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THE SCOOP | Toronto Theatres To Dim The Marquee Lights To Honour Canadian Theatre Legend Christopher Newton

By Anya Wassenberg on December 22, 2021

Christopher Newton (Photo: MTCWinnipeg/Youtube)
Christopher Newton (Photo: MTCWinnipeg/Youtube)

The Royal Alexandra and the Princess of Wales Theatres in Toronto will dim the lights to honour the passing of Canadian theatre legend Christopher Newton.

As announced by Mirvish Productions, the marquee lights at both theatres will be dimmed on Thursday, December 23, 2021 at 8 p.m. Newton, who served as artistic director of The Shaw Festival for 23 seasons until his retirement in 2002, passed away on December 20 at the age of 85.

About Christopher Newton

Christopher Newton was an actor, writer, director, and producer. Born in Kent, England in 1936, Newton graduated from the University of Leeds with a B.A. before moving to the United States to pursue his studies. He earned an M.A. from the University of Illinois.

Newton caught the theatre bug after working at summer jobs for the Vancouver Festival, among others, and became acting head of the theatre department at Bucknell University. He made the move to Canada in 1961 to audition for the Stratford Festival.

As an actor, his credits include Shaw and Stratford Festival productions, along with Broadway performances. He also worked with the Canadian Players, and at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.

He left a mark in Canadian theatre

  • He founded Theatre Calgary in 1968, and was its artistic director until 1971.
  • He became the artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company in 1973.
  • He was appointed artistic director of the Shaw Festival in 1979 after turning the gig down three times, where he directed many acclaimed productions.
  • His tenure at Shaw was known for opening the festival up to works other than those of Shaw and his contemporaries, among other practices.

Toronto remembers

Newton was no stranger to the Toronto stages that will honour his memory. He directed three productions for the Royal Alexandra Theatre, including One for the Pot (1996), The Innocent Eye Test (2006) and The Audience (2017). Through his position at the Shaw Festival, he also brought Cyrano de Bergerac to the Royal Alex in 1984, and later The Women in 1987.

“Chris was a visionary,” said David Mirvish in a statement. “He was a true animator, bringing artists together and providing an environment for them to do their best work. It was with great pride that we presented his work at the Royal Alex.”

Mirvish recalls, “The last time we worked with Chris was on The Audience. It had all the hallmarks of a Newton production: exquisite design, excellent acting and meticulous attention to every detail. I believe it was his last professional work before retiring, and it was a fitting way to mark the end of a truly brilliant career.”

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