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Shaw Festival ramps up a 60th season with fewer COVID restrictions

The words "CYRANO DE BERGERAC" in red, behind a man in black with a red rose in front of his face.
Shaw Festival
"Cyrano De Bergerac" runs March 20 through May 8 at the Shaw Festival.

When the full heat of summer hits Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the indoor and outdoor stages of the Shaw Festival will be filled with performers in classic plays and musicals, from the works of George Bernard Shaw to August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean."

If everything goes right, Executive Director and CEO Tim Jennings would like to see at least 200,000 ticket buyers visiting the village for the festival's 60th season and many more. Jennings wants filled theater seats, something different from seeing theater on streaming TV.

"We're focused on a live interaction between people here on site or incentivizing other local theaters as well, not just us," he said. "We see ourselves as part of an ecology. And so what I want is more people coming to the theater generally and to live performance generally. So our focus has always been and I think will continue to be as long as Tim Carroll and I are here will continue to be on that live relationship."

Jennings said ticket sales are going well and COVID restrictions are slowly going away. Re-opening the U.S. border would be a major contributor to thousands of ticket buyers.

"It's been tricky, but we've managed to keep everybody on and doing things throughout the whole pandemic," he said. "I mean, about 600 staff here who've been kept on throughout and part of that was not because of Queens Park, it was because we took out pandemic insurance back in 2015. So we've been able to navigate in ways I think a lot of folks haven't. But, as I say, last year we did have not have just three theaters up and running but six, because we added three outdoor ones."

Before the pandemic, in 2019, 325,000 ticket buyers spent money in the attractions of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

With "This is How We Got Here" already closed, the current show on a stage is Edmond Rostand's classic "Cyrano de Bergerac," with the musical "Damn Yankees." ramping up the season April 23. For those who don't remember, one of the creators of "Damn Yankees" was Hamburg native and Broadway legend George Abbott.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.