Heading into season number 60 in 2022, the Shaw Festival has announced a line-up full of favourites, timeless classics and new works for the milestone year.
“We have a lot to celebrate as we look forward to our diamond anniversary season,” said artistic director Tim Carroll in an Oct. 6 press release. “In what might be our most ambitious program ever, we intend to show off the range of experiences available at the Shaw.”
That range of experiences includes a return of outdoor events, something that was necessary during earlier COVID restrictions on indoor attendance at live performances.
The popular puppet show A Short History of Niagara, created by Alexandra Montagnese and Mike Petersen, with sound design by Ryan Cowl and in partnership with Parks Canada, will be back for another outdoor run.
As well, both Fairground and Shawground return in 2022. The hour-long interactive experiences created by the Shaw ensemble guide participants through the Festival Theatre grounds with charming charisma, and end with an exhilarating finale. One features the tempting sensory delights of music, poetry and dance, while the other ignites the internal Shavian with lively deliberations, spoken word and spirited music from Shaw’s lifetime.
Old favourites include Damn Yankees, presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) at the Festival Theatre. The well-known play about middle-aged Joe Boyd making a Faustian deal for his Washington Senators to beat the powerhouse New York Yankees previews on April 23.
Carroll himself will be directing Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the same venue. The three-act satire mingles truth and comedy with sarcastic and blistering banter to skewer Victorian attitudes and social structures. It was last seen at the Festival in 2004.
Kate Hennig’s translation and adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac returns to the Royal George Theatre after a successful 2019 run. The tale of the unrequited and selfless love of a 17th century swordsman for Roxane is an eloquent and poignant tale for anyone who has ever loved from afar.
Fans of Bernard Shaw will enjoy The Doctor’s Dilemma, directed by Diana Donnelly. Previewing July 16 at the Festival Theatre, it was last seen here in 2010. The playwright’s exploration of medical ethics continues to be relevant and timely in 2022 as it ponders the moral questions concerning life and death: If one patient can only live at the cost of another’s life, who lives and who dies? What is the value of a human life? Queries which still have urgency are brought to thrilling life in this tragicomic tour de force.
The Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre will play host to Shaw’s Too True to Be Good, last seen at the Festival in 2006. In this comedy featuring a talking microbe, Shaw takes aim at doctors, preachers, the military and the aristocracy. The play foreshadows the insanity that was about to engulf the world after the end of the First World War.
Keith Barker, artistic director at Toronto’s Native Earth Performing Arts, Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous theatre, directs his own play, This Is How We Got Here at the Studio Theatre. The member of the Métis Nation of Ontario is a previous winner of Dora Mavor Moore and the Playwrights Guild of Canada’s Carol Bolt Awards.
Keith was also a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English Drama in 2018 for the play, which follows a family torn apart by a suicide, struggling to find each other again, when a mysterious fox shows up with a curious gift.
Gaslight previews at the Royal George on May 4. Directed by Kelli Fox, it’s a gripping thriller based on Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Angel Street. The play has been credited for coining the term that has become commonly used in recent years to describe an insidious form of mental abuse.
The lunchtime one-act play Chitra returns for the second straight year. Directed by Kimberley Rampersad, the poem of false appearance and true love was written by Rabindranath Tagore, a Shaw contemporary. Based on a tale from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, the play follows the titular character, a warrior princess raised as a boy, as she begs the gods for perfect beauty so she can win the affections of Arjuna. There’s no word yet whether or not this year’s cast will return, but it will be presented at the Royal George.
Also at the same theatre, Just to Get Married was written by another Shaw contemporary, actress, journalist, playwright and suffragette Cicely Hamilton, who wrote more than 20 plays, many feminist in nature. In this one, a poor, but clever woman knows that the quickest way to financial stability and independence is to get married, but is not sure her conscience will allow her to go through with it when a suitable man proposes.
Rounding out the playbill at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre are August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, directed by Phillip Akin, and Everybody, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who also wrote Octaroon, which the Festival presented in 2017.
In the latter, László Bérczes directs the Canadian premiere of the provocative modern riff on the 15th century medieval morality play Everyman. In an interesting twist, the character of Everybody will be played by one of five actors selected by lottery at the start of each
In addition, the 2022 holiday season will see the return of both A Christmas Carol and Irving Berlin’s A White Christmas, both at the Festival Theatre, directed by Molly Atkinson and Kate Hennig respectively.
Casts, creative teams and the series of outdoor concerts and activities for the 2022 season, will be announced at a later date. Further updates will also be available at shawfest.com.
Tickets to the 2022 season will be on sale beginning Nov. 6 for Friends of The Shaw and Dec. 4 for the public. Orders can be placed through the box office at 1-800-511-SHAW (7429) or online at shawfest.com.