STRATFORD -- The Stratford Festival Theatre is offering free streaming of 12 Shakespeare performances over a four month period.

The productions are a part of the festival’s “Stratford Festival On Film” series and this is the first time they will be available for free.

Each of the films were shot during a single live performance in front of a full audience with additional shots performed and gathered immediately after the show.

The service will begin on William Shakespeare’s birthday, Thursday April 23 with a performance of King Lear and shows will continue until July 30, 2020.

“At difficult times such as we’re experiencing now, it can be helpful to re-examine the great works of literature,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolinoin a news release.

According to Cimolino, some are suggesting Shalespeare wrote King Lear in 1606 while under quarantine from the plague.

“In looking at the play, we see that it documents not only the breakdown of an old king and the destruction of two families but also the disruption of an entire country. It seems almost prophetic,” he says.

Twelve films will be available in total. Each will debut with a 7:00 p.m. viewing party and will be available free-of-charge for three weeks afterwards on the Stratford Festival website.

The films have received four Canadian Screen Awards and 16 nominations, including Best Performing Arts Program for King Lear. 

The schedule is as follows:

King Lear: April 23 to May 14

Coriolanus: April 30 to May 21

Macbeth: May 7 to 28

The Tempest: May 14 to June 4

Timon of Athens: May 21 to June 11

Love’s Labour’s Lost: May 28 to June 18

Hamlet: June 4 to 25

King John: June 11 to July 2

Pericles: June 18 to July 9

Antony and Cleopatra: June 25 to July 16

Romeo and Juliet: July 2 to 23

The Taming of the Shrew: July 9 to 30