Comprehensive guide to live theatre in Ontario
Each year Ontario stages light up as theatres and playhouses announce their seasonal playbills. Theatre-goers are treated to new and entertaining performances at internationally recognized theatre festivals, beloved local stages and unique rural or outdoor venues.
Whether you’re new to the performing arts or a veteran culture vulture, you’ll love theatre in Ontario.
Marquee theatre festivals
Find out what’s on at the Stratford Festival and Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival, two of Ontario’s most famous theatre destinations.
The Stratford Festival is North America’s largest classical repertory theatre company showcasing classics, contemporary and musical productions with an emphasis on the works of Shakespeare.
Each season features a different theme. The 2023 season explores the concept of “Duty Verses Desire” with productions that include King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, Death and the King’s Horsemen, A Wrinkle in Time and rock musical, Rent.
The high calibre of performances and production make the Stratford Festival one of the best summer festivals in Canada. From Christopher Plummer to Megan Follows, many household names have tread the boards at Stratford.
The Stratford Festival offers bus service to and from downtown Toronto on the Stratford Direct Bus.
Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street, Stratford
Avon Theatre, 99 Downie Street, Stratford
Tom Patterson Theatre, 111 Lakeside Drive, Stratford
Studio Theatre, 34 George Street East, Stratford
What began in 1962 as a four-weekend festival experiment in the heart of Ontario’s wine country is now celebrating its 61st season.
Plays by quick-witted, social satirist, Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries grace the stage in Niagara-on-the-Lake during the Shaw Festival.
The 2023 season features 14 plays including Shaw’s Village Wooing, the C.S. Lewis classic, Narnia, musical fable, Gypsy and A Christmas Carol for the holiday season.
In addition, Shaw Festival hosts concerts, special events and performances on two outdoor venues, the BMO Stage and the Spiegeltent.
The Shaw Express bus provides direct service from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake with a stop in Burlington.
Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Royal George Theatre, 85 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Small-town seasonal theatre
Across Ontario, audiences are treated to top-quality theatre in heritage venues and small-town playhouses.
Award-winning Drayton Entertainment operates seven unique theatre festival experiences that host an eclectic mix of Broadway blockbusters, musicals, comedies dramas and family-focused fun.
- Drayton Festival Theatre
A 25-minute drive north of St. Jacobs in the rural crossroads community of Drayton, the Drayton Festival Theatre was built as an Opera Hall in 1902 and became a popular attraction during the vaudeville era in the 30s.
Location: 33 Wellington Street South, Drayton
- King’s Wharf Theatre
Nestled within Discovery Harbour on the shores of Georgian Bay in Penetanguishene, The King’s Wharf Theatre is flanked by majestic tall ships and the historic buildings of a 19th century British naval and military base.
Location: 97 Jury Drive, Penetanguishene
- St. Jacobs Country Playhouse
This St. Jacobs entertainment venue reflects the local Mennonite culture with traditional timber architecture and masonry.
Location: 40 Benjamin Road, Waterloo
- St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre
Located in St. Jacobs Market District and set in an intimate, 100-seat, 1867 village schoolhouse, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse is known for its high-quality and original Canadian programming.
Location: 11 Albert Street West. St. Jacobs
- Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge
Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge is in historic Old Galt, an area renowned for its Dickensian architecture and old-world charm.
Location: 46 Grand Avenue South, Cambridge
- Huron Country Playhouse
In addition to the mainstage, which takes place in a converted rustic barn on the outskirts of Grand Bend, more productions are held on the South Huron Stage.
Location: 70689 B Line, Grand Bend
Enjoy professional and amateur live theatre with a focus on home-grown Canadian content at two different theatres in Port Dover and Port Colborne.
Be prepared to laugh, the Lighthouse Festival is known to excel in the development and production of entertaining comedies that deliver on fun.
Rural Ontario takes centre stage at the annual Blyth Festival in Goderich. For almost 50 years, this local theatre has been hosting stirring and vibrant stories from a Canadian country and farm life perspective.
Location: 423 Queen Street, Blyth
Nestled on the banks of the St. Lawrence River waterway in Gananoque, the 1,000 Islands Playhouse is a dockside professional live theatre entering its 41st season with eight stellar shows that span comedy, drama, music and song.
Location: 185 South Street, Gananoque
The Simcoe County Theatre Festival sets the stage for local writers, directors and performers to showcase their talent to the region. The festival is hosted at the downtown Five Points Theatre in Barrie.
Location: 55 Dunlop Street East #1, Barrie
Embrace the Canadian narrative at 4th Line Theatre with two summer plays that focus on Canadian culture, local history and regional themes. The outdoor theatre is set under a historic barn on the idyllic Winslow Farm in Millbrook, just south of Peterborough.
Location: 779 Zion Line, Millbrook
Port Hope’s community-engaged Capitol Theatre is the last remaining ‘atmospheric’ theatre in Canada, an intimate design style made popular in the late 1920s. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 2016. Choose from three entertaining headliner summer productions.
Location: 20 Queen Street, Port Hope
Located at the Lakeview Arts Barn near Bobcaygeon, Globus Theatre delivers an array of new shows each summer. Once a working cattle barn, this rustic venue now serves as a comfortable and contemporary theatre for eclectic and entertaining comedy, music and drama.
Location: 2300 Pigeon Lake Road, Bobcaygeon
Westben showcases world class musical and theatre performances within a magnificent timber-frame barn with views over the rolling farm hills outside Campbellford.
