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Nov. 19, 2018 | Monday
Local News
Activity still bustling at Court House Theatre
Court House in Niagara-on-the-Lake. (Jer Houghton/Niagara Now)

Although the Shaw Fesitval won't be hosting official plays at the Court House for the time being, the building is still bustling with art and activity.

The Festival will continue using the building as a rehearsal space, as well as a spot to host educational programming.

Tim Jennings, executive director and chief executive officer for Shaw, said the decision to stop performances at the Court House was made partially because the building would not meet accessibility laws and standards set to come into effect in 2020, as well as being a difficult location to set up and tear down sets.

“The building itself has some issues and we would not have been able to live up to those accessibility requirements,” said Jennings, adding production crews need to crane the set pieces into the building.

He said the shows that would normally run at the Court House will move to the Studio Theatre.

“We started rethinking about what the most accessible space was in our portfolio of the four theatres, which was our studio theatre, the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre.”

Jennings said the move allows the Festival to use the Court House as a rehearsal hall and will open opportunities for educational programs, such as a matinee workshop called Creating the Magician’s Nephew, a one-hour interactive show open to grandparents, parents, kids, teachers and students.

“(The children) help us tell the story of the Magician’s Nephew,” said Suzanne Merriam, senior manager of education at Shaw Festival.

“They play roles, they sing songs, they create soundscapes, so they are actively involved in the show but from their seats.”

The Court House Theatre will also play host to Shaw's annual symposium, "Shaw at the Shaw" from July 27 to 29.

The three-day event will see academics from around the world share papers and information about playwright George Bernard Shaw.

The attendees, made up of primarily post-secondary students, will attend Shaw Festival shows and participate in talks, presentations and lectures from the company’s actors and directors.

Jennings said using the Court House for education just makes more sense.

He said the Festival has increased the amount of education and outreach work it is doing by about 50 per cent in the last two years.

Some more exclusive plays will still take place in the Court House for Festival members, such as shows by Shaw's intern directors Diana Donnelly and Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, who will each direct their own one-act play to be performed before Shaw Festival members and invited guests.

Jennings said future plans for the Court House Theatre are still in discussion and that there may be ways to make productions more accessible in coming years.

“I mean, we haven’t decided on everything yet,” Jennings said.

Shaw saw its final show at the Court House in 2017.

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