April 2022 Newsletter

Message from the President

Greetings to all!
This month’s message from me is by video.
 Please check it out  by clicking the button below (goes to our YouTube channel)

Alan Walker, President

Notice from the Shaw Festival

The Shaw Festival will continue to require mask use by all our patrons until May 23.
[Note: This applies to Shaw Guild Volunteers as well.]

Along with the safety of its patrons, rest assured that the Shaw Festival also has the well-being of its staff and artists at heart, with protocols in place to ensure this. All of our Retail, Front of House, Box Office and Food & Beverage staff will be wearing masks or face shields until May 23 as well.

We require – for the safety of other patrons and our artists – that patrons who are unwell stay home and contact the Box Office to reschedule their visit to The Shaw. Exchange fees will be waived for all cases of illness.

Activities Corner

Brenda Weafer, Activities Chair

The Activities Team has been as busy as bees this spring – with no sign of stopping! Those who joined us on March 27th at the Scene Shop in Virgil had a rare treat.  We saw the wonderful period set for the Importance of Being Earnest being built and painted – the process for painting the cloth for the sides of the stage alone was jaw-dropping! Above is a photo of some of the Guild volunteers who attended.

Our very gracious hosts, Tim Carroll, Lesslie Tunmer and Gwyneth Stark, showed us some the amazing work that is being done to create the magic we will see on stage this season. From exquisite houses to fantastic trees, Guild volunteers were enchanted and transported.  We can’t wait to see these marvelous pieces on the stage!

Next, the team turned its attentions to planning the Spring Preview Luncheon on April 25th.  We are excited to celebrate the 60 years of both The Shaw Festival and the Shaw Guild with a wonderful lunch, prepared by the Green Room staff and then to get a peek at the design process for The Importance of Being Earnest opening later this spring.

Beyond the Stage at Shaw Festival has very graciously donated 5 pairs of tickets to each of the Director Designer Presentations this coming season. ($20 value per ticket). We will be holding draws for these tickets at our events, so watch for that. 

The first draw was held for those who attended the Scene Shop visit.  Congratulations to our 5 winners: Heather Schneider, Caroline Montgomery, Suzanne Hellewell Clews, Johanna Geusebroek and Ken Durie.  They will be attending the presentation for Damn Yankees, on April 24th.    Yay!  Thanks to Suzanne Merriam, Megan Gilchrist and Warren Bain in Beyond the Stage. 

Coming up, watch for a chance to attend a dress rehearsal on May 17th, followed by the first Coffee Connections on Monday, May 30th on the Members’ Terrace. 

So much to do!  Don’t miss these terrific events - information will be sent to you on how to register!  See you there!

Hosting Update

Greg Fedoryn, Hosting Chair

There is a Host Training Session Available on Monday May 9, 2022 at 2 pm at the Festival Theatre, Library

If you are new to Shaw Guild Hosting or if you would just like to have a Host refresher, here is your opportunity to join in a 2-hour Host training and information session. Please contact Greg Fedoryn if you would like to attend.


  • For the first hour we will meet in the Festival Library and cover all of the information you will require to be an effective Shaw Guild Host. This information can be found in the 2022 Hosting Handbook

  • In the second hour, we will tour the front of house of the three Shaw Theatres, so that you can become familiar with the many features of each theatre venue.

We’re looking forward to a great Shaw season, with your participation!

Remember to include your skills in your MVP profile!

The skills section of your MVP profile highlights your talents and experience. 
That information is used when searching for candidates for an open position on the Guild Executive Committee, or for another committee or event.

After signing into MVP, click on the drop-down box under My Profile and select Additional Info.
Check off all your skills in each section and add any unique skills in the Other section.

Remember you can update and change your skills as needed!

If you need help signing onto MVP, contact Margot Devlin at mvp@shawguild.ca

Be a Guild Leader!

by Laurie Harley, Past President and Chair of Nominating Committee

All volunteers contribute to the success of the Shaw Festival. 
 But, if you want to deepen your relationship with the Theatre and get “up close and personal” with what makes it so special, the Executive Committee is the place to be!
Each year the Nominating Committee reaches out to let you know about opportunities to join the Guild’s Leadership Team.  

For 2023, we have some big shoes to fill:   

  1. Greeting Chair (currently held by Marg Mather)

  2. Communications Chair (currently held by Cheryl Morris)

  3. Fundraising Chair (currently held by Mary Mizen)

What’s it like to be in a Guild leadership role? Is there an open position that would match your experience and skills?  Is there a role supporting a Chair position that would appeal to you?

New leaders who come forward to fill these positions will bring their unique set of strengths and will make the roles their own.  And there will be people with complimentary skills to support them along the way.  For the past six years, Marg and John Mather have managed the Greeter portfolio as a team.  That concept of “role sharing” is a tradition that will continue in 2023.

To help you answer these questions, we’ve asked Marg, Cheryl and Mary to share their thoughts in a short video. (Click button below to view on YouTube)

If this tweaks your curiosity and you want to learn more, just contact me I’d love to provide more information about joining the Leadership Team.

