What Travel Writers Say

From St. Catharines to the Shaw Festival

© Mike Keenan

Tim Carroll, Megan Gilchrist, photo by Mike Keenan

Megan Gilchrist is the personable Education Coordinator at The Shaw Festival which involves a staff of two ladies to oversee exciting and myriad educational initiatives described below.
When I ask her about the aging demographics of theatre goers, lamenting the appearance that I might be considered a youngster amongst aging and graying patrons, she reminds me that former Artistic Director, the esteemed Christopher Newton, when asked the same question, adroitly replied that "they will come when they are ready." It's Megan's job to help people, particularly students at all levels to get ready.
Megan comes by her position honestly. Her father-in-law taught elementary school in Niagara, and a St. Catharines native, she attended Laura Secord SS where she was involved in their band, choir and theatre programs. She worked for five years at the St. Catharines Museum, and patiently parlayed a brief stint at the Shaw's switchboard to her current position which she confesses, is truly "a dream job" with a talented group of professional actors from the Shaw ensemble, willing and able to assist with educational programs involving lectures, scene analysis and more.
How has Shaw changed her? "I think the patrons have influenced me the most," she admits with a smile. "Particularly the older ones. They are smart; they think; and they are curious. Groups like Road Scholar are amazing!" Those are great attributes for any age!
Her mandated three educational components involve the actors themselves, youth schools and classes and lifelong learning which is addressed by items such as symposiums, a lecture series, and catering to groups such as Elderhostel which has been rebranded as the aforementioned Road Scholar non-profit organization.
Higher educational programs involve many Canadian colleges such as Sheridan, Georgian and Universities such as Ryerson, U. of T., Queens and Brock. University programs in the U.S. involve State University of New York students, many of whom are interested in the theatrical administrative experience.
"Beyond the Stage" information is available from the Shaw website at http://www.shawfest.com/ If one clicks there on "Beyond the Stage," there is access to loads of valuable information which includes teen workshops, an acting camp, the Shaw Theatre School and University courses. "It's important that students be prepared when they arrive to catch a play at Shaw," says Megan. She provides valuable enrichment material to teachers such as online study guides, but she reluctantly acknowledges that many simply do not have sufficient time in the classroom.
Megan provided me with several written samples of their educational material, and as a former English high school teacher, I was impressed. Their Spring "Magazine for Members" contains wonderful enrichment material particularly for Alice... and introduces us to Tim Carroll, the Shaw's new Artistic Director, who, coincidently I met just as we were finishing our interview in The Library, located at the front of The Festival Theatre.
Tim amiably posed for a picture with Megan, and I wished him good luck. He is an award-winning British-American director whose production of Twelfth Night broke box office records on Broadway. He follows in the large footsteps of Christopher Newton (23 seasons) and Jackie Maxwell (14 seasons), the latter who has significantly opened up opportunities for talented female cast members along with adding exciting contemporary writers flavoured with a decided Shavian temperament.

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