Summertime Theatre Roundup!

by Michael Bedford

Published at 2018-07-18

If you're looking for an intimate one-person show, a Mirvish-level musical, or a production somewhere between the two, Toronto is a great place to catch any kind of show. With a number of different venues and theatre companies to choose from, it can be difficult to see even half of the productions on offer each year.


The Big Names

However, quality live theatre isn't confined by the boundaries of the megacity. Live theatre is in full swing outside of the 416 as well. One of Ontario’s theatrical crown jewels, the Shaw Festival is a well-known venue that produces a number of different plays for Niagara-on-the-Lake residents and visitors to the area looking to take in some culture.


Stephen Fry’s Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men., which he wrote and starred in, just closed, but the Shaw still has a lot of great productions on the go, including O’Flaherty V.C., running from May to October in the Royal George Theatre. This one-act play written by Shaw himself tells the story of an Irishman grappling with the political and familial fallout that comes with becoming an English war hero.


The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario provides theatrical stimulation of much the same calibre. The Stratford Festival specializes in the works of William Shakespeare, as the Shaw Festival specializes in the works of George Bernard Shaw — effectively but seemingly less and less each season. Stratford also produces plays by a number of other playwrights, and, showing how flexible their mandate can be, the 2018 season includes a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, running from June to November.


For those looking for something more Elizabethan, the Stratford Festival has plenty of great Shakespearean fare on offer as well, including Coriolanus, The Tempest, and The Comedy of Errors.


The Stratford and Shaw Festivals, though, are but two playhouses outside of Toronto, albeit probably the best known. A long list of professional, semi-professional, and amateur Ontarian theatre-makers have mounted shows all over the province, and a great many of them got their starts by producing their work in Fringe festivals.


Fringe Folk

Toronto's Fringe festival season ended on July 15th, but Fringe festivals, those bastions of local talent, pop up all over. A short commute away from Toronto, the Hamilton Fringe festival begins on July 19th and runs for ten days. As always, it promises a diverse collection of shows for both adults and children, including Natalie Frijia's BikeFace, a one-woman show chronicling the playwright's bicycle trip across Canada, and A Shoddy Magician in a Parking Lot, a sketch-inspired comedy magic show created and performed by Steve Boleantu.


Although years ago it was often difficult to purchase tickets to Fringe shows no matter what city hosted them, online opportunities to purchase have made it far easier for theatre fans to get the tickets they want without hanging around at the box office hours before their show of choice. Because of the sometimes smaller size of the venues many Fringe shows sell out, though, so it's a good idea to book your tickets early.


If you were at the Toronto Fringe festival but you missed Plays in Cafes - The Musical Edition or Meg MacKay: Freelance Witch, don't fear. You can catch both, this year's winners of Toronto’s Best of Fringe award, at Theatre Orangeville's FRINGEnorth(519) festival. With three scheduled performances of both shows, FRINGEnorth(519) provides a rare opportunity for emerging theatre artists to mount their shows for two very different audiences.


Hammer Time

If you’d prefer to leave your trip to Hamilton until after the hubbub of the Hamilton Fringe festival has passed, check out Hamilton’s Theatre Aquarius, showing Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web in September and Florian Zeller’s The Father, starring Canadian comedy legend Eric Peterson, in October.


Lots to See

Amateur and semi-professional theatres sometimes get bad raps, but while they sometimes lack proper funding and a consistent venue, they offer patrons chances to see amazing performances by actors taking their first steps. Don’t judge a theatre or a theatre company by its size. What amateur or semi-professional theatre companies sometimes lack in proper funding, they often make up for in dedication. 

Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Mount Hope, Ontario. He can be reached at