Shaw Festival

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Shaw Festival
ShawFestiva logo.gif
Festival Logo
LocationNiagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Founded byBrian Doherty & Calvin Rand
Directed byTim Carroll, Tim Jennings
Type of play(s)plays by or in the spirit of George Bernard Shaw
Festival dateApril–December each year

The Shaw Festival is a major not-for-profit theatre festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is the second largest repertory theatre company in North America. Founded in 1962, its original mandate was to stimulate interest in George Bernard Shaw and his period, and to advance the development of theatre arts in Canada.



The Festival's roots can be traced to 1962 when Ontario lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty, supported by Buffalo businessman Calvin Rand, staged a summertime "Salute to Shaw" in the town's courthouse, a venue later known as the Court House Theatre. For eight weekends, Doherty and his crew produced Shaw's Don Juan in Hell and Candida. The "Salute", with its mandate to promote the works of Shaw and his contemporaries, was an immediate success.

With the addition of actor and director Barry Morse as Artistic Director in 1966, the Festival gained huge international publicity and its productions garnered sold-out performances. Morse also joined the company as actor during this season. Paxton Whitehead took over management of the company with the 1967 season and under his leadership the Festival gained new heights. He served for twelve seasons as Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival; during his tenure, he was able to push through a plan of building the purpose-built 869-seat state-of-the-art Festival Theatre to expand considerably the capacity for audiences at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Queen Elizabeth II, Indira Gandhi, and Pierre Elliot Trudeau were among those who attended performances at the Shaw Festival Theatre during its inaugural season in 1973. Tony Van Bridge was interim artistic director for the 1974–75 season.

In 1980, Christopher Newton joined the company as Artistic Director and continued to foster its development with the addition of a third theatre, the Royal George. Outstanding directors such as Derek Goldby, Denise Coffey, and Neil Munro (who became Resident Director in the early 1990s) were hired, and the acting ensemble was carefully developed until it was widely recognized to be one of the best in the world.

Under Christopher Newton, the Festival's mandate became more narrowly defined: to produce plays written during the lifetime of Shaw (1856–1950), "plays about the beginning of the modern world," as Newton was quoted. In Newton's last years as Artistic Director, the mandate was widened to also include contemporary plays which are set within Shaw's lifetime (1856—1950). His successor, Jackie Maxwell, was appointed in 2003 and expanded the mandate further to include works by "contemporary Shavians" such as Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill. She produced many plays written and directed by women.

In the summer of 2015, it was announced that Tim Carroll would take over as artistic director and Tim Jennings as executive director. They announced Carroll’s inaugural 2017 season in August 2016. Under its current mandate, the Shaw Festival celebrates the life and spirit of Bernard Shaw by creating theatre that is as entertaining and provocative as Shaw himself. [1]

Artistic Directors


Dates listed are when the theatre's association with the Shaw Festival began; The Court House and Royal George theatres predate the festival. [2]

Former venue: Court House Theatre (1962–2017, 327 seats) [3]


2020 season

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced on August 26, 2020, that the entirety of the 2020 season was cancelled, with the possible exception of A Christmas Carol, which may still be performed depending on government guidelines. [4] Previously, on July 22, 2020, it was said there was the possibility that some performances of Charley's Aunt and Flush might begin in September. [5]

2021 season

For the 2021 season, the Shaw Festival hopes to present many of the anticipated productions that were originally scheduled for 2020. [7]

Gypsy , originally planned for the 2020 season, and then intended to be staged in 2021, has now been postponed until the 2023 season. [8]

The productions that were originally scheduled, and subsequently cancelled, for 2020 and not planned for 2021 are: Mahabharata , Prince Caspian , Assassins , The Playboy of the Western World , and Me and My Girl .

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  1. "The Shaw Festival renames theatre in honour of former Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell – Media Releases from Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada".
  2. "Theatres - Shaw Festival Theatre".
  3. "Shaw Festival Announces 2018 Season – Media Releases from Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada".
  4. "Shaw Festival cancels Fall performances" . Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  5. "Shaw Festival Announces Further Cancellations" . Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  6. "Announcing The Shaw's 2020 Season". Shaw Festival. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  7. "The Shaw's 2021 Season". The Shaw Festival. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  8. "Shaw Festival 2021 Season" . Retrieved 24 February 2021.