In and Around Toronto: The Shaw Festival

The southern sibling of the aforementioned Stratford Festival, the Shaw Festival runs each year from April to October in lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake, a quaint historic town nestled on the spot where the Niagara River drains into Lake Ontario.

Started in 1962 with a modest duo of plays for a handful of performances in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic Court House, the Shaw Festival has grown to include 10 to 12 plays a season, totaling about 800 performances and attracting up to 300, 000 theatregoers every year. The festival’s name refers to renowned Irish playwright and wit George Bernard Shaw, whose statue now graces the popular mercantile strip of Queen Street in the town. Although the festival initially focused on Shaw’s plays alone, it expanded in the 1980s to include theatrical productions from his playwriting contemporaries over his long lifetime (1856 to 1950).

The 327-seat Court House Theatre continues to be a focal point of festival productions, though it has been eclipsed by the 869-seat Festival Theatre, officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973. A 200-seat Studio Theatre in the Festival Theatre complex (which also houses the festival offices) hosts productions as well as acting as a rehearsal space, and the Royal George Theatre, a former vaudeville house which dates back to 1915, adds another 328-seat venue as well as a touch of historic atmosphere to the festival’s repertoire. The Festival Theatre was built on the west edge of town, along the highway towards Toronto, while the Court House and Royal George are centrally located along Queen Street.

Theatre enthusiasts, wine and food connoisseurs, historical fanatics, and weekend daytrippers will all find Niagara-on-the-Lake to be a jewel in the crown of Southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe. Excellent shops, wine stores, restaurants, bars, and cafes line Queen Street. Ice cream and candy stores will appeal to children and even adults with a sweet tooth. The Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club offers a challenge on the links along the shore of Lake Ontario. Some of the Niagara Wine Region’s finest wineries, including Peller Estates and Stratus Vineyards, are just outside of town. Also adjacent to the town are Butler’s Barracks and Fort George, both National Historic Sites.

As with the Stratford Festival, Global Alliance can provide chauffeured service to Niagara-on-the-Lake, home of the Shaw Festival. Whether as a direct transfer or as part of one of our popular Niagara Region tours, this gem of a town and its world-class theatre festival is a very worthwhile trip for visitors to Southern Ontario and to residents alike and we would be glad to take you there.

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