Special Appeal - Shaw Festival Theatre

Natasha Mumba backstage
A land of wonders wild and new ...

The words “Artisan” and “bespoke” are highly overused these days, but here at the Shaw Festival they ring true.

Each season over 40 professionally trained artists with a variety of specialties and backgrounds come from across Canada to work in the Shaw Festival’s Wardrobe. It is a prestigious opportunity – one that is highly rewarding and attracts some of the country’s finest artists.

Consider how just one ball gown for that show-stopping party scene in A Woman of No Importance took over 100 hours to come to life. It all starts with discussions between the designers and the director; the coordinators and buyers finding the perfect fabric; a team of five to build the garment over several weeks; a bijoux person to create each piece of jewelry; a trained milliner to make the hat or fascinator; a shoe person to tend to the footwear and a dyer to make sure that the dress and gloves are the perfect hue.

When building the costumes for a show every detail is considered. It’s our job to make sure we are helping the Designer and the Director tell the story they are trying to portray. Take A Woman of No Importance for instance. One character arrives late to a party wearing a tea length dress instead of a ball gown like the rest of the women. This was a deliberate choice by designer Michael Gianfrancesco so that she looks out of place. Sometimes the design choices are more subtle: in Alice in Wonderland William Schmuck designed all of the birds so that their costumes have Victorian references in them reflecting them back to Alice’s world. It’s these little details that make the costumes so spectacular.

As the Head of Wardrobe, it’s my job to steer the ship – ensuring that all of the designers, coordinators, assistants, sewers and crafts people are on track and that we all make it to the stage on time and on budget. It’s a complicated puzzle, coordinating the 40 plus people who work in the Wardrobe here, sometimes building as many as 6 shows at once but it is so rewarding. The most satisfying moment for me is when there is a magical costume moment on stage – some great quick change or reveal that makes the audience gasp.

There are so few places that still do what we do; it makes the Shaw Festival invaluable in the fabric of the Arts community in Canada. That is why I believe that maintaining the quality of our work is so important – so that we continue to create those wow moments. At the same time we can act as a training ground for up-and-coming artisans who want to learn what it takes to create costumes for theatre.

With your generous support, the Shaw Festival will continue to mentor and employ these highly specialized and talented artists who create some of the finest garments to appear on stage, making those memorable theatre experiences that stay with audiences long after they have left the theatre.


Sydney Cavanagh
Head of Wardrobe


We accept Visa, Master Card and American Express; and cheques from both Canadian and American donors. Canadian cheques, payable to The Shaw Festival, can be mailed to: Shaw Festival Theatre, P.O. Box 774, Niagara on the Lake, ON, L0S 1J0. US cheques, payable to The Shaw Festival Foundation, can be mailed to P.O. Box 628, Lewiston, NY 14092-9819.

Click here to learn more about gifts of securities, matching gifts, and gift memberships.

The Shaw Festival is recognized as a charitable organization by the Canada Revenue Agency and the IRS in the United States and provides tax receipts for all charitable donations over $10. For further information on any of these opportunities, call Development at 1.800.657.1106 ext 2208.

Donate to The Shaw’s Special Appeal for the Wardrobe Department

1.800.657.1106 ext 2556

Donate online

Mail a cheque


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