A Message from Elaine Calder, Executive Director of the Shaw Festival

Elaine Calder, Executive Director for The Shaw FestivalAfter eighteen years away I’m very happy to be back at the Shaw, in part because of its bi-national character. As a dual citizen who’s worked in the States for the past six years it’s good to return to Canada but still be able to keep strong ties with our US patrons. Our American Governors are justly proud that the Festival owes its existence to a Canada-USA partnership and I’m doing everything I can to emphasize the importance of this cross-border relationship.

And of course I’m thrilled to be working with Jackie Maxwell and leading what John Simon of New York magazine has described as “the best repertory theatre on the entire continent.” I’m proud of the work of our gifted actors, directors, designers and technicians, and delighted by the expanded breadth of our programming. This season (2013) we’re introducing Tom Stoppard to our repertoire with his dazzling Arcadia, as part of Jackie’s commitment to bring “contemporary Shavians” into the mix. This is very much a theatre company for people who enjoy intelligent, challenging theatre. (I leave a play by GBS, like this year’s Major Barbara, feeling smarter than I really am….and Arcadia will definitely flex my mental muscles in a very Shavian way.)  But we offer sheer entertainment as well—joyous productions of comedies and musicals which, like last season’s Ragtime (2012), can also move us to tears and cause us to reflect on our shared history.

During the season I keep a single rose on my desk, picked in the gardens surrounding the Festival Theatre. Our lawns stretch out to the historic Commons, and the tawny brick of our buildings is softened by wisteria and perennial borders. Without doubt this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever worked—an architectural gem nestled on the edge of our 19th century town, steeped in history, surrounded by vineyards and bordered by Lake Ontario and the Niagara River.

About 250,000 people attend Festival productions each year, and it feels as though a lot of them are my friends. I mean that literally: this is an annual destination for theatre lovers and a chance for me and many others to reconnect with people from across the continent. It’s a place to share summer days over breakfast, discuss productions of great plays over superb food and wine, walk past beautiful homes and explore interesting shops, and enjoy a stimulating escape from everyday life.


Elaine Calder
June 5, 2013

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