Going to the Shaw Festival is somewhat daunting. From Green Bay to Niagara-on-the-Lake is about 500 miles as the crow flies (two flights by airplane) and 613 miles by car – and thus not a drop-everything-and-let’s-go destination for people around here. So come along and let me take you vicariously to the area.
No. 1, you should know that one of the wonders of the world is nearby – 20 miles down the road. It’s
It calls up the indefinite past. When Columbus first sought this continent – when Christ suffered on the cross – when Moses led Israel through the Red-Sea – nay, even, when Adam first came from the hand of his Maker – then as now, Niagara was roaring here. The eyes of that species of extinct giants, whose bones fill the mounds of
Who wrote that? Abraham Lincoln. That gives pause, as do the power of the water, the constant roar and the soaring mists of
No. 2, the area is wine country. The rugged Niagara Escarpment – looping all the way from Northeastern Wisconsin to the
No. 3, - I’ll get to the plays later – the region is scenic. The
No. 4, Niagara-on-the-Lake has a character of its own. It’s small, but it’s international. Niagara-on-the-Lake lies between
No. 5, the Shaw Festival puts the city on the map as a place apart.* Acting is by highly polished professionals you never heard of because they’re “hidden” in
- “Arms and the
- “Cabaret,” the musical based on the writings of Christopher Isherwood. I’ll always remember this show by the name given to it by the young man who taxied my wife and me one night – “Cabernet.” (It is wine country). The production has a terrific leading lady as free-wheeling showgirl Sally Bowles, but its overall approach is heavy handed.
- “The Charity That Began at Home: A Comedy for Philanthropists.” This is a worthy comedy by St John Hankin that the Shaw has dug up from the past. Again, it shows that humankind does not change much – this time in dealing with do-gooders.
- “When We Are Married.” Wit and tight writer J.B. Priestley concocted this comedy about three couples who discover at their mutual 25th wedding anniversary celebration that the pastor flubbed the legalities of their marriages. The couples delightfully wrestle with the prospects of being un-married. This production also still is in previews, so pretend you’re not reading this.
The Shaw Festival is a case of, If you build it, they will come. In that way, it is like the Stratford Festival, another wonder of theater in
If you travel to eat, Niagara-on-the-Lake is none-too-shabby a stop. Here’s a sample from one menu, that of the Tiara restaurant in the Queen’s Landing hotel.
Seafood Cioppino: Tiger Prawn, Baby Clams, Honey Mussels, Bread Crisps, Yuzu Lobster Broth.
Pan Seared Rib Steak and Short Rib “
Pan Seared Organic Char and Nero Tempura Lobster: Sweet Potato and Smoked Almond Croquette, Fried Cabbage Leaves, Chorizo Fennel Nage.
Our server at the Tiara was Rudy, to whom I think I am indebted for a kindness for something I forgot. Long story short: There still are nice people in the world.
The Shaw Festival is plays, but the experience is more than plays. Many things fit together nicely.
* You may not know about the Shaw, but the people around there know about us as a place apart because of Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers and, to some extent, Wisconsin cheese. Among people we told about our being from
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