The Shaw Story

WHO WE ARE – THE EVOLUTION OF A MANDATE

As the Festival embarks on the first season of its next half century, Shaw’s compelling quest for the truth will stalwartly remain at the heart of the Shaw Festival; while the Festival will continue to move forward – embracing new writers, revealing new worlds, exploring new approaches to classic plays. The Shaw Festival will showcase the best in Contemporary Theatrical Thought — past, present and future, while still celebrating what Shaw and the Festival so passionately believe in — provocative, challenging stories told with humanity and wit.

At its inception, the Shaw Festival specialized exclusively in plays by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries and is renowned internationally for both single-handedly revitalizing and re-energizing the works of Bernard Shaw (as he preferred to be addressed) and for tackling the vast array of theatre pieces in the mandate period — presenting them anew to appreciative theatre audiences. In 2000, The Shaw’s mandate was expanded to include contemporary plays written about the period of Bernard Shaw’s life, 1856-1950. The mandate was expanded once again in 2009 to include the work of contemporary Shavians – writers whose work, like Shaw’s, continue to question the status quo and rail at the powers-that-be in new and different ways. Today, the Shaw Festival is a theatre company inspired by the work of Bernard Shaw; producing plays from and about his era and contemporary plays that share Shaw’s provocative exploration of society and celebration of humanity.

WHO WE ARE – OUR MISSION

In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival produces theatre that delights, provokes the mind and stirs the soul through an experience so compelling that artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and beyond.

BERNARD SHAW

As Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell says, “We all know the man can talk, but Bernard Shaw is also one of the most prescient, provocative, sparklingly articulate writers in the English language. His words and ideas, expressed in plays that are well-known, such as this season’s Major Barbara, or in plays that are not so familiar but no less interesting, have extraordinary relevance today. It is a joy to draw attention to those ideas and bring them to life on our stages.” The Festival’s approach to present classic plays in new ways, as it did in 2011 with Michael Healey’s rejuvenated version of Shaw’s On the Rocks and in 2013 with Peace in our Time: A Comedy, an adaptation of Shaw’s Geneva by John Murrell. This approach also extends to the staging of Shaw works in the Court House and Royal George Theatres where the intimate spaces serve as a catalyst for new and innovative ways of staging Shaw’s works.

REDISCOVERED GEMS

One of the many pleasures of The Shaw’s mandate period is digging up buried theatrical treasures which were considered major works when they were written, but which have since been unjustly neglected. Remarkable playwrights such as Lennonx Robinson, St. John Hankin, Harley Granville Barker and Terence Rattigan have been rediscovered by the Shaw Festival. With the focus shifting to lost plays by women writers, Cecily Hamilton, Lady Gregory, Susan Glaspell and Githa Sowerby can now be add to the list.

AMERICAN CLASSICS

A full range of American classics – comedies as well as dramas – is embraced at The Shaw. Recent seasons have produced critically acclaimed productions of The Autumn Garden, Bus Stop, You Can’t Take It With You, All My Sons, Picnic, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Detective Story, Ah Wilderness and The Crucible. The richly diverse choices continued in 2007 with The Shaw’s first production of a Tennessee Williams play, Summer and Smoke, and in 2008 with a production of Lillian Hellman’s timeless drama The Little Foxes. In 2009, Garson Kanin’s classic comedy Born Yesterday played to standing ovations throughout the season and was joined by fellow American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, A Moon for the Misbegotten. The following year, Mary Chase’s delightful Harvey was a critical and box office success and, due to demand and to the delight of audiences, had its run extended. The same season also featured fellow American playwright Clare Boothe Luce’s comedy The Women. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the second Tennessee Williams production to be seen at The Shaw, was presented in 2011 as part of the Festival’s 50th season. In 2012, Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell directed the critically acclaimed production of Come Back, Little Sheba, the play that launched William Inge’s career in New York. That same season, The Shaw Festival also premiered the screwball comedy His Girl Friday by John Guare, the blending 1940 film His Girl Friday and the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. This season, The Shaw presents Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story.

MUSICALS

The Shaw takes a unique approach to musicals; just as the reach of musical theatre is vast and manifold, so is the approach to being able to present Brecht and Weill, Rodgers and Hart, and everything in between – and being able to choose the right theatre for each production. Rarely-performed musical gems from the period of the mandate, such as Happy End, are rediscovered and returned to the stage. The 2004 production of Adam Guettel’s critically acclaimed and audience favored Floyd Collins demonstrated an additional vision for musicals — a contemporary musical based on a true story from the mandate period.

The range of musicals revived over the years includes Gypsy (the first musical on the Festival stage), High Society, She Loves Me, Merrily We Roll Along, On the Twentieth Century, Pal Joey and Mack and Mabel. In 2007, Tristan, by music director Paul Sportelli and Ensemble member Jay Turvey was the first new musical developed and produced at The Shaw. In 2008, two Stephen Sondheim favourites, A Little Night Music and a concert production of Follies, were featured along with Wonderful Town. In 2009, the Sondheim exploration continued with Sunday in the Park with George and the later work of Kurt Weill in America and his collaboration with Ogden Nash and S.J. Perlman in One Touch of Venus was seen the following season.

For its 50th season, The Shaw presented a fresh and innovative production of the long awaited musical My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, as well as the world premiere of Maria Severa, the second Shaw developed and produced musical by music director Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey.

