Fans of William Shakespeare will mark an important milestone this year.

The Bard’s 450th birthday will be celebrated around the world including right here in Stratford.

The Shakespeare Theatre Association will gather at the Stratford Festival for its annual conference.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Speak the Speech: The Power of Words.”

It will run from January 22nd to the 25th and will be attended by 120 delegates.

The focus will be on what Shakespeare’s words mean to us today, how they can best be brought alive for new generations, and how their enduring power still shapes and enriches our lives.

Sessions will explore various topics, including:

·         Cross-gender and non-traditional casting.

·         Stage to Screen.

·         Shakespeare’s use of rhyme and prose at different periods of his career.

·         How the Affordable Care Act will affect the way in which U.S. theatres create art.

·         Shakespeare and accessibility.

·         Balancing creativity with restrictions such as time, union regulations and resources.

·         Original Practices.

·         Festival-University partnerships.

·         Romancing the Board.

·         Education and social media.

The conference will also feature a session with members of the cast and creative team of Slings and Arrows.

In the three days immediately preceding the conference, the Festival will host an education practicum.

This component gives education staff from STA member theatres an opportunity to train intensively with their colleagues from around the world.

It will feature sessions on such topics as:

·         The journey from engagement to comprehension to empowerment.

·         Shakespeare in the classroom.

·         Physical theatre.

·         Hip Hop Shakespeare.

·         Voice.

·         Clowning.

·         Original Practices.

·         Directing Shakespeare.

Since its founding in 1991, the Shakespeare Theatre Association has held its annual conference at member theatres across North America, as well as in the U.K.

It was last held in Canada in 2005.

The Stratford Festival hosted the event once before, in 1996.