Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON (February 3, 2017) — At the Annual General Meeting held earlier today, executives of the Shaw Festival announced the financial results of the 2016 season while celebrating Jackie Maxwell’s final year as artistic director. In front of an audience of patrons, staff, board members and the public, Executive Director Tim Jennings described both the difficulties and progress the Shaw Festival has made in the last year, while also announcing a $780K operating deficit.
“There are three financial legs to the stool that is Non-Profit Theatre. Operations, Capital and Endowment. All three must be healthy and solid for the organization to be in balance,” said Tim Jennings, executive director of the Shaw Festival. “While we are not yet where we wish to be, I’m at least happy to report that all three legs are much stronger than they were a year ago. Endowment will end up $2 million higher, our historic capital deficit will be substantially resolved by the end of 2018 thanks to a recent matching grant of $2.78 million from the Ministry of Heritage, and operating revenues increased by $1 million over our 2015 results, while expenses were held in place.”
He continued by saying “As much as I would have liked to have fixed all the issues of the past in a single season, I am heartened by the consistent and clear progress across all areas of The Shaw made in FY16, because I can see them all as real progress and not just short term fixes or one-time bailouts.”
With 237,471 tickets sold, The Shaw’s 2016 season was ahead of its year-end ticket budget and successfully attracted new audiences largely due to Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd on the Festival Stage along with hit shows in the Court House and Royal George Theatres. The Festival saw significant growth compared to the previous season in three important areas: first-time buyers were up by 20%; family tickets increased by 15%; and Under 30 tickets grew by 30%.
Of this, Mr. Jennings said, “While audience numbers increased, average ticket price reduced by over $3 per ticket from the previous year. This, intentionally, created opportunity for increased access, but at a cost of over $800K in reduced revenues – an amount directly corresponding to this season’s operational deficit.”
In addition to the season in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Shaw Festival co-produced a Toronto run of their critically acclaimed “Master Harold” …and the Boys with Obsidian Theatre. And south of the border, the Shaw Festival launched a new effort to reach a wider audience by creating a multi-year partnership with Shea’s Performing Arts Centre in Buffalo with Mrs Warren’s Profession.
“All of this season’s shows were really terrific,” said Andrew M. Pringle, chair of the Board. “Jackie certainly left us on an artistic high note!”
“I wanted the 2016 season – my final one as Artistic Director – to reflect the current breadth of theatre now available on our playbill and to feature some of the major programming ideas that had been established during my tenure.” Jackie Maxwell, who was unable to attend the meeting, said in a statement. “I would like to thank all who were a part of this season – staff, Board, stage management, production, crew and all the hugely talented directors and designers. And of course, there is our incomparable acting ensemble, who have provided me with such joy and pride throughout my time at the Shaw Festival.”
At a ceremony coinciding with the 2017 opening of the Studio, the theatre will be renamed the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre to honour Ms. Maxwell’s contributions to the Shaw Festival. The naming is the result of a recently completed fundraising campaign resulting in over $1.5 million in special gifts, primarily to the Shaw Festival endowment, to honour Ms. Maxwell and her vision in creating the Studio Theatre.
Mr. Pringle acknowledged “While significant progress was made in 2016 in terms of reversing a downward trend in audience attendance, in reducing capital deficit issues and in endowment fundraising, the ship has not yet fully righted. For The Shaw, 2016 was a year of transition and investigation. While the season was playing out under Jackie’s direction, Tim Carroll (TC), our new artistic director, was getting to know Shaw, Niagara and Canada’s artistic scene. TC began planning for the 2017 season in earnest, working with our new executive director, Tim Jennings, to plan what is to be both men’s first full season.”
“There were so many marvelous shows that it seems unfair to pick any out, but I was knocked sideways by “Master Harold” …and the Boys and was brought to my feet by Jackie’s production of Sweeney Todd. The brilliant work of all the artists and artisans in making the 2016 shows happen fills me with inspiration and anticipation for next year,” said Tim Carroll, current artistic director.
The Shaw Festival’s 2017 season is on stage April 5 through October 15. The playbill features Me and My Girl, Saint Joan, Dracula, 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt, Androcles and the Lion, Wilde Tales, The Madness of George III, Dancing at Lughnasa, An Octoroon, Middletown, 1979 and Secret Theatre. Tickets for the 2017 Festival season are available through the Box Office at 1-800-511-SHAW and online at www.shawfest.com.
About the Shaw Festival
The Shaw Festival honours the life and spirit of Bernard Shaw by creating theatre that is as entertaining and provocative as Shaw himself. For more information, please visit www.shawfest.com.
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