Shaw Festival cancels most of its 2020 season, but tries to salvage some shows

The Shaw Festival has cancelled most of its 2020 shows. But a few productions slated for after Sept. 16 might still go on with reduced capacity.

Charley's Aunt, Flush and A Christmas Carol could proceed with reduced-capacity

This is the set design, done by Cory Sincennes, of the now cancelled 2020 production of Gypsy at the Shaw Festival Theatre. (Photo by Mark Callan)

As a result of the pandemic, the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake has officially cancelled most of its 2020 season. 

"We are sad to have to announce that based on the province of Ontario's framework for reopening businesses and the further extension of the state of emergency, it is clear that the Shaw Festival is not able to proceed with the season as scheduled," a newsletter posting said.

"As a result, we must cancel all performances and public events through Sept. 15."

The festival also added that the "further delay" has forced the cancellation of most of the 2020 productions. 

A few remaining productions after Sept. 16 have not been cancelled in the hopes that the festival can welcome back audiences to reduced capacity theatres. Those shows include performances of Charley's Aunt, Flush, and A Christmas Carol.

Cancelled productions include Gypsy, The Devil's Disciple, Sherlock Holmes and The Raven's Curse, Prince Caspian, The Playboy of the Western World, Assassins, Desire Under the Elms, Trouble in Mind and Me and My Girl.

The festival said that the company had been looking forward to the season, and that people are "hungry for the special way that theatre allows us to join together and share a unique experience." 

"It's devastating to have had to put the season on hold, but we are determined that you will see as much of it as possible as soon as it is safe to share it with you," they said. 

 The festival says it will announce safety protocols and measures in the coming weeks with guidance from public health and Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

When it comes to a shortened fall and or holiday season, the festival says it decided to "remain optimistic."

The cancellations will impact thousands of jobs. The festival is one of Niagara's 20 largest employers and contributes more than $220 million to Ontario's economy, says a 2019 annual report

A schedule featuring the three productions, the festival said, "might afford what we feel is the best way to help our community get back on its feet as soon as it is safe to do so."  

It's also waiting for word from the government and public health agencies on a "variety of issues" to ensure they can do so.


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