Our Story

Who we are

A not-for-profit, registered charity incorporated in 1985, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival Inc. continues to provide exciting contemporary and traditional productions of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Each summer, two full-length plays are performed in repertory by professional artists, in large tents on the banks of the beautiful South Saskatchewan River in the heart of Saskatoon. The festival runs in July and August with nightly shows at 7:30pm from Tuesday to Sunday most weeks.  1pm Matinees are performed during certain weekdays and most weekends. See our show schedule for detailed information.

From 1985 until 2019 our barren riverbank perch was amazingly transformed into a summer cultural paradise combining mainstage performances with numerous festive activities. In the winter of 2020 the company will complete a site redevelopment project to install a permanent amphitheatre base, and a permanent box office, bar with riverside deck and dressing rooms.  The site will also permanently landscaped and made to be open to the public year round.  In late May or early June 2020 the company will install a new fabric tent over the new concrete amphitheatre base and begin preparation of the venue for our Grand Opening on July 16, 2020.  The new venue will be a thrust style theatre with a 275 seat capacity and some great new technical enhancements.  We will continue to erect several other smaller tents for the duration of the festival, which will house the John Rayner Community Stage and covered seating areas for Sir Toby's Tavern patrons and a host of other events.

These companion activities take place in addition to the performances  on the mainstage, and include such things as Medieval Feasts, workshops, tours, art displays, special matinees, and local performers on the Community Stage. The John Rayner Community Stage is Saskatoon’s only summer-long free performance venue for emerging local artists, community groups, and individuals.  Our gates open at 5:00pm on performance days (noon on Sundays and some Saturdays) and Community Stage performances begin 60 to 90 minutes prior to show time.  You do not need a mainstage ticket to come down and enjoy some food and drink and free local entertainment!

Where we came from

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan has a long and exciting history of innovation and cutting edge arts programming on the riverbank. There is one simple reason for that – the people. Under its origin of Nightcap Productions, founder and first Artistic Director Gordon McCall brought a group of exciting theatre artists together to put up the first production - mA Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was in the summer of 1985 on the old Bowling Green just a stone’s throw away from our current site. During Gordon’s tenure from 1985-1990, the festival saw the production of seven of Shakespeare’s plays plus a remounted national tour - a landmark bilingual production of Romeo & Juliette. These productions celebrated the festival atmosphere and challenged the lines of how Shakespeare can be done and are remembered fondly to this day – it's hard to forget Caliban's magical entrance from under the surface of the water of a submerged hot tub in 1986!

In 1991, local theatre legend Henry Woolf took over as Artistic Director and ran the company for the next ten years.  A brilliant actor and director, Henry really took the festive atmosphere to a whole new level with the addition of "Festival Frolics" that included musical theatre, and helped the company engage a wider audience.  Even after completing his tenure as AD in 1999, Henry continued to be involved with the festival, last appearing on our stage in 2010.

After years at the festival as stage manager and production manager, Mark von Eschen stepped into the role of Artistic Director in 2000 to see the longest and most consistent period of the Festival’s leadership and artistic output. Mark directed a staggering 28 productions for the festival over his tenure and was known for his personal connection with his audience. From his first A Midsummer Night’s Dream to swinging broadsword tragedies audiences had a great time at his shows. In 2004, Mark also stepped into the shoes of Executive Director to take leadership of the company’s financial health. With his many years of dedicated and passionate work for the company, Mark is responsible for the restructuring, refocusing, and leadership that erased deficits and brought the company to a fiscally healthy position to head into the next era.

In 2014, the leadership of the organization of the company was passed to Will Brooks as Artistic Producer. The future will hold a commitment to the artistic innovation and cutting edge work began by Gordon, the exciting range of programming begun by Henry, and the organizational health painstakingly built by Mark.  In 2015 the company began to seriously consider plans to finally make their temporary home a permanent venue, and after successfully completing the Staging the Future Capital Campaign in August 2019, the company began construction of permanent structures in December 2019.  The company begins a new era on July 16, 2020, opening with Macbeth directed by Will Brooks.

See Our Production History

View Our 2018/2019 Annual Report

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

EXECUTIVE

  • Vic DuboisChair of the Board
  • Carlynn BlockVice-Chair
  • Colin TaylorTreasurer
  • Dawn MannSecretary

MEMBERS AT LARGE

  • Nan Lee
  • Sheldon Born
  • Julia Ewing
  • Leslie Fenyes
  • Della Marshall
  • Corinne McKay
  • Peter Robinson

Festival Sponsors

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