Spotlight on Volunteers: Margret Walker

Margret Walker bought her house in NOTL in 1979, but left to live in the United States for a number of years.  She kept her house, renting it out, until she returned in 1999.  She started volunteering at the Palliative Care Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2003 – 18 years as a volunteer and 7 years on the Board of Directors. 

Next in her volunteer history was the Cancer Society.  She was the lead for the Chautauqua Community until 2019. 

After these intensive volunteer assignments, Margret felt she needed more balance in her life, so she joined the Shaw Guild in 2015 and began Greeting at the Shaw Festival.  Margret said that the Greeting positions really took shape and became well established after Marg and John Mather took charge.  Between their deliveries of cold water and hot chocolate, Margret said she felt as welcome as she tried to make the Visitors to the Shaw feel. 

She also did some of the workshops for the Shaw Festival.  She said that one of the workshops for A Horse and his Boy was in a tent.  The tent was short-lived, however, as the ground was damp and there were lots of earthworms all over the place.  She said that the little girls went “EEEEWWW” and the little boys went “Oh boy” and the Shaw Festival staff said “no more tents”. 

Margret has also volunteered as an NOTL Ambassador and is now part of the leadership team for the new and improved Ambassador program. 

During the winter, Margret fell and broke her foot.  She is managing now with a walking boot and a crutch.  Fortunately, she still can drive and manages to get out to buy the odd bottle of wine, some of which is Pinot Grigio for her friends! 

Volunteers Needed!

Shaw Guild 16th Annual Garden Tour - Saturday, June 11

April showers bring May flowers… and final planning for the 2022 Shaw Guild Garden Tour!

This year’s event will feature eight gardens in Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We need your help to welcome and greet visitors. You can choose a morning or afternoon shift (and be rewarded with a pass to visit other gardens before or after your shift).

To sign up, please contact Susan MacDonald and indicate if you’d prefer a morning or afternoon shift (or no preference).

If you’ve already submitted your name, THANK YOU! It’s been recorded.

Be part of this exciting start to the summer season AND the Guild’s largest fundraising event!  Encourage your friends to purchase tickets at the Garden Tour Webpage.

Shaw Gardens Update 

Jane Catcher, Shaw Gardens Chair

The season has starting in full swing, with gardeners out to clean up The Royal George.

As always, there’s lots of work to be done at The Festival Theatre too, but nothing too big for this energetic group. For the first two weeks 15+ gardeners came out with spirits high and energized to take on what needed to be done. Our gardeners are both long-time and many new recruits as well!

I am very pleased to share with you that one project - that really needing doing and got accomplished – was a portion of the ‘miscanthus grasses’ that was impeding the beautiful roses in the courtyard.  If you see Tyler (Shaw’s garden maintenance person) around, please express your thanks for his efforts, as he dug up all the grasses by hand! No small feat. We then got the idea to turn this initiative into a mini-fundraiser. Again, this was largely due to the efforts of Tyler and Leeanne at the stage door, who assisted Peggy Bell in turning this idea into a reality.

Tyler separated all the plants, making them ready to sell to anyone who wants them. All you need to do is go to the stage door and pay Leeanne $10.00 a plant. She will then lead you to pick up your plants located near the gardening shed. Please note, there is a limited number and plants are going fast, so please get there soon! 

All funds raised will go back into buying plants for the gardens … a real win-win!

News from the Driveway

Marg Mather, Greeting Chair

As you see in Laurie Harley’s article from the Nominating Committee, I am stepping down from the Greeting Chair position, effective November 28th at the AGM.  The bylaws of the EC (Executive Committee) stipulate that a Chair can hold a position for the maximum of 6 years - giving a chance for “new blood”!

My husband, John, and I have really enjoyed our time as Greeting Chair and “Co-Chair”.  Greeting started as a pilot project in 2014-2015.  At that time, we were invited to the Past President’s house for a chat and wine……the wine did it!  I agreed to be a Convener which became an EC Chair at the 2016’s AGM.

Being a new activity, we had about 40 members greeting for some matinees at just the Festival Theatre. We felt that it was key to welcome the Patrons and to build up the Greeting team.  Over the years, we have increased our numbers to over 100 volunteers who greet for all Matinee and Evening performances at the Festival Theatre.  They are recognized as being an important first contact for our Patrons.

Then last year, COVID threw us a curve with ever changing restrictions.  This resulted in increasing our responsibilities to also include greeting at the Royal George and Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatres, and to our visiting the theatres for almost every performance to ensure EVERYONE was COMFORTABLE.

Now, with a strong team in place and with COVID responsibilities decreasing, the commitment is NOT as time consuming.  As well, over the past 3 years, a very good schedulingsystem is in place which works, and recently, we realized how good it is.  We were away for a week during which we were notified of 3 cancellations through MVP in April, which we could deal with on our return.  However, when we got back and checked MVP, the spots had been filled before we did anything. Amazing!!

