario elementary school students asking for Macbeth, because it’s on their curriculum this year. One group of Port Dover, Ont., students even offered to walk to the Festival to see Macbeth.-BARBARA MOON