In 2012, music returned to the Lunchtime with Trouble in Tahiti, Leonard Bernstein’s satirical one act opera about existence in the American suburban dream. That same season, the Shaw Festival’s production of Ragtime was not only received well critically, but became an audience favourite and the must-see production of the season. The re-envisioning of musicals continued last season with the influential American play Guys and Dolls. In 2014, the celebrated musical Cabaret will receive The Shaw treatment. The Tony Award-winning musical, with its combination of a strong significant book and brilliant score, is a perfect fit for the Shaw Festival.

CLASSICS FROM THE PERIOD

Early Victorian dramas such as The Silver King and vast pieces like Cavalcade require large casts, complex designs and specialized historical knowledge. They are rarely attempted by other professional companies, but at The Shaw the opportunity to explore these works with a modern audience is savored. In 2009, The Shaw made repertory theatrical history when it presented Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8:30. A world premiere, this marked the first time all ten plays were presented together in one season by a professional repertory theatre company. In celebration of this unique event, The Shaw presented all ten Cowards during three, full-day marathons aptly titled Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

European classics such as The House of Bernarda Alba (2002) from Spain, S.S.Tenacity (1999) from France, The Plough and the Stars (2003) from Ireland, along with Three Sisters (2003) and The Cherry Orchard (1980) from Russia, Hedda Gabler (1991, 2006, 2012) from Norway have also been presented at The Shaw. In 2010, J.M. Barrie’s playlet Half an Hour and Oscar Wilde’s witty An Ideal Husband, have been on the same playbill with a Russian classic that was given an Irish twist — the Jason Bryne directed, Tom Murphy version of The Cherry Orchard.

CONTEMPORARY EXPLORATIONS OF THE MANDATE

Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell’s approach to the mandate period is “to look at the mandate from the outside as well as the inside – to provide creative friction by juxtaposing the old and the new – and with Canadian work, to let us hear and promote our own stories and our own points of view. I want the Shaw Festival to be the place where classic Canadian and contemporary plays can be given a uniquely detailed, thoughtful and vivid new life.” This was the case with the acclaimed productions of Michel Marc Bouchard’s The Coronation Voyage (2003) and Lillian Groag’s The Magic Fire (2006). In 2009, the juxtaposition was taken even further by presenting John Osborne’s The Entertainer in a new space, the Studio Theatre, and Michel Tremblay’s Albertine in Five Times in the Court House Theatre. In 2010, The Shaw’s look at contemporary Shavians continued with the presentations of Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money and Linda Griffiths’ Age of Arousal. The contemporary exploration of the mandate continued into The Shaw’s 50th season with the Canadian premieres of two plays by a new generation of provocative playwrights: the award-winning Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks and When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. In 2013, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and Arcadia, a work by the ultimate contemporary Shavian Tom Stoppard continued the examination. This season, the exploration of the mandate continues with The Sea by Edward Bond, one of the most uncompromising, radical writers of the late twentieth century; and Katori Hall’s moving and wondrous The Mountaintop.

GRAND DESIGN

Every production that graces the Shaw Festival stages is built “from scratch,” from an original design. Although The Shaw sometimes revisits plays in its canon, the design is always created for that director and those actors in the new production. Each element is painstakingly researched, designed and created to enhance that particular production. Design Director William Schmuck and Lighting Design Director Kevin Lamotte lead teams who collaborate with each production’s director to create set, costume and lighting designs that complement the play’s text. Meticulous historical research is combined with creative instincts and an understanding of the play. The Shaw’s designs and production values are celebrated as some of the best in the English-speaking world.

MUSIC AT THE SHAW

Music played an important role in Bernard Shaw’s life — in fact, he wrote music criticism for several years under the pseudonym Corno di Bassetto. Music Director Paul Sportelli creates new orchestrations for virtually all of The Shaw’s musical productions and, if required, composes original scores for dramatic presentations. The Shaw also commissions scores from other contemporary composers such as Ryan deSouza, John Gzowski, Allen Cole, the late Marc Desormeaux, Reza Jacobs, Leslie Barber, Alessandro Juliani and Marek Norman. On selected Sundays, free coffee concerts are offered by the Music Department in the lobby of the Festival Theatre.

THE ACTING ENSEMBLE

The Shaw Festival’s permanent acting company is unique in the English-speaking world. Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell believes the actors are “the ones who ultimately carry on stage what I see to be the true spirit of the Shaw Festival. At The Shaw we draw from the vast wealth of the best plays from 1856 to today. Led by our unequalled theatre artists, we explore each world with a passion and vitality that renders the stories anew, the pain and joy of each character vividly played out with a balletic combination of speed, energy, reflection and detail, using heart, viscera and brain.”

THE SLAIGHT FAMILY ACADEMY

The Slaight Family Academy is the professional training, play development and publishing wing of the company. It began in 1985 as an informal skills exchange among company members, and still retains that important function. The Academy also sponsors workshop productions and the annual Directors Project

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

In 2010, The Mandate Intensive, a new training initiative, was added to The Shaw’s training agenda. Made possible by the Slaight Family Foundation, this program was designed to provide an immersion for young members of the company – both new and returning – into the cultural and historical context of the mandate as well as the specific text challenges of performing these plays.

Throughout the season, The Academy engages coaches in Alexander Technique, voice and dialect as well as salaried apprentices in acting, directing, design and stage management. Short courses are offered on a variety of topics, including the popular “Manners of the Mandate”, and movement training to maintain actors’ strength and flexibility throughout the long Shaw season. The annual Directors Project is of particular interest to the company. It features Ensemble members in two one-act plays – directed by our Intern Directors and designed by Assistant Designers – presented to company members and to an invited audience of theatre professionals.

