August 31, 2020 Newsletter

Shaw Festival low res
Message from Laurie Harley, President, Shaw Guild

Shaw Festival Cancels Remaining 2020 Performances of Charley’s Aunt and Flush

We’re baaack!  The Shaw Guild presents . . .

“Fancy Pants” With Jason Bendig, head of Wardrobe at the Shaw Festival. This first broadcast in our new Fall series will take place on Tuesday, September 15th at 5:00 pm.

We will chat with Jason about his career, and some of the behind-the- scenes details that make the Wardrobe department such a vital and interesting place to be!

You will be able to send us your questions beforehand to Or you can type in your questions during the live broadcast. It promises to be a fun and interesting way to spend a little time with your favourite beverage and learn more about the inner workings of the Company!

The team of Laurie Harley, Brenda Weafer, Gail Kendall, Cheryl Morris and Emily Lukasik spent several hours scouting out and shopping for items for the boxes. It was difficult to make the final choices with so many great shops to choose from. 

The team will gather soon to discuss the possibility of putting together a holiday-themed package later in the year and perhaps extend the offer to local residents who are not Guild members.

The boxes contained:

  • Greaves Cherry Jam (Greaves)
  • Chimney Cake (Budapest Bakery)
  • Victoria Coffee or Tea (Victoria Gallery & Teas)
  • Artisan Soap (One Earth)
  • Ice Cream Flavoured Lip Balm (Cows)
  • Butter Tarts x 2 (Niagara Home Bakery)
  • Artichoke Tapenade (Kurtz)
  • Tea Towel Embroidered with NOTL Clock Tower (Plusios)
  • Maple Fudge (Maple Leaf Fudge)
  • Salt Water Taffy (Old Tyme Candy Shop)
  • LOT O’ NOTL Canvas Bag
  • Shaw Festival ballpoint pen


The response from happy customers has been wonderful! Here are a few comments:

  • “I received our box while hosting a socially distanced coffee on the deck with two other couples. They were suitably impressed when I opened our mystery box.”
  • “Oh my gosh – it’s like early Christmas …. I don’t know what to eat first?? What a marvelous selection of tasty and savory bits along with a combination of wonderful mementoes and products from the heartbeat of NOTL.  Well done Shaw Festival and the Guild.  Worth every cent and would be happy to participate in this again.”
  • “What a delightful surprise.  And what a great initiative.  Congratulations!”
  • “Great concept and way to show local support.  Happy to have been able to participate.”
  • “What fun to unpack my surprise box!  I was excited to come home to find out what lovely treats were waiting for me. Great idea, great success.” 
  • “I absolutely love, love, love my basket! Many thanks to the contributing vendors and volunteers who delivered these delectable delights. Great job everyone.”
  • “We received our ‘A Lot of NOTL’ box and were delighted with the contents.  Such a lovely variety - some practical, some useful and some treats.  Today we will start enjoying the contents. An absolutely creative idea.”
  • “Opened my Box.........WOW!  Beautiful presentation, a great selection and yummy! Well done. Congratulations! (Please also give my congrats to Emily - delicious idea!)”
  • “Thank you for the wonderful box of goodies the Guild assembled.  An excellent idea and I hope the store owners were happy with the result. (I have eaten both tarts already!)”
  • “WOW, the box is amazing … just LOVE IT!!!  From the moment I learned of the idea, I was committed. I really liked that you kept the contents a surprise as it made the day of delivery that much more special and exciting. When my husband and I opened the box, we were taken aback by the contents, lots of variety with a nice blend of fresh and non-perishable items; even the box is great.”

Mark your calendar! September 15 - Shaw’s Fancy Pants!

Performances of A Christmas Carol remain as scheduled

“We know it looks insurmountable to return to the stage in 2020, but we at The Shaw are holding onto hope for a holiday season,” said Kimberley Rampersad, Associate Artistic Director. “Our hope is a candle – it may flicker, but it will not go out.”

You can read the entire media release here.

A LOT O' NOTL - Delivered!

Thanks to Shaw Guild members who ordered one of the LOT O’ NOTL boxes, containing curated delicacies and home products, as part of the Shaw Guild’s program to support Queen Street merchants!  