Location: 6698 County Road 30, Campbellford
This rare Edwardian style opera house opened in 1918 and underwent a renovation in 1922.
Location: 224 Picton Main Street, Picton
Celebrating over 70 years of award-winning live theatre, Theatre Woodstock also offers theatre training for young people through their STAGES program
Location: 22 Reeve Street, Woodstock
The Orillia Opera House has been delivering top quality professional entertainment to downtown Orillia since 1895.
Location: 1 West Street North, Orillia
Prescott’s riverside amphitheatre showcases Shakespearean intrigue during the annual St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival.
Location: 206 King Street West, Prescott
Driftwood Theatre Group is a non-venued theatre company dedicated to delivering accessible, live theatre to all audiences. Driftwood hosts affordable (often free) and quality performances in a variety of settings, from local parks to local pubs.
Location: based in Picton, Prince Edward County
Theatre in Ontario’s cities
From traditional theatre to fringe festivals and heritage venues to outdoor amphitheatres, explore the exciting and diverse theatre scene in Ontario’s urban centres and cities.
Founded in 1986 by father and son duo, Ed and David Mirvish, this theatre production company has welcomed some of the best comedy, drama and musical shows to life on signature Toronto stages for over 50 years. Mirvish theatres include:
- CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre
This heritage venue was originally built and designed as a vaudeville and motion picture theatre in 1920 under the name The Pantages Theatre.
Location: 244 Victoria Street, Toronto
- Royal Alexandra Theatre
The “Royal Alex” is a beloved local landmark. Constructed in the beaux-arts style in 1907, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatres in North America.
Location: 260 King Street West, Toronto
- Princess of Wales Theatre
Home to blockbuster classic and contemporary musical productions, Princess of Wales Theatre is a 2,000 seat theatre venue located in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district on King Street West.
Location: 300 King Street West, Toronto
Tour the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre on Yonge Street before your show. The design and history of this theatre complex is as fascinating and fabled as the live productions it hosts.
It has evolved through decades of different theatre styes, from vaudeville to cinema,
And is the world’s last remaining stacked Edwardian venue. It’s also rumoured to be haunted!
Location: 189 Yonge Street, Toronto
SummerWorks 2023 runs from August 3 through 13 delivering another season of introspective contemporary performances.
Location: 423-401 Richmond Street West, Toronto
Held in a former distillery building, Soulpepper is Toronto’s largest independent non-for-profit theatre company that celebrates the fine art of storytelling.
Location: 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto
Catch contemporary and thought-provoking shows that explore the diverse and dynamic cultural landscape of Canada. Venues include traditional indoor theatres as well as the popular High Park Amphitheatre, perfect for warm summer evenings.
Toronto’s leading arts festival delivers exciting indie theatre each summer. The 2023 event takes place from June 7 to 18 and will treat audiences to notable and intriguing theatre, dance and opera.
Location: various venues in Toronto
In 2023, the Toronto Fringe Festival will present its 35th year of alternative and unconventional theatrical performances from July 5 to 16.
Location: various venues in Toronto
Canada’s largest and oldest professional theatre for young people offers plays that will engage the imaginations of your little ones as well as theatre and arts education programing.
Location: 165 Front Street East, Toronto
The professional cast from Guild Festival Theatre perform adaptions of beloved classics under the stars at The Greek Theatre in Guild Park & Gardens. Located on the Scarborough Bluffs that overlooks Lake Ontario, the historic park offers the perfect ambience to enjoy outdoor entertainment.
This Ottawa-based theatre group is the city’s largest, professional, independent theatre producing a selection of mainstage plays, as well as unique experiences for young audiences, workshops and other events.
Location: 300-1227 Wellington Street West, Ottawa
The oldest continuous community theatre in North America, the Ottawa Little Theatre is a vital part of Ottawa’s art scene. Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility will be one of the performances scheduled to run in 2023.
Location: 400 King Edward Avenue, Ottawa
Ottawa Fringe hosts the independent Ottawa Fringe Festival and the winter undercurrents festivals and manages the Arts Court Theatre. The open-access, lottery-based 26th Ottawa Fringe Festival will be held from June 15 to 25, 2023. Enjoy performances from emerging and established artists.
Location: 2 Daly Avenue #100, Ottawa
Summer is brighter at Ottawa’s Arts Court Theatre with its Classic Theatre Festival featuring classic shows made popular on Broadway and the London stage in the UK.
Location: 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa
London’s heritage Grand Theatre hosts plays, musicals and special events. The building dates back to 1901 and boasts a proscenium arch (a rare architectural feature) as well as original art and reportedly ghostly apparitions.
Location: 471 Richmond Street, London
The Palace Theatre Arts Commons (PTAC) encompasses London Fringe, London Community Players, London Youth Theatre Education and New Stage, so there is always something exciting on stage at this historic venue.
Location: 710 Dundas Street, London
Experience authentic and uncensored theatre, dance, music and comedy from Indigenous creators, artists, storytellers and performers. In 2023, this festival runs from June 21 to 25 at Trent University, East Bank.
Location: 1 Gzowski Way, Peterborough
Crane Creations facilitates a host of live theatre events that reach audiences of all ages and support new and established artists. For example, families and kids will love the Puppet Festival delivering fun puppetry and animation across the city of Mississauga during March Break.
Location: based in Mississauga
Last updated: January 4, 2024