PLAY DEVELOPMENT

The goals of the Shaw Festival’s Play Development Program are to develop and produce new plays that can sit alongside those of Shaw, Chekhov and Coward, as well as develop new adaptations and translations that will tell classic stories in a contemporary way. Throughout the season, established and developing playwrights are in residence at The Shaw, and the Acting Ensemble often participate in in-house workshops of new plays.

Some plays developed and produced at The Shaw include Susan Coyne’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, produced at the Festival Theatre in 2003; Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral was workshopped by Acting Ensemble members, at the same time she was completing final drafts of the play, and was presented as part of the 2005 and 2008 seasons; Morris Panych’s Hotel Peccadillo, an adaptation of the Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallières farce L’Hôtel du Libre-Échange, and the Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey musical Tristan were both presented in 2007; Ferenc Molnár’s The President, adapted by Morwyn Brebner, appeared to sold-out audiences in 2008 and made its second Shaw Festival appearance in 2011; and a new translation by Linda Gaboriau of Michel Tremblay’s Albertine in Five Times was workshopped and produced in 2009.Last season for The Shaw’s 50th season, two new works were presented: Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey’s new musical, Maria Severa, which has been in development for the past four years; along with Michael Healey’s new adaptation of Shaw’s On the Rocks. Projects currently in development include an adaptation by shortlisted Siminovitch Prize nominee Robert Chafe of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. The Shaw is also working with playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and Governor General’s Literary Award nominees Brendan Gall, on his adaptation of La Jalousie by Sacha Guitry, and Erin Shields, on her adaptation of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. John Murrell’s re-conceptualization of Shaw’s Geneva, now known as Peace in Our Times: A Comedy, had its world premiere at the Festival in 2013.

EDUCATION

We believe the more you know about theatre, the more you will enjoy it. We encourage students to attend the theatre through discounted student tickets and complimentary study guides, backstage tours and chats. For the public, The Shaw provides free enrichment programs, such as pre-show chats at the Festival Theatre, Tuesday Q&A in all three theatres, Saturday Conversations, and Sunday Coffee Concerts. Seminars and workshops are also available.

SHAW FESTIVAL PUBLISHING

The Shaw’s house programmes are among the best in the world. Since 1995, The Shaw’s publishing initiative has produced scripts, theatrical memoirs and a commemorative book of the Shaw Festival’s Granville Barker series. In 2003, a Susan Coyne commissioned translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters was published by the Shaw Festival. Two years later, in 2005, The Shaw published Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral: A Natural History. The Shaw published the script of Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother and an updated Production Record in 2008. For the 50th season, a commemorative book celebrating the Festival’s rich 50-year history was published. Written by Shaw scholar Leonard Conolly and designed by Scott McKowen, art director of The Shaw’s house programmes, Shaw Festival – The First 50 Years chronicled the story of the Shaw Festival from its beginning to the present day. In the same year, The Relevance of Shaw’s Plays to Our Times, the keynote speech given by U.K. theatre critic Michael Billington during the two-day Speed of Ideas: A Theatrical Forum, was published in booklet form by The Shaw.

BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)

Bernard Shaw (he detested the name George) was born in Dublin where he grew up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty. He attended four schools and was tutored by a clerical uncle, but left his formal education at the age of 15. He developed a wide knowledge of music, art and literature under the influence of his mother, a singer and vocal music teacher, and as a result of his frequent visits to the National Gallery of Ireland. In 1876 he moved to London, where he spent his afternoons in the British Museum and his evenings pursuing his informal education in the form of lectures and debates. He declared himself a Socialist in 1882 and joined the Fabian Society in 1884. Soon he distinguished himself as a fluent and effective public speaker, and an incisive and irreverent critic of music, art and drama; his criticisms showed the sharp edge that would become characteristic of his dramatic writing. Now, more than five decades after his death, Shaw’s fame continues to grow. He entertains and stimulates the 21st-century audience no less profoundly than he teased and delighted those a century ago. The themes Shaw articulated through more than fifty plays and many thousands of pages of critical writings are as fresh today as when he wrote them. Shaw’s plays succeed on two levels: first, they are delightfully witty, sophisticated entertainments; and second, they are penetrating examinations of ideas or themes.

MEET THE COMPANY

Above all, the Shaw Festival believes in the importance of art – that imaginative expression of ideas which reveals the subtlety and greatness of life. This theatre company believes that our particular ideas, our plays by Shaw, his contemporaries and the culture of 1856-1950, can best be revealed by a permanent company of actors who are knowledgeable, generous and talented. There is ensemble acting here of a kind you can rarely see anywhere in the English-speaking world. Our actors all contribute to this sense of ensemble, much like the players in an orchestra. Often, smaller parts are played by actors who are leading performers in their own right, but in our “orchestra”, they don’t command attention – instead they support the central action. Knowing that they are not the focus of the piece, they help create a density of experience that is both subtle and informative. This celebrated Acting Ensemble is surrounded by the best directors, designers and writers from across Canada.

OUR THEATRES

Festival Theatre
The Festival Theatre stage is where you can see major works from the Shaw Festival’s mandate.

The Festival Theatre officially opened in June 1973. During the inaugural week, visiting dignitaries included Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, India’s Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. The proscenium-arch theatre seats 856 and is equipped with advanced technical facilities, making it an ideal venue for large-scale productions. Designed by Peter Smith and the late Ron Thom, the Festival Theatre is constructed of rose-coloured bricks and natural woods specifically chosen to harmonize with the historic setting of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Renovations to the Festival Theatre’s front-of-house include a new retail shop and improved café. Construction of a new 36,000-square-foot building, The Donald and Elaine Triggs Production Centre, was completed in 2004. It includes three new rehearsal halls – one large hall adaptable for education programs and workshop performances, and two smaller spaces – as well as music rehearsal rooms, a patrons’ lounge, and a Green Room for the company. The project provided desperately needed working space for the behind-the-scenes activities so fundamental to creating great theatre.