The 50 boxes at $50 each were assembled and delivered on Friday, August 28, by a team of Guild volunteers, led by Emily Lukasik, Shaw Company actor, who proposed the initiative to the Guild a couple of months ago. Emily (at top left in photo below) had heard of a similar program being done in a Toronto neighbouhood earlier this year, and thought it would be great for the Shaw and the Guild to run the program in support of Queen Street merchants in the same way.

The Town has provided each volunteer with a t-shirt, tote bag containing hand sanitizer, a ValuMart $10 gift card, a mask and a map, as well as a “home base” in the Market Room in the Old Courthouse. Andrew Niven, Director of Marketing at Konzelmann Estate Winery, has generously donated a bottle of wine for each volunteer! “Congratulations on this new initiative. We are always very appreciative of the great work the Shaw Guild does within our community,” said Andrew.

Read the media release from the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake here.

The pilot project is continuing until September 13. If you are interested in participating, please send email to

Photo L to R: Lois Chapman, Kim Mustill, Barbara Webber, Marlene Walther, Councillors Wendy Cheropita and 
Gary Burroughs.

NOTL Ambassador Pilot Project Launched!

The project was launched on Saturday August 29. Twenty-nine Shaw Guild volunteers are participating as Ambassadors to greet visitors to Town, provide essential social distancing and mask guidelines, and answer questions to help people enjoy Niagara-on-the-Lake.

On August 25, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, announced a non-repayable FedDev Ontario investment of $500,000 to support the tourism industry in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

With this investment, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake will establish a fund that will provide contributions of up to $20,000 to small- and medium-sized businesses in the tourism sector. Tourism-oriented SMEs will receive support to offset the costs of reopening and adapting. The project is expected to support 50 businesses and maintain about 100 jobs.

The Minister also announced the intention to provide a contribution of up to $400,000 to the Shaw to support outdoor theatre performances and support visitor activity in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Quote from Tim Jennings: "On behalf of the Shaw Festival, our artists, craftspeople, technicians, volunteers, board and admin workers, we are thrilled to be able to partner with FedDev Ontario to be able to support the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Region of Niagara and Tourism NOTL in encouraging a resurgence of safe, outdoor gatherings through a series of musical performance opportunities and a few other surprises. The Shaw will use these funds to provide free and low-cost outdoor performance activities and purchase equipment to ensure the safest possible experience for everyone.”

The entire announcement can be found here.

A Day in the Life of an Usher

Government of Canada Invests in New Fund for Niagara-on-the-Lake Tourism Operator

I would like to introduce you to the three wonderful people in this picture which was taken in my garden last summer: Bev Edwardson, Head Usher; Muriel Triano, House Manager; and Corrie Vriens, also a Head Usher, now retired. Collectively, they’ve devoted more than 75 years working for the Shaw. Notice Bernard’s head peering over their shoulders through the cedars! If Shaw were alive today, he would likely be writing some controversial plays about the times we are in, using his gift of satire and political allegory to invoke discussion. He would have been as disappointed as we are that so many shows had to be cancelled this year. But, in spite of that, he would be so pleased to see how much dedication has been given for more than fifty years by the staff, volunteers, and patrons to our wonderful gem of a theatre named in his honour.  

The Show Must Go On: ”Billowing Floors, and Odours Galore!”

Seventh in a series by Paddy Parr, Shaw Gardens Chair

The annual flurry of Marketing activities, always fuels the success of the new season. One very important pre-Opening event was TOURISM NIGHT.   This annual event with a pre-show ‘meet and greet’ reception, was followed by a main-stage performance, and closing with post-show refreshments. Hosted by the Marketing Department, the gathering was to promote not only the theatre, but the Niagara tourism partners as well.  It was always an upbeat, full house event!

May 12, 2000 brought yet another weather-related crisis to the theatre.  The pre-show event went well, but during the performance, Niagara-on-the-Lake was hit with the most violent storm that was just short of a tornado!  Trees and light standards were knocked down all over Town.  For the first time, (and the only time in twenty-two years), I could not get out of my neighbourhood to get to the theatre when there was a call for help.  I was stranded!

