Stratford Festival launches $100M campaign for new Tom Patterson Theatre

A rendering of the new Tom Patterson Theatre Centre. Stratford Festival

A campaign to replace the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford is already well on its way towards its $100-million goal.

The Spirit of the Tent launched Monday with a $10-million gift from one of its co-chairs, longtime festival supporter Ophelia Lazaridis, to mark the occasion.

Inspired by what the Stratford Festival has accomplished, Lazaridis says she’s excited by the future of the new theatre centre.

“I am particularly enthusiastic to support the Festival’s efforts to expand the youth audience and applaud the advances in education initiatives that will be made possible at the new Tom Patterson Theatre. That is why I have pledged $10 million to this campaign.”

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Artistic director Antoni Cimolino says the theatre is a treasured creative space but it has become “woefully inadequate for the calibre of performance and experience our patrons have come to expect.”

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The new facility will be designed by acclaimed architect Siamak Hariri of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini, and part of the campaign’s money will be put into a fund to support the long-term viability of the centre and the programs it will house.

“This campaign will allow us to turn it into a facility befitting the founder whose name it bears. Together with our artists, staff and most generous donors, we look forward to rekindling the infectious spirit that Tom Patterson inspired 65 years ago, a spirit that awakened a belief in Canadian creativity and changed the cultural landscape of this country,” said Cimolino.

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Among the campaign’s core founders is Dan Bernstein, who, with his wife Claire Foerster, have agreed to pledge another $10 million. With $20 million promised each from the federal government and the provincial government, and another $10 million in pledges already received, the campaign has reached 70 per cent of its goal.

The Tom Patterson Theatre has been housed in a city-owned facility built originally as a curling rink. It has cramped and uncomfortable seating, poor accessibility, and limited production capabilities, says a news release from the Stratford Festival.

“The new auditorium will expand upon the magical qualities of the existing Tom Patterson Theatre,” said Cimolino. “It will be uniformly intimate. It will have vastly improved acoustics and a much greater sense of comfort for audience members. It will take the strengths of the current theatre and make them bespoke — tailored with the finest materials and craftsmanship.

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It is estimated that the new centre will generate an additional $14 million per year in economic activity, on top of the $134 million already generated annually by the Festival as a whole.

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