Court House Theatre
The Court House Theatre combines a 327-seat auditorium with an intimate thrust stage that is ideal for the plays presented there. The historic Court House was constructed on the site of Upper Canada’s first parliament, which convened in 1792. Built in the 1840s during a period of intense rivalry with nearby St Catharines, the new Court House was intended to secure the town’s hold on local government. Although it served as county seat for Lincoln, Welland and Haldimand for more than a decade, county government was transferred to St Catharines in 1862. The Court House is a national historic site. The design of the Court House exemplifies the neoclassical style so popular in the early nineteenth century. Its beautiful Assembly Room and its Lord Mayor’s Parlour are still in use today. The Shaw Festival’s association with the Court House dates back to 1962. Despite some early hardships (such as building sets in the parking lot), the Court House has continued to host Shaw Festival productions throughout our past 51 seasons.

The Royal George Theatre
The Royal George Theatre presents a modest exterior, but inside it is all lovely Edwardian gilt moldings, red walls and golden lions. Built as a vaudeville house in 1913, this theatre entertained troops stationed on the Commons during World War I. Renamed the Royal George, it operated as a road house in the 1920s, but fell into neglect and disuse during the Depression. In 1940, it was reopened as the Brock Cinema. During the next two decades, the Brock Cinema was the focus for much local activity – even the town’s grocery store stayed open late on Saturday nights to serve local farmers who came into town for the movies. The Shaw Festival purchased the Royal George Theatre in 1980. New seating in 1994 completed the gradual restoration of this charming 328-seat opera house. These renovations were made possible through the generosity of philanthropist Walter Carsen.

The Studio Theatre
The Studio Theatre is located within The Donald and Elaine Triggs Production Centre which opened in 2004 and has been home to many workshop presentations, the annual Directors Project and the well-known Reading Series. Serving as a rehearsal space early in the season, this space converts to the Studio Theatre in the later part of the season providing The Shaw with a space that allows for the presentation of challenging works by those contemporary writers who are spirited inheritors of Shaw’s legacy.

