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The Shaw Festival reflects on 50th season at Annual General Meeting

Media Release #2

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, January 27, 2012….Shaw Festival Theatre Canada held its Annual General Meeting for the 2011 season on Friday, January 27, 2012 in the lobby of the Festival Theatre. In attendance were Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell, Executive Director Colleen Blake, members of the Shaw Festival Board of Governors, led by Chair Gary Comerford, as well as members of the Company, all of whom had gathered to celebrate the 2011 season – one which all agreed was worthy of great celebration.

Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell reflected on the outstanding success of the Festival’s landmark 50th season by highlighting significant achievements such as:

  • Accolades on all fronts for Molly Smith’s production of My Fair Lady which broke all previous records with attendance of almost 95,000 – making it the top selling show in the Festival’s history.
  • Studio Theatre productions of Topdog/Underdog and When the Rain Stops Falling were particularly well received by both audiences and critics alike. A great sign for future programming of “contemporary Shavians”, both plays were included on many ‘best of 2011’ media lists. Topdog went on to perform at Toronto’s Obsidian Theatre
  • Due to popular demand, the runs of Drama at Inish and Maria Severa were extended – Maria Severa was commissioned by and developed for the Shaw Festival.

In her summation of the 2011 season, Ms. Maxwell also commented on the audience’s very positive reaction to Michael Healey’s adaptation of On the Rocks. “It is clear that we need to let audiences hear and see Shaw through a modern lens be it through adaptation or production concept,” said Ms. Maxwell. “Our introduction of current writers to our programming, reflects the contemporary nature of Shaw himself and keeps us relevant, connected and an active leader in Canadian and international theatre today.”

Executive Director Colleen Blake focused her remarks on the financial story that played out at the Festival.  While there was substantial and encouraging growth season over season – a 9% increase in attendance over 2010 to 275,000 and a 12% increase in fundraising revenues – the Shaw Festival was not able to reach its aggressive 2011 sales and fundraising targets.  As a result the Shaw Festival incurred a deficit of $1.5 million in 2011.  With the support of the Board of Governors, management made strategic operational decisions to address the deficit including implementing an organizational restructuring plan, setting conservative revenue goals, and instituting comprehensive plans to expand fundraising and increase ticket sales for the 2012 season.

Hazel Claxton, Treasurer of the Board of Governors, outlined details pertaining to the Shaw Festival’s financial position and its 2011 audited financial statements. Ticket sales reached $15.1 million, 4% higher than revenues of $14.5 million in 2010.  Fundraising revenues reached $6.5 million, 12% higher than revenues of $5.8 million in 2010.

Annual revenues from all sources were $28.3 million, up from $27.6 million in 2010. The 2011 revenue came from earned revenues (60%), fundraising (23%), government grants (11%) and other revenues (6%).  The increased 2011 revenues did not offset 2011 expenses of $29.8 million resulting in a $1.5 deficit for the 2011 season. Ms. Claxton also noted that The Shaw Festival Endowment Foundation now manages investments of almost $19 million.

Mr. Comerford wrapped-up the meeting by saying: “In 2011, The Shaw Festival celebrated 50 seasons of theatrical excellence.  While the artistic success of 2011 and the growth in ticket sales and fundraising is encouraging, the Board and Senior Management take the deficit situation very seriously. We are committed to a plan that will build on The Shaw’s many strengths and allow us to look to the future with excitement, energy and confidence.”

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In the spirit of Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival provokes the mind and stirs the soul through a theatre experience so compelling that, year after year, ever-broadening groups of artists, audiences and supporters are drawn to our work in Niagara-on-the-Lake and beyond.

Please visit our website at www.shawfest.com/news for other Shaw Festival media releases. Financial statements and further information may be obtained by contacting:

Odette Yazbeck
Public Relations Director
905-468-2153 or 1-800-657-1106 ext. 2222
odette@shawfest.com

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