The power of the storm had created a giant downdraft that literally sucked open one of the smoke hatches located on the roof of the fly tower!  The sudden change in building pressure caused the entire stage cloth to “billow”, alerting both the actors AND the audience, that something severe was taking place outside!  The wide-eyed actors continued on with the play, with the sound of roaring wind, ‘rising and falling’ floor, and raindrops dripping through lighting grids to the stage.  One lone Maintenance Department ‘hero’ climbed the upstage right spiral staircase, through the grid, and closed the hatch!!!  At the same time, the bewildered Marketing team who were setting up the lobby for the post-show party, were watching the lobby windows bowing in and out!  Luckily, they held!

As fast as the storm hit, it passed, and the audience was quite jovial about the billowing floor, how poised and professional the actors were, but totally oblivious to the destruction they were going to witness on their way home. 

The ushers are usually the first people at the theatre to greet the patrons, unless it’s a shift where the Shaw Guild hosts are taking tickets. As you know, the ushers show you to your seats, offer you a program, and answer any questions you may have about the performance, and so on. What you may not realize is that one of their most important duties is to ensure the safety of the audience. That’s why the ushers are required to “sit in” with the audience during every performance. Their purpose is to keep an eye on the audience, not to watch the show. They are constantly scanning the theatre to see if there are any situations they need to deal with. They check to make sure aisles are clear, no programs are lying around that someone can slip on, no umbrellas or canes are sticking out, nothing is sitting on the balcony ledges that could accidentally fall onto the people below or get caught up in the lights, etc. If anyone moves to get out of their seat, the usher tries to get there as fast as possible to assist them to exit the theatre safely. Their job is to make the theatre experience as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

I was on the job for only about a week when I found out how important safety is and how much that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the ushers. The play was Ivan Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” in the Court House Theatre. Every year, the theatre was constructed inside the Court House auditorium with a thrust stage surrounded by bleachers on three sides. (The Court House was last used by the Shaw in 2017.) Two ushers always sat in, one on the left side and one on the right side, both situated strategically so they can see both the upper and lower levels of seats at all times. The theatre aisles were used extensively for the actors to enter and exit the stage. Quite often sections of the play were performed on the stair landings on either side as well. Not only were the ushers responsible for the safety of the patrons but, in this theatre especially, for the safety of the actors, also.

So, this particular afternoon, I was seated on the right-hand side as you enter the theatre, the lights dimmed, I sat down, and the show began. It didn’t take very long before the first incident happened. A cell phone started ringing quite loudly. I glanced around furtively trying to locate the source. A most unfortunate place: middle of the front row, within arm’s length of the actors on stage. The actors immediately stopped talking, froze in their tracks, and waited. The woman reached for her purse beside her, started rummaging around in it while bits and pieces of the contents fell on the floor, and after about eight rings, managed to find the phone and turn it off. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. She was doing her best to stop the ringing, so there was nothing else I could do. Trying to reach her would have caused only more disruption. I noticed a few other patrons search around for their purses to check their cell phones. Better late than never. Once the ringing stopped, the actors picked up where they left off, and it was on with the show!

Soon after, the action was lively on stage and I could see Marla McLean carefully ascending the steps from below on my left. Just then, two patrons, a woman and her young daughter, got up from their seats in Row H and were rapidly descending the stairs from above. They were obviously in a rush. They could not see Marla, and Marla could not see them, but I could see a head-on collision was about to happen unless I did something immediately. I stood up, moved forward, and hoped to get Marla’s attention to stop, but she was totally focused on her part, not looking at me at all. The patrons coming down the steps were concentrating on getting down the stairs as quickly as possible and did not see me either. Marla took a few more steps and stopped on the landing. I leapt behind her as fast as I could and reached up to touch the woman’s leg above, to get her attention. She stopped, looked at me, and I motioned for her to stay there. That’s when she saw Marla on the landing, so grabbed her daughter’s arm to stop her from smacking right into her. They both sat on the stairs and waited. Not missing a beat, Marla, with the spotlight brightly shining on her, recited several lines while I was standing right behind her. I tried to stay in the shadows as much as I could. Finally, after what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, Marla moved off the landing, down the aisle, and onto the stage. I led the woman and her daughter out of the theatre and into the lobby where the Head Usher would now take care of them. She explained to me that her daughter had suddenly started to feel very ill, so she decided they needed to get out of the theatre as quickly as possible. I went back to my seat, took a few deep breaths, and made an effort to calm myself. I tried not to think of what could have happened had I not been able to stop them in time.