A SHAW FESTIVAL CHRONOLOGY

1962 Niagara-on-the-Lake lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty and a small group of Americans and Canadians produce eight weekend performances of Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell and Candida in the Assembly Hall of the old Court House in an event titled “A Salute to Shaw”
1963 Andrew Allan is Artistic Director for The Shaw’s first professional season
1964 Our first production of a play not written by GBS: The Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O’Casey
1965 The Shaw Seminar series is established, which continues to present day
1966 Actor and director Barry Morse succeeds Andrew Allan as Artistic Director
1967 Paxton Whitehead becomes Artistic Director; Major Barbara tours to Expo 67 and to Winnipeg
1968 Attendance for the season reaches 100%
1971 The Philanderer tours to Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa and Rochester NY, the Shaw Festival’s first performance outside Canada
1972 Misalliance tours to Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa, Rochester and Washington DC, where it is the first non-U.S. production to play in the Eisenhower Theatre
1973 The new Festival Theatre opens. Guests include Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. On June 28, 1973, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh attend a performance of You Never Can Tell
1980 Christopher Newton becomes Artistic Director; Cameron Porteous joins The Shaw as Head of Design. The Shaw acquires the Royal George Theatre
1981 The Shaw’s first-ever production of Saint Joan helps to establish the Ensemble and the Design department
1982 Cyrano de Bergerac is a runaway hit, with Heath Lamberts in the title role. It is the first Shaw Festival production to be remounted in an ensuing season
1983 The Shaw inaugurates its “Risk” series with The Vortex, a rarely-produced early play by Noel Coward. Eminent Shaw scholar Dan Laurence, literary and dramatic adviser to the Estate of Bernard Shaw, is appointed the Festival’s Literary Adviser
1984 The Shaw’s adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 is described by a U.S. commentator as “the largest work of environmental theatre ever staged.” It runs for one evening only, from 6 pm to midnight, on land, sea and air, encompassing the entire town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and involving most of the Shaw Festival company as well as an audience of 700
1985 The Shaw presents the North American premiere of Noel Coward’s Cavalcade, with The Shaw’s musical company integrated into the Ensemble The Shaw inaugurates its mystery series at the Royal George Theatre with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile. The Academy begins as an informal skills exchange among the members of the Ensemble
1986 As a special 25th anniversary event, The Shaw presents Back to Methuselah in its entirety. This huge work, which Shaw subtitled “a metabiological pentateuch,” runs from 2 pm to midnight with a break for supper
1988 The Shaw presents Fire by Paul Ledoux and David Young in Toronto, the ninth play in our “Toronto Project”. Two-thirds of these were new Canadian plays: Dreaming and Duelling (1982) by John and Joa Lazarus, Goodnight Disgrace (1985) by Michael Mercer, Souvenirs (1985) by Sheldon Rosen, B-Movie: The Play (1987) by Tom Wood, Patria I (1987) by R. Murray Schafer, and Fire. The Shaw presents You Never Can Tell at the Olympic Arts Festival in Calgary
1989 The Shaw Academy assumes sole responsibility for the Shaw Seminars. Previous sponsors included McMaster, Brock and York universities
1992 With Pygmalion and Counsellor-at-Law leading the way, the Shaw Festival sets a new record for ticket sales: over 280,000 for the season
1994 With the installation of new seating, the refurbishment of the Royal George Theatre is completed. Philanthropist Walter Carsen dedicates the renovations to the memory of founder Brian Doherty. With the help of a four-week holdover, ticket sales exceed 300,000 for the first time in the history of the Shaw Festival The company spends a week at the University of Michigan as “artists in residence” and gains critical praise there for its performances of The Front Page and Arms and The Man
1995 “Christopher’s Loft” opens, a new rehearsal space and a new home for The Academy of the Shaw Festival. The Shaw’s new book-publishing program is inaugurated with Also in the Cast, the memoirs of Tony van Bridge
1997 New play workshops begin in cooperation with Tarragon Theatre using Shaw Festival actors. Other Toronto companies participate in subsequent years
1998 New facilities are constructed in the Lobby, including an expanded Flag Deck upstairs. An expanded Members Verandah follows the next year
1999 A new record for ticket sales: 325,000 for the season, with Box Office revenue exceeding $14 million Leslie Yeo’s A Thousand and One First Nights, co-published by the Shaw Festival, wins the Canadian Authors Association prize for biography
2000 The Shaw’s mandate is expanded to include plays written about the period of Shaw’s lifetime (1856-1950) as well as plays written during the period
2001 Jackie Maxwell is named Artistic Director Designate
2002 Christopher Newton retires and is named Artistic Director Emeritus, and Jackie Maxwell succeeds him as Artistic Director for the 2003 season. Candida enjoys a successful tour to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and to Meadow Brook Theatre in Michigan
2003 Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s The Coronation Voyage earns great acclaim for its Shaw Festival debut on the Festival Theatre stage. Shaw Festival Membership support soars to an all-time high with over 11,600 members, a 30% increase since 2000
2004 The successful $30 million Campaign For The Shaw Festival results in the construction and opening of a vital new Production Centre that houses rehearsal space, an Academy Suite, and a green room for the entire company Niagara vintners and long-time Shaw supporters Elaine and Donald Triggs give $1 million to The Campaign for the Shaw Festival, which activates a $1 million Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant and successfully concludes the fundraising campaign for the new building. Up to this time, the Triggs’ gift is the largest single donation ever received by The Shaw. Rutherford and Son is remounted at the National Arts Centre for a successful three-week run in December.
2005 The world premiere of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral: A Natural History is presented to great acclaim on the Court House stage. Music Director Paul Sportelli and ensemble member Jay Turvey begin work on a new musical, Tristan, culminating in two public reading performances.
2007 Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey’s Tristan receives its world premiere at The Shaw – the first new musical to be produced by the Festival. Saint Joan, directed by Jackie Maxwell, is presented as part of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2007-2008 The World’s Stage Series after its regular run at The Shaw.
2008 The Canadian premiere of Githa Sowerby’s newly discovered 1924 play The Stepmother is presented in the Court House Theatre to audience and critical acclaim. Longtime Shaw Ensemble Member Blair Williams makes his directorial debut with the lunchtime production of The President. With a new translation by Morwyn Brebner, this Ferenc Molnár gem performs to sold-out audiences throughout its run.
2009 For the first time ever in professional repertory history The Shaw presents all ten of Noel Coward’s one-act series Tonight at 8:30. To celebrate this achievement, three ‘marathon’ days offered guests an opportunity to see all ten in one day. The Shaw receives a remarkable $2.5 million dollar bequest from long-time patron and supporter Mona Campbell. The Slaight Family Academy is established, thanks to a transformational gift of $5 million from the Slaight Family Foundation. Along with a number of additional classes and workshops, this gift also made it possible to establish The Shaw Theatre School for young people. The new Studio Theatre is inaugurated with the production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer.
2010 The Canadian premiere of contemporary Shavian Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money is presented in the Studio Theatre, while the Tom Murphy version of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (directed by Jason Byrne) makes its Canadian premiere in the Court House Theatre. Mary Chase’s Harvey delights critics and audiences alike and has its run extended into November.
2011 The Shaw Festival celebrates its 50th season. The Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady makes its Shaw Festival premiere and becomes the best selling production in the history of the Festival. The works of Lennox Robinson, Suzan-Lori Parks and Andrew Bovell make their Canadian premieres at The Shaw. The world premieres of Maria Severa, by Music Director Paul Sportelli and Ensemble member Jay Turvey, and the contemporary re-mix of Shaw’s On the Rocks, by Canadian playwright Michael Healey, take place. The President, is remounted once again and performs to sold-out houses. The weekend-long The Speed of Ideas: A Theatrical Forum is presented and featured keynote speaker Michael Billington from The Guardian (U.K.) and playwrights Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks. The Shaw releases a free app for iPhone and smartphone users.
2012 The Shaw’s production of Ragtime performs to sold-out houses and becomes the must-see musical of 2012. Githa Sowerby’s rarely produced A Man and Some Women makes its Shaw Festival premiere.
2013
Contemporary Shavian Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia makes its Festival debut, and, not only sells out prior to the season start, but the Eda Holmes-directed production becomes a critical hit. Peter Hinton’s re-envisioned Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde becomes the sleeper hit of the season. Musical Guys and Dolls charms critics and audiences alike and has its run extended into November. Shaw’s Major Barbara staged in the intimacy of the Royal George Theatre, while John Murrell’s Peace in Our Time: A Comedy, an adaptation of Shaw’s Geneva, makes its premiere at the Court House Theatre. Adam Guettel visits, gives a talk and takes in The Shaw’s production of his musical The Light in the Piazza. The documentary The Shaw Festival: Behind the Curtain debuts on PBS stations nation-wide. The 2013 season proved a winner with audiences and critics alike, attracting 270,570 people (71% of capacity) to its 744 performances, with box office revenues topping $16 million – the highest ticket sales in The Shaw’s history.

