The Shaw Festival celebrated its fifth consecutive financial surplus in 2021 despite pandemic limitations.
“Notwithstanding these restrictions we’ve been working under, in 2021 we managed to realize a fifth consecutive surplus,” outgoing chair Peter Jewett said during the company's annual general meeting on Friday.
“This is actually an incredible achievement produced by the hard and dedicated efforts of the whole Shaw team.”
Jewett has been the chair of the board since 2017. He is stepping down this year and Ian Joseph will be taking up the mantle.
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beloved theatre company ended the year with a surplus of about $114,000 on revenue of $26 million. That total was up from $24 million in 2020.
The four main revenue drivers were COVID-19 grants of $7.7 million, fundraising of $7.3 million, pandemic-related insurance payouts of about $4.4 million and earned revenue of $3.8 million.
The main expense for the company was by far the production and artistic categories at $12.6 million.
“Announcing another consecutive year of operating surplus during a pandemic is a remarkable feat and everyone at the Shaw should be very, very proud,” treasurer Greg Prince said.
But it wasn’t the high mark the treasurer was hoping to see.
“Despite all best hopes, 2021 did not see a return to the normality of 2019,” Prince said.
For perspective, the company’s earned revenue was more than $21 million in 2019, versus $3.8 million in 2021.
Prince thanked the government and private donors who made the year possible.
Executive director Tim Jennings celebrated the company’s work, noting it resulted in “North America’s largest season of live theatre” for 2021.
“It was a momentous season, even for a normal year, which it most certainly was not,” Jennings said.
“In the end, though, we managed 445 live performances (but) we did lose 303 scheduled performances.”
“With each loss this team would push, again and again, to add another piece and devise some new and exciting program to reconnect us with each other.”
“It was truly remarkable,” he said.
The inventiveness of the staff was also celebrated by associate artistic director Kimberley Rampersad, who said one of her highlights for the season was “revisiting the outdoors.”
“Particularly, for me, revisiting the Duke Ellington 2.0. Being able to see everybody outside, being able to see all of the audience members with a little more safety was really, really special,” Rampersad said. "It’s so beautiful out here.”
The series was a highlight for artistic director Tim Carroll as well.
“It was so magical that I sort of forgot I was the boss for a bit,” he said. “Listening to amazing jazz music with the beautiful setting. It was kind of perfect.”
The virtual meeting included a tribute to former artistic director Christopher Newton, who held the post for 23 seasons and died in 2021 at the age of 85.
Carroll said losing Newton was a personal "blow."
"He had been a great supporter of me ever since I got here," Carroll said.
In total, the festival attracted more than 48,000 attendees throughout the year.
It also held 2,300 educational events which were attended by 54,000 people in person and digitally.
The 2022 season marks the company’s 60th year in operation and is already well underway.
The Shaw’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmund Rostad starts on March 20. Tickets are available at https://www.shawfest.com/whats-on-tickets/ .