The play continued with Fiona Byrne desperately trying to seduce Martin Happer into an adulterous affair. I was welcoming the distraction on stage, which helped to take my mind off the disaster that had been averted a few moments before. However, my intent concentration was being disturbed by some fidgeting movements and whispering of two patrons in the third row on the right side of the aisle. Something was going on, so I had to keep my attention on them, not on the stage. Suddenly, they got up and started moving toward the aisle. I stood up, not really knowing what I would do next, but ready to escort them out of the theatre if I needed to. Before I could react any further, they were skirting across the aisle intent on sitting in two empty seats in the middle section, to get a better view, I suppose. At the exact same time, Martin came bounding off the stage and with his long, muscular legs, leapt clearly over them, and then exited in front of me. This all happened in just a few seconds. I gasped! I slowly sat down again and waited for my heart beat to slow down. Luckily, the rest of the play was non-eventful. That was enough excitement for me for one day. After the show, the stage manager came looking for me. She said, “You had quite the interesting shift today, didn’t you? No kidding! She congratulated me on handling things well, though I felt I hadn’t done much at all. She certainly had no shortage of notes to write in her show report for that afternoon. 

So, the next time you’re attending the theatre as a patron, be sure to appreciate the effort the ushers and Front of House staff do for you. They are always being vigilant for your safety, for the actors’ safety, and to help bring you the best theatre experience possible. If you are volunteering at the theatre, be sure to treat them with the respect and admiration they deserve.

After I worked as an usher for three seasons, it seemed natural to continue my involvement by volunteering for the Shaw Guild. I served on the Executive Committee for four years, gave tours as a docent for six years, assisted with the Annual Garden Tour every year, and helped in other ways as opportunities arose. I’ll always treasure that first experience as an usher. It was the best introduction I could have had to learn about how the theatre staff all work together to put on these amazing performances. When I attend a show or put in time as a volunteer, I am always so proud of it all. It’s been a pleasure to have had the chance to be involved in so many diverse ways. And I’ve made some lasting friendships, too.

By Marlene Walther


When I moved to Niagara on the Lake in 2007, one of my first priorities was to become involved with the Shaw Theatre and support them however I could. Not many small communities are so fortunate to have such a world-class theatre in their midst and I wanted to be a part of it somehow.

Within a week of moving here, I accessed the Shaw Festival’s website on the Internet. I was looking for their volunteer section when I stumbled upon “Job Opportunities.”  I clicked on it and saw a posting for ushers required immediately. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to realize that was a job I’d love to do and a very good way to get to know more about the Shaw. I phoned, went for an interview, and was hired to start within a few days.

(It wasn’t quite like this photo depicts, but try finding an image of a theatre with a billowing floor!)

About a week later, the Tool Room in the large Prop Shop (located onsite back in those days) started to give off a horrendous odour.  Must be a dead mouse!   Could be something brewing in the Dye Room!   Perhaps a forgotten lunch?    We were forced to take up a portion of the plywood floor in the Tool Room, and discovered that on the night of May 12th, 2000, the sewage system backed up, depositing large amounts of raw sewage under the entire Tool Room and Elex Office flooring! This was a nightmare to repair during the busiest time in the season.  More clean-up and now sanitizing to be done, plumbing to be re-routed to avoid a repeat event, and all floors to be replaced!  Finally, another crisis was solved! Truly a TOURISM NIGHT to remember!!

Shaw Festival History: Shaw Festival Artistic Directors

Research by Kim Mustill.