HISTORIC NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE

In the early 1780s, the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake was established as Butlersburg by United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. In 1792, renamed Newark by Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, the settlement became the capital of Upper Canada (later Ontario). One of the largest communities in Upper Canada at the time, it boasted energetic shipbuilding and farming industries, as well as a library, court house, newspaper, and apothecary shop. Newark was the site of several strategic battles during the War of 1812. Although Fort George was built to guard the mouth of the Niagara River, American troops successfully invaded in 1813, burning the village to the ground and forcing a British retreat. By the time the first Welland Canal opened in 1829, Newark was rebuilt but had lost its lucrative shipbuilding trade to Port Colborne. In 1854 Newark’s name was changed to Niagara, and again in 1900 to the more poetic-sounding Niagara-on-the-Lake. The town served as a training base for Canadian Armed Forces during both world wars, but still retained the elegant homes, shops and parks that now attract approximately three million visitors annually.

THE SHAW’S COAT OF ARMS

In 1987, on the occasion of our 25th Anniversary, the Shaw Festival became only the second theatre company to be granted a Coat of Arms by the College of Heralds. (The other was the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain.) A large painted sculpture of our Coat of Arms adorns the orchestra level seating of the Royal George Theatre, as well as the lobby of the Festival Theatre.


The Shaw Story

WHO WE ARE – THE EVOLUTION OF A MANDATE

As the Festival embarks on the first season of its next half century, Shaw’s compelling quest for the truth will stalwartly remain at the heart of the Shaw Festival; while the Festival will continue to move forward – embracing new writers, revealing new worlds, exploring new approaches to classic plays. The Shaw Festival will showcase the best in Contemporary Theatrical Thought — past, present and future, while still celebrating what Shaw and the Festival so passionately believe in — provocative, challenging stories told with humanity and wit.

At its inception, the Shaw Festival specialized exclusively in plays by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries and is renowned internationally for both single-handedly revitalizing and re-energizing the works of Bernard Shaw (as he preferred to be addressed) and for tackling the vast array of theatre pieces in the mandate period — presenting them anew to appreciative theatre audiences. In 2000, The Shaw’s mandate was expanded to include contemporary plays written about the period of Bernard Shaw’s life, 1856-1950. The mandate was expanded once again in 2009 to include the work of contemporary Shavians – writers whose work, like Shaw’s, continue to question the status quo and rail at the powers-that-be in new and different ways. Today, the Shaw Festival is a theatre company inspired by the work of Bernard Shaw; producing plays from and about his era and contemporary plays that share Shaw’s provocative exploration of society and celebration of humanity.

WHO WE ARE – OUR MISSION

In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival produces theatre that delights, provokes the mind and stirs the soul through an experience so compelling that artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and beyond.

BERNARD SHAW

As Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell says, “We all know the man can talk, but Bernard Shaw is also one of the most prescient, provocative, sparklingly articulate writers in the English language. His words and ideas, expressed in plays that are well-known, such as this season’s Major Barbara, or in plays that are not so familiar but no less interesting, have extraordinary relevance today. It is a joy to draw attention to those ideas and bring them to life on our stages.” The Festival’s approach to present classic plays in new ways, like it did in 2011 with Michael Healey’s rejuvenated version of Shaw’s On the Rocks, coupled with its passionate commitment to the works of its namesake continues in 2013 with Peace in our Time: A Comedy, a new adaptation of Shaw’s Geneva by John Murrell. This approach also extends to the staging of Shaw works in the Court House and Royal George Theatres where their intimate spaces serve as the catalyst for new and innovative ways of staging Major Barbara and Peace in our Time: A Comedy.

REDISCOVERED GEMS

One of the many pleasures of The Shaw’s mandate period is digging up buried theatrical treasures which were considered major works when they were written, but which have since been unjustly neglected. Remarkable playwrights such as Lennonx Robinson, St. John Hankin, Harley Granville Barker and Terence Rattigan have been rediscovered by the Shaw Festival. With the focus shifting to lost plays by women writers, Cecily Hamilton, Lady Gregory and Githa Sowerby can now be add to the list. In 2013, Susan Glaspell’s rural mystery Trifles, along with Eugene O’Neill’s early, and virtually unknown, frontier play A Wife for a Life; continues The Shaw’s tradition of “archaeological” programming.

AMERICAN CLASSICS

A full range of American classics – comedies as well as dramas – is embraced at The Shaw. Recent seasons have produced critically acclaimed productions of The Autumn Garden, Bus Stop, You Can’t Take It With You, All My Sons, Picnic, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Detective Story, Ah Wilderness and The Crucible. The richly diverse choices continued in 2007 with The Shaw’s first production of a Tennessee Williams play, Summer and Smoke, and in 2008 with a production of Lillian Hellman’s timeless drama The Little Foxes. In 2009, Garson Kanin’s classic comedy Born Yesterday played to standing ovations throughout the season and was joined by fellow American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, A Moon for the Misbegotten. The following year, Mary Chase’s delightful Harvey was a critical and box office success and, due to demand and to the delight of audiences, had its run extended. The same season also featured fellow American playwright Clare Boothe Luce’s comedy The Women. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the second Tennessee Williams production to be seen at The Shaw, was presented in 2011 as part of the Festival’s 50th season. In 2012, Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell directed the critically acclaimed production of Come Back, Little Sheba, the play that launched William Inge’s career in New York. That same season, The Shaw Festival also premiered the screwball comedy His Girl Friday by John Guare, the blending 1940 film His Girl Friday and the play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

MUSICALS

The Shaw takes a unique approach to musicals; just as the reach of musical theatre is vast and manifold, so is the approach to being able to present Brecht and Weill, Rodgers and Hart, and everything in between – and being able to choose the right theatre for each production. Rarely-performed musical gems from the period of the mandate, such as Happy End, are rediscovered and returned to the stage. The 2004 production of Adam Guettel’s critically acclaimed and audience favored Floyd Collins demonstrated an additional vision for musicals — a contemporary musical based on a true story from the mandate period. In 2013, Guettel’s lyrics and music returns to The Shaw in the sensually unforgettable Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza.

