The 2020 pandemic has thrown one last ‘Humbug!’ at the Shaw Festival season.

For months the company has cancelled shows in chunks, hoping to salvage something in the fall. Specifically, the annual production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which was scheduled to start previews Nov. 8.

But on Tuesday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario continued to spike, the company announced the inevitable. With the holiday classic’s cancellation, the entire Shaw Festival season has now been wiped out.

It marks the first time since it formed in 1962 that the Niagara-on-the-Lake company has not staged professional theatre.

Artistic director Tim Carroll said the company “held off as long as we possibly could because we had set our hearts on getting back into one of our theatres this year.”

Carroll brought “A Christmas Carol” to the Royal George Theatre during his first year as artistic director in 2017, and it has been a mainstay since. Its success prompted the company to stage a second fall show last year with “Holiday Inn.”

As the cancellations piled up this summer, executive director Tim Jennings maintained “A Christmas Carol” was a possibility if the province loosened restrictions on indoor gatherings. But the pandemic didn’t let up.

“The loss is heartbreaking, especially after hoping we’d be able to continue this annual holiday tradition that we all know is cherished by many,” he said.

The bad news is offset somewhat by the festival’s concert series this fall, which will see about 40 small performances by ensemble members at various Niagara-on-the-Lake locations. The series was made possible by $400,000 in FedDev funding.

With the 2020 season now completely cancelled, the company will soon announce plans for 2021.

Jennings said it will not be the usual Shaw season.

“I think we have a really good idea how to approach the year,” he said.

“Some physical distancing measures will certainly be in play the early part of the year. We’ve done a good job of predicting and sculpting what we think will be the likely occurrence.”



John Law