  • Andrew Allan (1963-1965)
  • Barry Morse (1966)
  • Paxton Whitehead (1967-1977)
  • Leslie Yeo (1979)
  • Christopher Newton (1980-2002)
  • Jackie Maxwell (2003-2016)
  • Tim Carroll (2017- )


Andrew Allen was The Shaw’s first Artistic Director. He was an acclaimed radio and television drama producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Allan had minimal experience of live theatre, but this deficiency was balanced somewhat by the appointment of Sean Mulcahy as associate director. Allan appealed to Brian Doherty in part because of his commitment to the ensemble concept and in part, as Mulcahy put it, because Allan’s “gentlemanly” demeanor would be valuable in community relations. Andrew Allan born in ArbroathScotland, was the national head of CBC Radio Drama from 1943 to 1955. He oversaw the work of some of the finest talents of the day, writers and actors such as Lister SinclairMavor MooreW. O. MitchellJane MallettJohn DrainieBarry MorseChristopher PlummerJames Doohan, and many others.

Herbert (Barry) Morse (10 June 1918 – 2 February 2008), known professionally as Barry Morse, was an English-Canadian actor of stage, screen and radio best known for his roles in the ABC television series The Fugitive and the British sci-fi drama Space: 1999. His performing career spanned seven decades and he had thousands of roles to his credit, including work for the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He served one year as the Artistic Director with the Shaw Festival in 1966.


Francis Edward (Paxton) Whitehead was born on 17 October, 1937 in Kent, England, UK is an English actor, theatre director and playwright. He trained at London's Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts starting at the age of 17 for two years. He then went to work in stock companies starting with the "weekly rep", small touring companies that rehearsed and performed a new play each week. He made his professional debut in 1956, and within two years was signed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. While Whitehead was the Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival, he helped to develop it into a professional, international event.



Leslie Yeo was born on May 25, 1915 in Swindon, Wiltshire, England. He was an actor, known for Code Name: Eternity (1999), PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (1996) and Bye Bye Blues (1989) and more than 500 roles on stages in Canada, the US, and Britain. Aside from his tenure at the Shaw Festival, he also founded Newfoundland's first professional theater company. He directed or appeared in plays at nearly every major theater company in Canada, and taught master classes in comedy technique at the Banff Centre, and worked with students at Ryerson University and the University of Alberta.

Christopher Newton (born 11 June 1936) is a Canadian director and actor, and served as artistic director of the Shaw Festival from 1980 to 2002.

Newton was born in Deal, Kent, England and educated at Sir Roger Manwood's School. After graduating from the University of Leeds with a B.A., he moved to the United States for further study at Purdue University in Indiana and the University of Illinois, where he earned his M.A. in 1960.

Summer jobs at the Vancouver Festival in 1959, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the next two summers, led Newton into acting. Bucknell University hired him as acting head of theatre department, where he continued to learn acting on the job.


Jackie Maxwell (born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1956), is a theatre director and dramaturge.  After earning an Honours degree in Drama at the University of Manchester, England, Maxwell accompanied her  husband, Benedict Campbell, back to his native Canada, where she began to work as a director at the National Arts Centre. She subsequently became Artistic Director of the Factory Theatre in Toronto (1987–95) and Director of New Play Development at the Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island. In 2002, she became Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival, where she included pieces by female writers from the Shavian period, commissioned new translations by some of Canada’s most respected playwrights, presented Canadian classics on the playbill and initiated enormous growth in the area of new play development.

Tim Carroll began his career with the English Shakespeare Company in 1990 before becoming the associate director at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter. His extensive opera experience includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Sydney Opera House, The Turn of the Screw and Bluebeard’s Castle for Opera Oviedo, Spain, acclaimed productions of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring and Handel’s Acis and Galatea as artistic director of Kent Opera.

TC, as he likes to be known, directed many productions while associate director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, including Macbeth and The Tempest. His Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III enjoyed record-breaking runs in London’s West End and a Tony Award-winning visit to Broadway. His Royal Shakespeare Company credits include The Merchant of Venice. As a founding member of the experimental theatre group The Factory in London, he directed celebrated productions of Hamlet, The Seagull and The Odyssey. He has directed many productions in Hungary and for the National Theatres of Norway, Romania and Portugal. His work has been seen in theatres all over the world, including the Lincoln Center in New York, Sydney Opera House and Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. Mr. Carroll’s work has also graced Canadian stages with several productions at the Stratford Festival, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Pan, Romeo and Juliet, and King John, which also appeared on movie screens around the world. In 2016, he was awarded the American Shakespeare Centre’s prestigious Burbage Award.


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