Ensemble Bios

Jackie Maxwell, O.Ont

Artistic Director

Jackie Maxwell, celebrated director and dramaturge, is now in her fourteenth – and final season – as the Shaw Festival’s Artistic Director. In 2016, Ms. Maxwell directs one of Stephen Sondheim’s most celebrated musicals – the darkly comic and deliciously unsettling – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – A Musical Thriller and playwright Annie Baker’s fresh adaptation of Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov’s timeless and deeply human story. Last season, Ms. Maxwell garnered rave reviews from both audiences and critics for her direction of Peter and the Starcatcher and the world premiere of Michel Marc Bouchard’s The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt. Additional directorial work at The Shaw includes Juno and the Paycock, Major Barbara, Enchanted April, Ragtime, Come Back, Little Sheba; Drama at Inish, the world premiere of Maria Severa, An Ideal Husband, Age of Arousal, Brief Encounters – three one-act plays by Nöel Coward; The Entertainer; Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the North American premiere of The Stepmother, The Magic Fire, Arms and The Man, Bus Stop, Gypsy, Rutherford and Son (which later played at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa), Pygmalion, Three Sisters, The Coronation Voyage, Candida, Merrily We Roll Along and Picnic. In 2007, Ms. Maxwell directed an acclaimed production of Saint Joan, which also traveled to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.

Born and educated in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jackie Maxwell studied Drama at the University of Manchester. She acted in both Ireland and England before coming to Canada in 1978. Throughout her long and varied career in Canada, Ms. Maxwell has worked extensively as a freelance director and been instrumental in programme creation at many theatre companies. She first worked in Canada for the National Arts Centre as Assistant, then Associate Director, where she set up and ran both the Apprentice Training and New Play Development Programme. In 1982, she headed to Toronto to become Associate Director at Factory Theatre, where she later became Artistic Director (1986 to 1994). While at Factory, Ms. Maxwell created, developed and produced works by some of Canada’s most respected and vital playwrights such as George Walker, Michel Marc Bouchard, Sharon Pollock, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Michel Garneau. She also held the position of Head of New Play Development at the Charlottetown Festival (1997 to 2000) where she created a new program to foster new main stage Canadian musicals.

Of her many productions in theatres across Canada and the U.S., Ms. Maxwell’s selected credits include The Weir, Dancing at Lughnasa (Canadian Stage Company); Elisa’s Skin, Motel Hélène, The Four Lives of Marie (Tarragon Theatre); The Memory of Water (Tarragon Theatre, remounted by Mirvish Productions); Emily, Johnny Belinda (Charlottetown Festival); The Orphan Muses, Past Perfect (Centaur Theatre); Susannah (Opera Ontario); Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (The Grand Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Young People’s Theatre); Doc (Manitoba Theatre Centre); Stone and Ashes, Still Alive, Girls in the Gang (Dora Award for Best Direction), Moo (Factory Theatre); Zadie’s Shoes (Factory Theatre, remounted by Mirvish Productions); Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol (Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre). Good People (Arena Stage). She won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for her direction of Canadian Stage’s 2014 production of London Road.

Ms. Maxwell has been dramaturge and teacher for such institutions as the Banff Centre for the Arts, York University, George Brown College, Queen’s University and Montreal’s National Theatre School. For eight years, she was a guest artist/lecturer at the Graduate Centre for Study of Drama at the University of Toronto. Ms. Maxwell is the recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Queen’s University for her landmark achievements in Canadian theatre, theatre arts and her promotion of new visions of Canada on the world stage. For her exceptional achievements in Canadian theatre, she has also received the National Theatre School’s prestigious Gascon-Thomas Award (2005), an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from the University of Windsor (2007) and a Herbert Whittaker/Drama Bench Award (2008). On January 20, 2016, she was invested into the Order of Ontario for her “inspired, creative and imaginative leadership” of The Shaw.


Photo of Jackie Maxwell, O.Ont