The Slaight Family Academy

In 2009, The Academy at the Shaw Festival was re-named to honour the legacy and generosity of the family of Allan Slaight and Ada Slaight.

For over 25 years The Slaight Family has had a profound impact on the Shaw Festival through their leadership and generosity. In addition to establishing The Academy with then Artistic Director Christopher Newton in 1985, Allan Slaight served as a Board member at The Shaw from 1982 to 1988 and as Board Chair from 1985 to 1986. In addition, he and Newton founded The Shaw Boxing Evening, the largest charity fundraiser of its kind in the world, which has raised more than $6 million for The Shaw.

An exemplary leader and patron as well, Ada Slaight served on the Board from 1990 to 1998 as a Governor, National Governor and Honorary Governor.


The Academy is the professional training, play development, publishing and public education wing of the Shaw Festival repertory theatre. 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 as well as many outreach theatre education programs for the public, including the Shaw Seminars, Saturday Conversations and backstage tours as well as student and group tours.

Professional Training
Each season, the Academy provides training opportunities for emerging directors, designers and stage managers while the RBC Emerging Artists Program supports young actors. All are mentored by senior Shaw Festival company members, coaches and teachers.

Play Development
There are two main goals in The Shaw’s play development program, which is led by Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell and Literary Manager Joanna Falck. The first is to develop new adaptations and translations that will tell classic stories in a contemporary way. The second is to produce new plays alongside those of Shaw, Chekhov and Coward. The Shaw Festival’s first new play was Simon Bradbury’s Chaplin: The Trial of Charles Spencer Chaplin, Esq., produced in 2002. In 2003, The Shaw premiered a commissioned translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters by Susan Coyne. Writer Ann-Marie MacDonald’s new play, Belle Moral: A Natural History, was “workshopped” by The Shaw’s Niagara theatre ensemble members as she was completing final drafts of the play. 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. The 2006 playbill included two productions which were developed as part of the play development program over the past few years: Neil Munro’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, and The Invisible Man, an adaptation of the novel by H.G. Wells by Michael O’Brien. In 2007, the Shaw presented the world premiere of Tristan, a new musical based on the short story by Thomas Mann with book, music and lyrics by Shaw Festival Music Director Paul Sportelli and Ensemble Member Jay Turvey.

Public Education
We believe the more you know about theatre, the more you enjoy it. We encourage student field trips to attend the theatre through discounted tickets and complimentary study guides, backstage tours and chats. For the public, The Academy provides free enrichment programs, such as pre-show chats at the Festival Theatre, Tuesday Q&A in all theatres, Saturday Conversations, and Sunday Coffee Concerts.

Shaw Festival Publishing
The Shaw’s house programs 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 we published Susan Coyne’s commissioned translation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters and in 2005 we celebrated the premiere of Belle Moral: A Natural History by publishing the play.

The investment by the Slaight Family is being directed to the following programs:

The Mandate Intensive was initiated in 2009 to give young actors, and those new to the Shaw Festival an intense backgrounder into the world of our mandate period (1856-1950). This 2 week course focuses on scene study, voice and dialect, movement, and wardrobe and prop usage. There is also a study of how nations and cultures changed in this very dynamic period in history – with a special focus on the impact of the two World Wars. The course is taught both by Shaw company teachers as well as visiting teachers and artists.

TRAINING PROGRAMS for the Ensemble. Expanded programming including voice, dialogue, singing, movement and acting.

APPRENTICE TEACHER POSITIONS in Voice and Dialect and Alexander Technique help The Shaw develop Canadian professional trainers.

THE SHAW THEATRE SCHOOL opened in the fall of 2009 as a ten-week drama course designed for young people (Grades 4-12). Drawing on The Shaw’s professional artists and resources, classes are offered in such areas as acting, improvisation, choreography, voice and dialect, musical theatre, stage combat and scene study.


Emerging Artists Program

RBC Foundation