In summer, GBS fans head for Niagara on the Lake
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
It is highly unlikely that the great Irish dramatist George Bernard Shaw ever heard of the small and quaint Ontario town of Niagara on the Lake. Yet Shaw might well have been offering instruction to the town's current inhabitants and summer visitors when he wrote, with characteristic tongue-in-cheek and unabashed overstatement, the following:Skip to next paragraph
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"When once you get accustomed to my habit of mind, which I was born with and cannot help, you will not find me such bad company.But please do not think you can take in the work of my long lifetime at one reading. You must make it your practice to read all of my works at least twice over every year for 10 years or so."
During the summer of each year, devotees of theater and literature gather here to delight in, study, and celebrate Shaw's profound philosophizing and elegant wit. The Shaw Festival, as this celebration is known, is dedicated to production of plays by Shaw, about Shaw, and by the best of Shaw's contemporaries -- and, because Shaw's productive lifetime spanned the years 1856 to 1950, that includes quite a few great playwrights.
The festival began in 1962 as an amateur project, "Salute to Shaw," presenting eight performances of two Shaw plays by 10 unpaid actors. The first season was organized in the 115-year-old courthouse by Brian Dougherty. In 1963 , the festival was incorporated and the ensuing years of constant artistic and economic growth have culminated in the festival's current place as one of Canada's leading cultural institutions, with its highly acclaimed summer production season and regularly scheduled events throughout the year.
Since 1962, the festival has presented 50 productions of Shaw plays, with favorites such as "Pygmalion," "Heartbreak House," "Candida," and "Arms and the Man" produced more than one time. The festival still occupies the 400-seat Courthouse Theatre. In addition, a new 830-seat Festival Theatre, opened in 1973, has become the festival's year-round cultural center. The 1981 season will also use the recently acquired Royal George Theatre, an intimate auditorium with an attractive white and gold Georgian facade.
Paxton Whitehead, for many years the festival's artistic director, has reputedly acted in more Shaw plays than any other actor of his generations. The festival's ensemble has included such stars as Carole Shelley, Kate Reid, Zoe Caldwell, Barry Morse, and Stanley Holloway -- to mention but a few. Christopher Newton, the current artistic director, is committed to the festival's continued artistic excellence. For information on the 1981 production season presenting Shaw's "St. Joan," "Man of Destiny," and "In Good King Charles' golden Days," among other plays or for reservations, write to: The Shaw Festival, Box 774, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario LOS 1J0, Canada, or telephone (416) 468-3201. For information on the Shaw Festival Educational Seminars, write to: Shaw Festival/York University Seminar, Center for Continuing Education, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Downsview, Ontario M3J 2R6 Canada , or telephone (416) 667-2502.
The Shaw Festival is certainly Niagara on the Lake's pride and joy -- And its most famous feature. But this 19th-century town has a great many other attractions for tourists. With its refreshingly tranquil atmosphere, it is often described as the most charming town in Ontorio. Neatly symmetrical late Georgian houses and trim lawns reside peacefully behind white picket fences.There are lovely antique shops, noted for fine furniture and collectible curios. Handicraft shops have attractive displays of local wares --letherwork, woodwork, and needlework are outstanding among these. The Doll Shop at 23 Queen Street (enter through Warren Heating & Plumbing), with its surprising variety of handmade poppins, is a special treat.
The best accommodations in town are at the several old-fashioned inns. The largest of these is the Pillar and Post, converted to a hostelry from the town's old cannery and recently expanded with 60 additional air-conditioned rooms, many of which also have working fireplaces. All decoration is in the colonial style, with all furniture crafted at the inn. The inn's high-ceilinged dining room serves exceptional luncheons and dinners. Reservations are recommended both for accommodation and meals. Address inquiries to the Pillar and Post, 48 John Street, Niagara on the Lake. Telephone (416) 468-2123.