Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan

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Coordinates: 52°07′53″N 106°40′04″W / 52.13145°N 106.6677076°W / 52.13145; -106.6677076

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan tents by the Mendel Art Gallery
Genre Shakespeare in the park theatre two full-length Shakespeare plays
Dates first week in July until mid August.
Location(s) Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Canada Canada
Years active 1985 – present
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival)[1] is an annual summer Shakespeare theatre festival founded in 1985, which takes place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


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 - A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the summer of 1985 on an old lawn bowling pitch near the current festival site. During Gordon’s tenure from 1985-1991, the festival saw the production of seven of Shakespeare’s plays plus a remounted national tour - a landmark bilingual production of Romeo & Juliette co-directed with Robert Lepage. These productions celebrated the festival atmosphere and challenged approaches to Shakespeare.

Henry Woolf, British-born actor/playwright/director and past Head of the University of Saskatchewan Drama Department, assumed the role of artistic director of the company in 1991. During Woolf’s years, the company grew to become a multi-faceted festival and theatre company that included music, dance, and workshops, presenting off-season and non-Shakespeare productions, including the North American premiere of Harold Pinter's Ashes to Ashes. His productions over the next ten seasons earned national acclaim and public notoriety. His production of Much Ado about Nothing (1993) set in "The Bug Kingdom" had purists buzzing with anger, but the evil Don John as a black widow spider and Hero as a lovely butterfly captured the imagination of many new patrons. Woolf retired as artistic director in 2001.

After years at the festival as stage manager and production manager, Mark von Eschen stepped into the role of Artistic Director in 2001 and would oversee 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 his Indiana Jones inspired Comedy of Errors, 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 brought the company to a fiscally healthy position to head into its 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. Although 2014 was largely in place already, the new team was able to make many steps forward in time for the quickly approaching season: for the first time in years, an additional half week’s rehearsal was added on to the company’s tight preparation time, and a guest director took the reins of one of the festival’s main stage shows. As only the second woman to be at the helm and the first guest director at all since 2000, this was a vital step towards a vision of gender parity for the company. Added to this were innovations like the inclusion of live actor-played music, gender blind casting, education and outreach programs, a re-designed festival mainstage, Above all else this new artistic vision brought with it a revitalized, forward-thinking, and cutting-edge vision for the company.

Recent partnerships with the Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre, and the company's first all-female production of J. Caesar, and the inclusion of a third devised production earned Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan a Juror's Award for Innovation from the Saskatoon Area Theatre Awards in 2016.

In addition to productions of plays by William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the festival's activities include: medieval feasts; workshops; tours; art displays; special matinees; and a free community stage. It is a major Canadian tourism summer destination.

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan is listed as a Major Festival in the book Shakespeare Festivals Around the World by Marcus D. Gregio (Editor), 2004.

Production History[edit]

The following production history is sourced from the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan website.[2]

Year Play Director(s) Theme or Setting
1985 A Midsummer Night's Dream Gordon McCall Golf Course
1986 The Tempest Gordon McCall Futuristic Space
1987 Macbeth Gordon McCall Modern Day South America
1988 The Taming of the Shrew Gordon McCall Boomtown Saskatchewan 1910
1989 Romeo and Juliette (Bilingual) Gordon McCall/Robert Lepage Bilingual Canadian Community
1990 Twelfth Night Stephen Heatley Ukrainian Village
1990 Othello Gordon McCall First Nations theme
1990 Romeo and Juliette (on tour) Gordon McCall Bilingual Canadian Community
1991 As You Like It Henry Woolf "Flower Power" era
1992 A Midsummer Night's Dream Henry Woolf 1920's Gangster Era
1993 Much Ado About Nothing Henry Woolf "The Bug Kingdom"
1993 The White Devil (By John Webster) Henry Woolf Traditional
1994 Hamlet Henry Woolf Modern "punk" world
1994 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Mark von Eschen Neo-Elizabethan Era
1995 The Comedy of Errors Henry Woolf turn of the century Turkey
1995 Macbeth Patti Shedden Post-modern world
1996 Twelfth Night Henry Woolf Elizabethan Era
1996 King Lear Stephen Heatley Modern day business world
1997 The Tempest Henry Woolf Elizabethan Era
1997 Julius Caesar Henry Woolf Post-Nuclear Apocalypse
1998 The Merchant of Venice Henry Woolf Edwardian Era
1998 Taming of the Shrew Henry Woolf Jazz v.s. Rock
1999 Romeo and Juliet Henry Woolf Neo-Elizabethan Era
1999 Festival Frolics Henry Woolf
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Mark von Eschen 1950's
2000 The Winter's Tale Henry Woolf A fictional world
2000 Richard III Mark von Eschen Heavy Metal theme
2000 Festival Frolics Henry Woolf
2001 Merry Wives of Windsor Mark von Eschen Elizabethan Era
2001 Love's Labour's Lost Mark von Eschen 1960's
2002 Hamlet Mark von Eschen Elizabethan Era
2002 The Alchemist Mark von Eschen Traditional
2003 As You Like It Mark von Eschen Elizabethan Comic Book
2003 Measure for Measure Mark von Eschen 1603/2003 crossover
2004 Macbeth Mark von Eschen 11th Century Scotland
2004 Much Ado About Nothing Mark von Eschen 1875 Canadian Northwest
2005 The Comedy of Errors Mark von Eschen 1970's Disco
2005 Romeo and Juliet Mark von Eschen Early Renaissance
2006 The Taming of the Shrew Mark von Eschen Renaissance Era
2006 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Mark von Eschen Pre-World War I
2007 Julius Caesar Mark von Eschen Rome, 42 B.C.
2007 Twelfth Night Mark von Eschen Age of Rock'n'Roll
2008 The Tempest Mark von Eschen Mythical "Age of Dragons"
2008 Henry IV Mark von Eschen England, 1492
2009 Antony & Cleopatra Mark von Eschen Ancient Rome/Egypt
2009 A Midsummer Night's Dream Mark von Eschen WWII Military Base
2010 The Merry Wives of Windsor Mark von Eschen 1930's Saskatchewan
2010 The Merchant of Venice Mark von Eschen 1940's Venice
2011 The Winter's Tale Mark von Eschen Viking Era
2011 Love's Labour's Lost Mark von Eschen Modern Day University of Saskatchewan Campus
2012 Hamlet Mark von Eschen Dream World
2012 As You Like It Mark von Eschen Steampunk
2013 The Comedy of Errors Mark von Eschen Indiana Jones Inspired
2013 Macbeth Mark von Eschen 11th Century Scotland
2014 Romeo and Juliet Will Brooks Timeless & Eternal
2014 The Taming of the Shrew Johnna Wright 1960's Doo Wop
2015 Much Ado About Nothing Pamela Haig Bartley Post WWII
2015 Othello Will Brooks Modern Business Day World
2016 J. Caesar (Written by Tracey Power) Anita Smith Post-apocalyptic 2416 All Female society
2016 A Midsummer Night's Dream Will Brooks Circus Themed
2016 The Roving Show Joshua Beadury Devised piece based on The Tempest


  1. ^ "About". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  2. ^ "Productions". Retrieved 2017-03-08. 

External links[edit]