The range of musicals revived over the years includes Gypsy (the first musical on the Festival stage), High Society, She Loves Me, Merrily We Roll Along, On the Twentieth Century, Pal Joey and Mack and Mabel. In 2007, Tristan, by music director Paul Sportelli and Ensemble member Jay Turvey was the first new musical developed and produced at The Shaw. In 2008, two Stephen Sondheim favourites, A Little Night Music and a concert production of Follies, were featured along with Wonderful Town. In 2009, the Sondheim exploration continued with Sunday in the Park with George and the later work of Kurt Weill in America and his collaboration with Ogden Nash and S.J. Perlman in One Touch of Venus was seen the following season.

For its 50th season, The Shaw presented a fresh and innovative production of the long awaited musical My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, as well as the world premiere of Maria Severa, the second Shaw developed and produced musical by music director Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey.

In 2012, music returned to the Lunchtime with Trouble in Tahiti, Leonard Bernstein’s satirical one act opera about existence in the American suburban dream. That same season, the Shaw Festival’s production of Ragtime was not only received well critically, but became an audience favourite and the must-see production of the season. The 20th century musical epic about the beginnings of contemporary America based on E.L. Doctorow’s distinguished novel, Ragtime featured music and lyrics written by the award-winning composer/lyricist team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and a book by playwright Terrence McNally (Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Masterclass). The re-envisioning of musicals continues this season at The Shaw with Guys and Dolls, an influential American play, with a rich vital book and a memorable score.

CLASSICS FROM THE PERIOD

Early Victorian dramas such as The Silver King and vast pieces like Cavalcade require large casts, complex designs and specialized historical knowledge. They are rarely attempted by other professional companies, but at The Shaw the opportunity to explore these works with a modern audience is savored. In 2009, The Shaw made repertory theatrical history when it presented Noël Coward’s Tonight at 8:30. A world premiere, this marked the first time all ten plays were presented together in one season by a professional repertory theatre company. In celebration of this unique event, The Shaw presented all ten Cowards during three, full-day marathons aptly titled Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

European classics such as The House of Bernarda Alba (2002) from Spain, S.S.Tenacity (1999) from France, The Plough and the Stars (2003) from Ireland, along with Three Sisters (2003) and The Cherry Orchard (1980) from Russia, Hedda Gabler (1991, 2006, 2012) from Norway have also been presented at The Shaw. In 2010, J.M. Barrie’s playlet Half an Hour and Oscar Wilde’s witty An Ideal Husband, have been on the same playbill with a Russian classic that was given an Irish twist — the Jason Bryne directed, Tom Murphy version of The Cherry Orchard.

CONTEMPORARY EXPLORATIONS OF THE MANDATE

Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell’s approach to the mandate period is “to look at the mandate from the outside as well as the inside – to provide creative friction by juxtaposing the old and the new – and with Canadian work, to let us hear and promote our own stories and our own points of view. I want the Shaw Festival to be the place where classic Canadian and contemporary plays can be given a uniquely detailed, thoughtful and vivid new life.” This was the case with the acclaimed productions of Michel Marc Bouchard’s The Coronation Voyage (2003) and Lillian Groag’s The Magic Fire (2006). In 2009, the juxtaposition was taken even further by presenting John Osborne’s The Entertainer in a new space, the Studio Theatre, and Michel Tremblay’s Albertine in Five Times in the Court House Theatre. In 2010, The Shaw’s look at contemporary Shavians continued with the presentations of Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money and Linda Griffiths’ Age of Arousal. The contemporary exploration of the mandate continued into The Shaw’s 50th season with the Canadian premieres of two plays by a new generation of provocative playwrights: the award-winning Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks and When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. In 2013, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer and Arcadia, a work by the ultimate contemporary Shavian Tom Stoppard, make their Shaw Festival premiere.

GRAND DESIGN

Every production that graces the Shaw Festival stages is built “from scratch,” from an original design. Although The Shaw sometimes revisits plays in its canon, the design is always created for that director and those actors in the new production. Each element is painstakingly researched, designed and created to enhance that particular production. Design Director William Schmuck and Lighting Design Director Kevin Lamotte lead teams who collaborate with each production’s director to create set, costume and lighting designs that complement the play’s text. Meticulous historical research is combined with creative instincts and an understanding of the play. The Shaw’s designs and production values are celebrated as some of the best in the English-speaking world.

MUSIC AT THE SHAW

Music played an important role in Bernard Shaw’s life — in fact, he wrote music criticism for several years under the pseudonym Corno di Bassetto. Music Director Paul Sportelli creates new orchestrations for virtually all of The Shaw’s musical productions and, if required, composes original scores for dramatic presentations. The Shaw also commissions scores from other contemporary composers such as Ryan deSouza, John Gzowski, Allen Cole, the late Marc Desormeaux, Reza Jacobs and Leslie Barber. On selected Sundays, free coffee concerts are offered by the Music Department in the lobby of the Festival Theatre.

