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Christopher Newton, longtime Shaw Festival artistic director, dies at 85

A balck-and-white photo of Christopher Newton, leaning on a stool, with his tuxedo tie untied.
Shaw Festival

Christopher Newton, the former longtime artistic director of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., has died.

Organizers of the festival shared the news on social media and its website, saying he died peacefully at 85 years old.

“It is no exaggeration to say that, without Christopher Newton, there would be no Shaw Festival today,” stated Artistic Director Tim Carroll. “He set a very high standard in everything he did, and long after his retirement as artistic director in 2002 he continued to be a passionate supporter of the festival and the arts. He was an inspiring mentor to young artists and an unfailingly generous source of advice and encouragement to me. I will miss him.”

Born and educated in England, the award-winning Newton earned his Master of Arts from the University of Illinois and moved to Canada in 1961, when he began his acting career. He founded the Calgary Theatre in 1968 and the Playhouse Acting School in 1975. He was named artistic director of the Shaw Festival in 1979 and continued until 2002.

Festival officials credited Newton with reinvigorating the festival during his tenure and making a "momentous impact" on the Canadian theater and arts landscape during his life.