Monday, October 08, 2012
The Shaw Festival provided a perfect short vacation for my parents: no stressful planning, no complicated execution, no extended travel, leisurely days, stimulating theater performances—and an interesting historic attraction and one of the most beautiful natural wonders on earth nearby.
Of greatest importance, after almost four decades of talk, my parents at last attended one of the Canadian summer theater festivals, something my parents had wanted to do ever since they got married. My parents need never again wonder what they have been missing.
However, I doubt any of us will want to return to The Shaw Festival anytime soon.
Other than the standard of stage design, much higher in North America than Britain, the quality of what we experienced at Niagara-On-The-Lake was significantly lower than top-quality theater in London. Performances were uneven, and never once reached the level of what may be seen on a regular basis on the London stage if one selects with care, judgment and experience.
If ever we decide to take another theater excursion, London shall have to rank above The Shaw Festival.
While we were in Niagara-On-The-Lake, we learned that The Stratford Shakespeare Festival has been raiding Shaw Festival actors the last few years, offering Shaw actors more money to appear in Stratford. This stratagem has had an effect on the quality of Shaw Festival performance—or so we were told—and Shaw Festival officials have shown increasing concern about the situation.
My recommended solution to the problem: The Shaw Festival should stop using Canadian actors exclusively, and should inaugurate casting offices in London and New York.
Niagara-On-The-Lake is a town that exists for tourism—and everything was expensive. Theater tickets cost more or less twice what they should have—they were much, much closer to New York prices than Minneapolis prices—and restaurant fares were outrageous. We had to shell out $100 per person for dinner each night, and $50 per person each day for lunch—without ordering wine.
A trip of comparable length to London, including airfare, would have cost us less.
Nevertheless, for my parents’ sake, I am glad we went.
Perhaps next year we can look at the summer opera festivals in Des Moines, Saint Louis and Santa Fe.