Finally, John and I found working together was the best approach to managing Greeting, and this “role sharing” with a partner will be continued in 2023.  You can partner with a fellow volunteer or make a suggestion to us for your choice.

We will mentor the New Chair and partner the balance of this year and until everyone feels comfortable next year. I hope you think this sounds interesting.  If so, please contact us at shawgreeter@gmail.com for more information.

60 Years of Volunteering

Mary Mizen, Vice President

After the first season of theatre in 1962, the Court House Players was renamed to the Shaw Festival Theatre.  A board of directors was established and the organization became incorporated as a non-profit organization.  Andrew Allan was hired as the first Artistic Director and the Shaw Festival continued to expand each season.

Our volunteer organization has also evolved over the past 60 years.  In 1962, a group of volunteers was organized to help with various jobs in support of the theatre.  Original members of this organization included several local women, and was called the Women’s Committee, even though there were men who also volunteered to help, and gave generously of their time.

In 1974, the Women’s Committee was renamed to the Shaw Festival Guild (later shortened to the Shaw Guild), and men were formally invited to join.  As one of the early volunteers commented: “[allowing men to join was] … excellent because there are so many retired people and the men are just every bit as good as the women.” (see 50 Years of Shaw Festival Volunteers by Nancy Butler and Faye Goodwin)

In our 60-year history, volunteers have done whatever was needed to support the Shaw.  We have organized props, sold tickets, cleaned theatres, fundraised, prepared and sold food, and more. 

And sometimes we even get to go on stage!

In 1966, Grant Hawes, (pictured above with his grandchildren and pets) who has been a Guild Volunteer for many years, was working in Niagara-on-the-Lake at a summer job prior to going to university.  He also volunteered at the Shaw Festival, helping to build sets and working as a stage hand.  Barry Morse, the Artistic Director that year, was directing and starring in Man and Superman, which was being performed at the Court House.  He needed a tall man to play Captain of the Guards, and convinced Grant to take the role.

What Grant originally thought was a walk-on part, in fact included one line of dialogue: “Who are these men, Senor Ingles?”.  Grant was to deliver his line with a Spanish accent, and Barry Morse told him later that he was always on edge during every performance, because Grant never delivered his line the same way twice!

In 2018, several Guild Volunteers had their stage debut when Diana Donnelly directed Caryl Churchills’ play Far Away, as part of the Director’s Project.   Thirty Guild Volunteers paraded across the stage in a pivotal scene in the production, wearing exotic hats and covering their mouths with masks.  The volunteers also had the opportunity to observe a Far Away rehearsal, and to see first-hand the work of a director, stage manager, designer and actors as they prepare for a production.

Below is the "cast", and Brenda Weafer and Lorraine Horton hamming it up.

With the arrival of Tim Carroll as Artistic Director in 2015, and his concept of two-way theatre, there have been many opportunities for actors on stage to engage with both audience and volunteers.    Wendy Glazier played the part of the lion in a performance of Androcles and the Lion in 2017.  And Arlene Carson played one of the “little old ladies” in a rehearsal of The Ladykillers in the 2019 season. Guild Volunteers have had other opportunities to “walk the boards” over the past 60 years.

Volunteering at the Shaw Festival has always been rewarding.  But for some of our Guild Volunteers, getting a chance to be on stage has been a fabulous experience!

In Memoriam

Mariana Marlene Walther passed away peacefully and surrounded by family on April 4, 2022. Marlene will be deeply missed by her devoted husband of over 50 years, Roland, her loving sons, Stefan and Mark, and her cherished daughter-in-law, Larisa.

Teaching was Marlene's great passion and it gave her pleasure when she could help others learn. Marlene began her career in education in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. She then taught for 25 years for the Lakehead Board of Education in Thunder Bay, completed her Master in Education degree, and became Business Chair at Westgate High School. A big career highlight was teaching the children of the Canadian Forces in Lahr, Germany, working for the Department of National Defence in the mid-1980s. Another milestone came in 2001 when Marlene was honoured by being nominated and receiving the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence; family joined her for the ceremony on Parliament Hill where the award was personally presented by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Marlene spent her last 15 years in Niagara-on-the-Lake and thoroughly enjoyed all it has to offer. She was an avid theatre lover and volunteered for the Shaw Guild since she moved to NOTL in 2007, serving as Membership Chair from 2010-2013, Docent from 2011 until the end of 2016, and Garden Tour volunteer.

She also served on the NOTL Newcomers Board, as treasurer, then president, and webmaster.

A Celebration of Life will occur this summer for family and close friends in Marlene's favourite place, her beautiful garden. Marlene loved and was surrounded by animals her whole life and was particularly fond of cats.

John Hunter

Sadly, we announce the passing of former Guild Gardener John Hunter on April 12, 2022.

After retiring to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 2006, John and his late wife Ruth spent many years volunteering at Shaw Festival, gathering numerous friends along the way.  

A celebration of John’s life will be held at Morgan’s Funeral Home on Regent Street, Tuesday, April 26th at 2:00 pm. and Niagara friends are warmly invited to join the family at that time.