The Shaw Festival is one of Canada’s finest cultural attractions presenting an eclectic assortment of award-winning comedies, dramas, musicals, mysteries and family-friendly stories in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The company was founded in 1962 with the commitment of celebrating the works of George Bernard Shaw and other playwrights of his time, while advancing theatrical arts in Canada. “Salute to Shaw” was the original production held the town courthouse, which later came to be known as the Court House Theatre. Today, the Shaw Festival is the second-largest repertory theatre company in North America.
The Festival runs from May to December, with world-class productions of nine plays on three stages throughout the season. In additions, a variety of other online and in-person events are hosted year-round, such as Q&A sessions with cast and crew, concerts, garden tours, “sip, savour, and stroll” events, discovery days and behind-the-scenes looks in the theatrical spaces.
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More about Shaw Festival
The Shaw Festival is nestled into the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, only a short drive away from Niagara Falls on the lovely Niagara Parkway.
During its first decade, the Shaw Festival Company toured extensively throughout Canada and the United States to great fanfare. In 1973, the festival firmly planted its roots in Canadian soil at the Festival Theatre, designed by renowned Canadian architect Ronald Thom. By 1980, the festival added a third theatre, the Royal George. The festival has continued to grow since then, adding the Jackie Maxwell Studio.
Incredible directors like Christopher Newton, Derek Goldby, Neil Munro and Denise Coffey have worked among the theatres for the festival performances to create the award-winning ensembles.
Under Christopher Newton in the 1980s, the Festival’s mandate became more narrowly focused and defined: “to produce plays written during the lifetime of Shaw (1856 to 1950), plays about the beginning of the modern world.” In his final year as artistic director of the festival, the mandate widened to include other contemporary plays written during the period.
Appointed in 2003, Jackie Maxwell widened this more to include many plays written and directed by women, the “contemporary Shavians,” like Caryl Churchill and Tony Kushner. Now, under a new artistic director, Tim Carroll, appointed in 2015, the Festival celebrates the life and spirit of Bernard Shaw through works as “provocative and entertaining” as Shaw himself was.
Each artistic director has demonstrated a different take on how to honour George Bernard Shaw’s life, works and the theatre. While some have focused primarily on Shaw’s own works, others have helped to expand the world of theatre for audiences through contemporary shows and classic gems.
The Shaw Festival has received an abundance of accolades and drawn actors of the highest calibre, as well as impressive audience members, including Queen Elizabeth II, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Indira Gandhi
The Shaw Festival welcomes more than 250,000 audience members each year. Audience members may purchase a single performance ticket, group tickets or any of the multi-play packages. Holiday show packages are also available.
Last updated: August 18, 2023