THE ACTING ENSEMBLE

The Shaw Festival’s permanent acting company is unique in the English-speaking world. Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell believes the actors are “the ones who ultimately carry on stage what I see to be the true spirit of the Shaw Festival. At The Shaw we draw from the vast wealth of the best plays from 1856 to today. Led by our unequalled theatre artists, we explore each world with a passion and vitality that renders the stories anew, the pain and joy of each character vividly played out with a balletic combination of speed, energy, reflection and detail, using heart, viscera and brain.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SLAIGHT FAMILY ACADEMY

The Slaight Family Academy is the professional training, play development and publishing wing of the company. It began in 1985 as an informal skills exchange among company members, and still retains that important function. The Academy also sponsors workshop productions and the annual Directors Project

PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

In 2010, The Mandate Intensive, a new training initiative, was added to The Shaw’s training agenda. Made possible by the Slaight Family Foundation, this program was designed to provide an immersion for young members of the company – both new and returning – into the cultural and historical context of the mandate as well as the specific text challenges of performing these plays.

Throughout the season, The Academy engages coaches in Alexander Technique, voice and dialect as well as salaried apprentices in acting, directing, design and stage management. Short courses are offered on a variety of topics, including the popular “Manners of the Mandate”, and movement training to maintain actors’ strength and flexibility throughout the long Shaw season. The annual Directors Project is of particular interest to the company. It features Ensemble members in two one-act plays – directed by our Intern Directors and designed by Assistant Designers – presented to company members and to an invited audience of theatre professionals.

PLAY DEVELOPMENT

The goals of the Shaw Festival’s Play Development Program are to develop and produce new plays that can sit alongside those of Shaw, Chekhov and Coward, as well as develop new adaptations and translations that will tell classic stories in a contemporary way. Throughout the season, established and developing playwrights are in residence at The Shaw, and the Acting Ensemble often participate in in-house workshops of new plays.

Some plays developed and produced at The Shaw include Susan Coyne’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, produced at the Festival Theatre in 2003; Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral was workshopped by Acting Ensemble members, at the same time she was completing final drafts of the play, and was presented as part of the 2005 and 2008 seasons; Morris Panych’s Hotel Peccadillo, an adaptation of the Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallières farce L’Hôtel du Libre-Échange, and the Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey musical Tristan were both presented in 2007; Ferenc Molnár’s The President, adapted by Morwyn Brebner, appeared to sold-out audiences in 2008 and made its second Shaw Festival appearance in 2011; and a new translation by Linda Gaboriau of Michel Tremblay’s Albertine in Five Times was workshopped and produced in 2009.�Last season for The Shaw’s 50th season, two new works were presented: Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey’s new musical, Maria Severa, which has been in development for the past four years; along with Michael Healey’s new adaptation of Shaw’s On the Rocks. Projects currently in development include an adaptation by shortlisted Siminovitch Prize nominee Robert Chafe of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. The Shaw is also working with playwright Michel Marc Bouchard and Governor General’s Literary Award nominees Brendan Gall, on his adaptation of La Jalousie by Sacha Guitry, and Erin Shields, on her adaptation of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. John Murrell’s re-conceptualization of Shaw’s Geneva, now known as Peace in Our Times: A Comedy, will have its world premiere at the Festival this season.

EDUCATION

We believe the more you know about theatre, the more you will enjoy it. We encourage students to attend the theatre through discounted student tickets and complimentary study guides, backstage tours and chats. For the public, The Shaw provides free enrichment programmes, such as pre-show chats at the Festival Theatre, Tuesday Q&A in all three theatres, Saturday Conversations, and Sunday Coffee Concerts. Seminars and workshops are also available.

SHAW FESTIVAL PUBLISHING

The Shaw’s house programmes are among the best in the world. Since 1995, The Shaw’s publishing initiative has produced scripts, theatrical memoirs and a commemorative book of the Shaw Festival’s Granville Barker series. In 2003, a Susan Coyne commissioned translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters was published by the Shaw Festival. Two years later, in 2005, The Shaw published Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Belle Moral: A Natural History. The Shaw published the script of Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother and an updated Production Record in 2008. For the 50th season, a commemorative book celebrating the Festival’s rich 50-year history was published. Written by Shaw scholar Leonard Conolly and designed by Scott McKowen, art director of The Shaw’s house programmes, Shaw Festival – The First 50 Years chronicled the story of the Shaw Festival from its beginning to the present day. In the same year, The Relevance of Shaw’s Plays to Our Times, the keynote speech given by U.K. theatre critic Michael Billington during the two-day Speed of Ideas: A Theatrical Forum, was published in booklet form by The Shaw.

BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)

Bernard Shaw (he detested the name George) was born in Dublin where he grew up in an atmosphere of genteel poverty. He attended four schools and was tutored by a clerical uncle, but left his formal education at the age of 15. He developed a wide knowledge of music, art and literature under the influence of his mother, a singer and vocal music teacher, and as a result of his frequent visits to the National Gallery of Ireland. In 1876 he moved to London, where he spent his afternoons in the British Museum and his evenings pursuing his informal education in the form of lectures and debates. He declared himself a Socialist in 1882 and joined the Fabian Society in 1884. Soon he distinguished himself as a fluent and effective public speaker, and an incisive and irreverent critic of music, art and drama; his criticisms showed the sharp edge that would become characteristic of his dramatic writing. Now, more than five decades after his death, Shaw’s fame continues to grow. He entertains and stimulates the 21st-century audience no less profoundly than he teased and delighted those a century ago. The themes Shaw articulated through more than fifty plays and many thousands of pages of critical writings are as fresh today as when he wrote them. Shaw’s plays succeed on two levels: first, they are delightfully witty, sophisticated entertainments; and second, they are penetrating examinations of ideas or themes.

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