For lovers of theatre in Ontario, the Shaw Festival is a highly anticipated event–one that showcases the amazing plays of George Bernard Shaw and other playwrights of his time.
The Shaw Festival’s productions staged in the beautiful city of Niagara-on-the-Lake have enthralled theatre-goers over the years and the company has become North America’s second largest repertory theatre company.
The festival’s origins can be traced to 1962 when lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty decided to stage a theatre festival Salute to Shaw. Doherty was an admirer of Shaw’s works and decided to stage Don Juan in Hell and Candida over the summer weekends in the Assembly Room of the historic Court House in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Shaw Festival Theatre Foundation was formed the next year with a mission of producing the works of Shaw and his contemporaries. Over the next few years, the festival grew in stature and finally on June 20, 1973, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the Festival Theatre where more lavish productions could be staged and this propelled the Shaw Festival into the limelight both in Canada as well as overseas.
Today, the Shaw Festival productions are staged at four theatres in Niagara-on-the-Lake including the Festival Theatre which is the venue for the season openings each year. It is the largest of the venues with 856 seats but it still offers an intimate theatre experience. The Court House Theatre, the Royal George Theatre and the Studio Theatre which is also used as a rehearsal hall are the other venues for the festival. Other than the works of the playwrights of Shaw’s period, the festival has broadened its spectrum to also include plays of contemporary writers whose original works echo Shaw’s unique perspective on people and society. These plays have the ability to evoke interest and stir debate much like Shaw’s works.
The festival has grown by leaps and bounds and is one of Canada’s major cultural highlights drawing thousands of aficionados each year. The four theatres stage 10 productions annually watched by over 250,000 people. With a talented cast and crew, the Shaw Festival is an exciting mix of plays past and present showcasing unique, dynamic, entertaining and thought-provoking works. The 2015 season which extends from April to November also promises to be a spectacular one with varied works including Tony Award-winning musical Sweet Charity, Shaw’s classic favourite Pygmalion and a play on theatre itself called Light up the Sky.
When the lights go off and the curtains come up, a good play draws you into another world – one that is fascinating and exciting. The Shaw Festival offers this precious experience to all theatre-goers and is a reason why it was awarded with TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2014. Catch one of the plays or watch them all–head to Niagara-on-the Lake this season to bond with Shaw.
Witness a production at this years Shaw Festival and stay at the 4-star Marriott Niagara on the Falls, the closest Niagara Falls Hotel to The Brink of the Falls.