Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
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 2000.
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.
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 from the first week in July until mid-August. Matinees are performed all weekends.
Each season, our barren riverbank perch is amazingly transformed into a summer cultural paradise combining mainstage performances with numerous festive activities. The raising of the mainstage tents along with smaller tents collectively known as the Elizabethan Village, which house the Community Stage, takes place in late May every year. During the month of June, the energetic activity of crew and cast prepare the site and rehearse in great anticipation of the season's opening. The festival site also features Sir Toby’s Tavern and Riverside Deck – the only riverside tavern in Saskatoon.
In addition to performances taking place on the mainstage, companion activities such as Medieval Feasts, workshops, art displays, special matinees, and the Community Series offer great variety for patrons. The Community Series is Saskatoon’s only summer-long free performance venue for emerging local artists, community groups, and individuals providing valuable public exposure and recognition not readily available elsewhere.
2017 will see Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan continuing its artistic vision to create more opportunities on stage and behind the scenes for women and other under-represented groups in the theatre. The cast for 2017 will be gender balanced for the first time in company history. The two main stage performances will be Twelfth Night and Richard III the latter of which has not been produced at the festival in 17 years.
- 1985 A Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Gordon McCall, set on a golf course
- 1986 The Tempest Directed by Gordon McCall, set in a future world in space
- 1987 Macbeth Directed by Gordon McCall set in Modern Day South America
- 1988 The Taming of the Shrew Directed by Gordon McCall set in Boomtown Saskatchewan 1910
- 1989 Romeo & Juliette Directed by Gordon McCall and Robert Lepage set in a bilingual Canadian community
- 1990 Twelfth Night Directed by Stephen Heatley set in a Ukrainian village
- 1990 Romeo & Juliette (on tour) Directed by Gordon McCall and Robert Lepage
- 1990 Othello Directed by Gordon McCall First Nations theme
- 1991 As You Like It Directed by Henry Woolf set in the "Flower Power" era
- 1992 A Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Henry Woolf set in a 1920's gangsters era
- 1993 Much Ado About Nothing Directed by Henry Woolf set in "The Bug Kingdom"
- 1993 The White Devil (by John Webster) - Traditional
- 1994 Hamlet Directed by Henry Woolf set in a modern punk rock world
- 1994 Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead Directed by Mark von Eschen, set in a Neo-Elizebethan World
- 1995 The Comedy of Errors Directed by Henry Woolf set in turn-of-the-century Turkey
- 1995 Macbeth directed by Patti Shedden set in a postmodern world
- 1996 Twelfth Night Directed by Henry Woolf, traditional Elizabethan setting
- 1996 King Lear Directed by Stephen Heatley set in a modern day business world
- 1997 The Tempest Directed by Henry Woolf, traditional Elizabethan setting
- 1997 Julius Caesar Directed by Henry Woolf set in a post-nuclear apocalypse
- 1997 Festival Frolics Directed by Henry Woolf
- 1998 The Merchant of Venice Directed by Henry Woolf set in Edwardian times
- 1998 Taming of the Shrew Directed by Henry Woolf set in a world where jazz and rock butt heads. The roles of Kate and Petruccio
- 1998 Festival Frolics Directed by Henry Woolf
- 1999 Romeo & Juliet Directed by Henry Woolf neo-traditional
- 1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the 1950's
- 1999 Festival Frolics Directed by Henry Woolf
- 2000 The Winter's Tale Directed by Henry Woolf set in a fictional world
- 2000 Richard III Directed by Mark von Eschen set in a heavy metal world
- 2000 Festival Frolics Directed by Henry Woolf
- 2001 Merry Wives of Windsor Directed by Mark von Eschen, traditional Elizabethan setting
- 2001 Love's Labour's Lost Directed by Mark von Eschen 1960's
- 2002 Hamlet Directed by Mark von Eschen in a traditional setting
- 2002 The Alchemist (by Ben Johnson) Directed by Mark von Eschen, traditional Elizabethan setting
- 2003 As You Like It Directed by Mark von Eschen set in an Elizabethan Comic Book
- 2003 Measure for Measure Directed by Mark von Eschen set in both 1603/2003
- 2004 Macbeth Directed by Mark von Eschen set in 11th century Scotland
- 2004 Much Ado About Nothing Directed by Mark von Eschen set in 1875 Canada's North West
- 2005 The Comedy of Errors Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the 1970's Disco era
- 2005 Romeo and Juliet Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the Early Renaissance
- 2006 The Taming of the Shrew Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the Renaissance
- 2006 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Directed by Mark von Eschen set pre World War I
- 2007 Twelfth Night Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the age of Rock'n'Roll
- 2007 Julius Caesar Directed by Mark von Eschen set in Rome, 42 B.C
- 2008 The Tempest Directed by Mark von Eschen set in the mythical "Age of Dragons"
- 2008 Henry IV - Part I Directed by Mark von Eschen, 1492 England
- 2009 A Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Mark von Eschen set on a WWII military base
- 2009 Antony and Cleopatra Directed by Mark von Eschen set in ancient Rome/Egypt
- 2010 The Merry Wives of Windsor Directed by Mark von Eschen set in 1930's Saskatchewan
- 2010 The Merchant of Venice Directed by Mark von Eschen set in 1940's Venice
- 2011 Love's Labour's Lost Directed by Mark von Eschen set at the U of S campus modern day
- 2011 The Winter's Tale Directed by Mark von Eschen set in Viking times
- 2012 Hamlet Directed by Mark von Eschen set in a dream world
- 2012 As You Like It Directed by Mark von Eschen set in a Steampunk world
- 2013 Macbeth Directed by Mark von Eschen in 11th Century Scotland
- 2013 The Comedy of Errors Directed by Mark von Eschen inspired by Indiana Jones
- 2014 Romeo & Juliet Directed by Will Brooks Timeless and Eternal
- 2014 The Taming of the Shrew Directed by Johnna Wright set in 1960's do-wop
- 2015 Much Ado About Nothing Directed by Pamela Haig Bartley set post-World War II
- 2015 Othello Directed by Will Brooks set in a modern business world theme
- 2016 J. Caesar written by Tracey Power Directed by Anita Smith set in a post-apocalyptic all-female society
- 2016 The Roving Show Directed by Joshua Beaudry; a devised piece based off of The Tempest
- 2016 A Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Will Brooks with a circus theme.
To make the experience of Shakespeare enriching and accessible to all.
To mount professional productions of plays by William Shakespeare and other related works, and to celebrate the skills and talents of Saskatchewan artists, in a manner accessible to all.
- To maintain our identity as a summer festival while exploring other venues for performance
- To be professional
- To employ local artists
- To maintain fiscal responsibility*
- To be accessible
- To provide opportunities for other local performers
- To recognize the educational opportunities and benefits that Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan can provide.
Name:Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan