February 2024 Newsletter

Message from the president
our first newsletter of 2024!

The Shaw season begins in April this year and will launch with Witness for the Prosecution at the Royal George. Shaw staff and creative teams are well underway preparing for the season and Guild Volunteers have also been busy!

The Guild Garden Art Project begins this month and includes a group of Volunteers working with Shaw designer Judith Bowden and the Education Department to create an art installation for the Gallery space behind the Royal George Theatre. Our theme is “Secret Garden” and a test workshop was held February 16th with Judith, where we learned techniques for creating art using flowers and other plant materials. Future workshops will be available to interested volunteers.

Eight volunteers who were involved in the 2023 relaxed performances attended an Introduction to American Sign Language (ASL) workshop. The workshop was organized by Education and led by Tim Czaban from Donor Support. (Tim learned ASL as an adult as he has a family member who is deaf.) The group will hone their skills with online courses, and meet regularly to practice their signing skills. As the Shaw becomes even more inclusive, and develops future programs for hearing impaired patrons, this core team will be on hand to assist as they learn ASL.

This newsletter includes a list of our upcoming Guild Volunteer Events this season. Mark your calendars and I hope to see many of you at our visit to the Scene Shop on March 24th. Notification of sign-up in MVP for all events will be included in future communications.

In other news, The Lake Report, is organizing a photo shoot on International Women’s Day. On Monday, March 4th at 10 am, a mass photo will be taken to celebrate the women in Niagara. If you can attend, RSVP to Kevin MacLean at kevin@niagaranow.com so they know how many people to expect.

Finally, there was an article in the St. Catharines Standard about the Shaw Festival, with a link to a recent speech Tim Jennings made to the Niagara Region Planning and Economic Development Committee. Tim’s speech is worth reading as it reinforces the importance of the Shaw Festival in our community – as an economic driver in the region, and as a place where we can connect and enjoy excellent art. As we get ready to launch our 62nd season at the Shaw, we can be very proud of our work as volunteers, and the theatre we support!

Mary Mizen, Shaw Guild President

Feel free to contact me president@shawguild.ca

Results from Shaw Guild Volunteer Survey (November 2023)

In October, 2023, a survey was sent out to all Guild Volunteers. We had a good response and overall, our results are very favourable! This survey input and comments will be used by the Guild Executive Committee as part of our strategic planning. Thank you to those who responded. If you have additional comments or suggestions, please email Mary Mizen at president@shawguild.ca.

Here are some key highlights:

  • 127 completed responses were received, which is approximately 30% of the number of Guild Volunteers when the survey was sent in November.

  • The number of years that responders have been Volunteers for the Guild ranged almost equally from less than a year to more than 20 years!

  • 93% said they were Satisfied/Very Satisfied with their experience as a Guild Volunteer.

  • 94% agreed that they believe their Guild Volunteer work contributes significantly to the Shaw Festival.

  • The activities that ranked highest in involvement were Hosting, Greeting and Fundraising events like the Garden Tour. See chart below.

  • Opportunities offered to Guild Volunteers to attend special events were led by the Shaw Guild Volunteer Recognition meeting, Sit-In Performances and Dress Rehearsals, all at about 50% of responders.

  • 90% believe there is a positive climate of teamwork in the Guild.

  • 87% believe there is a positive climate of teamwork between Shaw Staff and Guild Volunteers.

  • 93% agree that they have been given effective training for their chosen Volunteer roles.

  • 93% are Satisfied/Very Satisfied with the level and ways the Shaw Guild communicates with them.

  • Regarding inclusion, 97% of responders believe the Guild has an inclusive environment, 73% have attended a Human Connections workshop, and 95% feel supported in their role as the Guild focuses on inclusion.

Look for our 2024 Guild Volunteer survey this fall. Your input is important, and helps us to continually improve and add to the benefits of being a Shaw Guild Volunteer!

The following are a few quotes taken from volunteers' comments from the survey. 

I am very proud to be a volunteer with the Shaw as I feel it is an organization that contributes to the success of the Shaw Festival Theatre.

I am very happy to have found the Shaw Guild.  I love meeting people and learning new things and I have not been disappointed. 

The Guild has many opportunities for a volunteer to contribute his/her skills and talents and to work together as a team.

The relationship between the Guild and the Shaw is exceptional. Volunteers truly feel a deep connection to the Theatre.

I totally appreciate opportunities to see the shows at dress rehearsals or at a minimal price
after volunteering.

I had no idea how much is going on at the Shaw and have been pleasantly surprised. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

The Creating Human Connections workshops are having a positive outcome.  Diversity and inclusion is essential to the future of the Shaw.

There appears to be a lack of male Guild Volunteers at many of the fund-raising events.   Maybe we can derive an event where we can encourage male participation.

Lois Flatley

Chances are you have seen Lois greeting patrons at the Festival Theatre, helping with the Family Workshops before Prince Caspian, leading a Continue the Conversation or even managing a garden on the Shaw Guild Annual Garden Tour. Her smiling face and

welcoming demeanour have greeted many visitors to the Shaw Festival since she joined the Guild in 2020.

Lois moved to the Niagara region in 2000. As a Registered Nurse, she had a long and successful career in Health Care in both Canada and the U.S. She retired from the American Red Cross and made her home here in wine country. During the pandemic, Lois volunteered for Niagara Health and devoted much of her time to working in the COVID clinics, where she was able to help many people during a difficult time.

Lois joined the Shaw Guild around the same time and got very involved in 2023. She really enjoyed her role as a Greeter and was instrumental in helping many children and their families have a wonderful experience in the pre-show workshops before Prince Caspian. Lois trained as a facilitator for Continue the Conversation and participated in that program, and when we asked for volunteers to work at the annual Guild Garden Tour last spring, Lois volunteered as a garden manager!  She really enjoyed the experience of welcoming visitors to the garden on behalf of the Guild.

Lois Chapman

I have been a volunteer for many years. When we lived in Burlington, ON, I was a volunteer fitness instructor at Early Bird Fitness for 15 years at the Burlington Family Y.  I also hosted a monthly "Around the Y with Lois Chapman" TV show on Cogeco Cable for 5 years before we moved to California for 7 years.

Upon our return to Canada in 2003, we moved directly to NOTL and have been here 21 years.  We love theatre and the Shaw Festival was a big draw as well as the wineries here. I've seen many Shaw productions since we have moved here but was working at various companies until about 2019.  However, I did volunteer at Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum and Music Niagara since we moved here and I still do.

Since we moved here in 2003, my husband and I owned a Bed and Breakfast for over 5 years and I worked at Jackson-Triggs for 5 years, I did property management, worked in a real estate office for about 5 years, so didn't have the time to commit to the Shaw until I retired.

I became a volunteer with the Shaw Guild in early 2018 beginning with Greeting, then Hosting and then becoming a Docent and I still do all three positions. It's hard to say which position I like to do most, as they all have their own uniqueness.  I love to do all three!

Greeting - you would be surprised by how many people go to the wrong theatre and at least twice I have had people come to the wrong town for theatre, like mixing up Stratford with Niagara-on-the-Lake!  This usually happens 5 minutes before showtime!

Being a Docent is great and we need to make sure we keep the group together with a Docent leading the way and the other Docent bringing up the rear.  We can't lose our patrons in the bowels of the Festival Theatre, they would never make their way out and the Festival Theatre ghosts might scare them!  It's always important to keep the group on time as many student tours are going to a workshop right after the tour so timing is of the essence.

 In season, I am usually at the Shaw 3 to 4 times a week, doing one of the 3 positions.  I also have Smart Serve designation, so I volunteer pouring wine at Guild events as well as for the NOTL Museum. I've also sat on several committees for the Shaw Guild. I am also an Ambassador for the town of NOTL.

I love to walk a lot and I golf twice week at the NOTL Golf Course here in town (I'm not a good golfer, BTW), but love to walk the 9 hole course and enjoy golfing with friends and my husband (although we keep our golfing together once a week😉).

For the past 12 years we spend one to three months in Palm Springs, California and for the past 7 years, I have been volunteering at a 10 day event called Modernism Week in February.  I have met so many great people and done so many unique events, we basically go so I can volunteer!  I am signed up for 9 events right now.  I can't wait!

Shaw Guild’s Garden Tour - June 15th, 2024

by Rosemarie Hobson

Spring is fast approaching. And so is the date of the Shaw Guild’s 18th Annual Garden tour! Garden Tour Volunteer opportunities are now open on MVP so if you are interested in helping out this year log in and sign up. We are looking for Garden Managers, Cashiers, Ticket takers and Garden Volunteers to help our patrons have an enjoyable experience.

We welcome past participants and encourage new Shaw Guild Volunteers to join us. If you like being outdoors and meeting new people, in beautiful gardens settings, this is the event for you.

Shaw Festival's Holiday Tree Wins 2nd Place

The Shaw Festival’s entry won second place in the NOTL Heritage District Christmas Tree Decorating Contest that was organized and adjudicated by Town Staff.  Our theme was Brigadoon and Guild Volunteers and Shaw design staff created handmade ornaments of pinecones and ribbon. 

Those ornaments, along with lavender, cut-outs of the characters in the play, and white lights created a beautiful tree that represented a fairy village in Scotland!

Shaw Guild Garden Art Project

by Susan MacDonald, Volunteer Connections and Resources Convenor

The Secret Garden at the Shaw is more than a fantasy story. Nature projects will bring the play to life for families, the community and Guild Volunteers. Art installations, pressed-flower and other mementos for families and a new garden on Victoria Street next to the Royal George will all combine to make this year’s family production one to remember. The play will run from May 31 to October 13 at the Royal George.

The Secret Garden, based on the English novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the story of faith and healing through the rejuvenation of an abandoned, hidden garden. But this is more than a classic for families to sit in the theatre and enjoy. They can be active participants in one of the three projects related to the production. Guild Volunteers will take part in various capacities in all three. 

The Guild Garden Art Project

Imagine artwork made of pressed-flowers that’s unveiled at the opening of Secret Garden, continues to grow throughout the run of the play and is seen in whole and part in all our theatres and maybe even beyond? That’s the challenge the Shaw asked the Guild to take on, and we gladly accepted. With the guidance of Judith Bowden, Costume Designer for The Secret Garden and artist extraordinaire, we will build works of art that consist of pressed flower pieces from seasonal leaves and flowers, and then are assembled into one or more art pieces. Sound ambitious? It is!

A pilot was held in the Gallery behind the Royal George on February 16 to plan for the roll-out of workshops in which volunteers who would like to channel their artistic nature can take part. Based on this test, stay tuned for information before the end of the month for details on what’s next.  Susan MacDonald will be coordinating the project. In photo above from the February 16th workshop,  Judith Bowden is explaining the process of pressing leaves to Guild Volunteers Mary Mizen, Debbie Steley and Brenda Weafer.

Secret Garden Family Workshops

Shaw family plays are designed to engage young people with pre-show workshops. The Secret Garden will feature a Gardens and Nature interactive program for youth prior to each performance in which participants will create mementos with pressed flowers and other materials.

How will the Guild be involved? Like past years, volunteers will be needed to help set up, guide and conclude the workshops. Caroline Kindness, who coordinated Guild scheduling during last year’s Prince Caspian workshops, will spearhead the Guild’s responsibilities this year.

A Real-Life Garden

If this isn’t enough, a real garden near the Royal George was started last fall by the Shaw Garden Volunteers to help supply the materials needed for both the Guild Garden Art Project and Gardens and Nature Workshops. Debbie Steley, the Shaw Gardens Chair, will be supervising the continued planting, maintenance and collection of many of the plants to be used.

In the fall, a call went out for perennials that could be split and used to start the garden. Guild gardeners then planted sage, coreopsis, clematis and lavender. Early in the spring pansies, cosmos, geraniums and marigolds are planned. The Shaw Garden Volunteers will be working hard to create and maintain a beautiful garden that not only meets the needs of The Secret Garden projects but can also be enjoyed by passersby throughout the season. They’re now waiting for spring to get started!

There will be something for everyone this year in The Secret Garden. Get ready!

Shaw Guild 2024 Membership Renewal

by Heather MacNeil, Membership Chair


Thank you to everyone who has submitted their 2024 Guild Membership dues. 

For those who have not yet paid, it is not too late; please send $20 per member via cheque or e-transfer toshawguildmembership@gmail.comAlthough unpaid memberships will be archived, should you change your mind, we will gladly return you to active status upon receipt of payment. 

Feel free to send Heather MacNeil a message at info@shawguild.ca with any questions or to advise me of your plans.  Many thanks.

Hosting News

by Janice Coles, Hosting Chair

Plans are well underway for an exciting season of Hosting at all four theatres. There are 961 shifts available from April to December, so we’ll be busy! As in the past, the season will be divided into periods, and Hosts will be able to book shifts for each period a few weeks before it starts.

There are a few small changes this year:

Shifts will be available for booking on selected Mondays at 8 am, rather than on Sundays. This time is better for Margot Devlin, who makes the shifts “live” on MVP.

For the regular season (up to Thanksgiving), there will be only one “early” shift at the Festival Theatre. This may change in the holiday season.

When a Spiegeltent show is scheduled at the same time as a Festival show, there will be only one Host at the Spiegeltent. If there isn’t a Festival show at the same time, two Hosts will be needed, and one will cover the door at the Festival. Some theatre-goers are expected to enter there to use the washroom, go the box office or visit the Shawp.

Finally, I am looking for a few volunteers to act as Hosting Captains this season. Each Hosting Captain is assigned a period, and they ensure that all the hosting shifts are covered. If you have been a Host for at least one season, you are eligible! If you’re interested or just want more information, please contact me atinfo@shawguild.ca.

I'm looking forward to working with everyone!

And now a little something to introduce myself to you!

I am excited about being part of the Shaw Guild Executive Committee, and pleased to introduce myself to you. I was born in East York and have lived in numerous places in Ontario, from Ottawa in the east to London in the west, plus I spent a summer in Montreal where I discovered the wonder that is the Montreal bagel and perfected my “survival French.”

After finishing high school in Kingston, I earned an Honours Bachelor of Music degree in Voice (started at Laurier and finished at Queen’s), a Master of Library and Information Science (Western), plus I completed editing courses through George Brown and took some English courses for fun at Queen’s and Western. Between university degrees I worked as an orchestra librarian in both London (Ontario) and Kingston.

My main career was as a librarian in public libraries in several library systems, including Hamilton and Niagara Falls. During this time, I served on several volunteer boards, and since 2021 I’ve maintained my involvement in the library world as a member of the St. Catharines Public Library Board. I also volunteer as a grant reviewer for the Niagara Community Foundation.

The performing arts have been a big part of my life. I played violin in various youth and community orchestras, have been in many choirs (21 at last count—this is what happens when you move around a lot) and performed in recitals, operas and musicals along the way. Currently I’m both a board member and singer with the Avanti Chamber Singers in St. Catharines, plus I had fun singing in the Shaw Festival Gospel Choir in ‘22 and ‘23 and look forward to the opportunity to join again this season.

After I moved back to Niagara to work at the Lincoln Public Library, I grabbed a Shaw Festival Season’s Pass and have seen almost every production since 2013. I knew that after I retired, volunteering at the Shaw was at the top of my to-do list. When I’m not doing volunteer work, I enjoy watching Jeopardy, baking, playing online word games, and daydreaming about increasing my “country count” from its current 14. I also crochet—my crocheted “Shaw-l” will make appearances again this summer at Candida and My Fair Lady!

I’m looking forward to working with everyone to help make season 62 a rousing success!

Volunteer Events Team (VET)

by Brenda Weafer, Volunteer Events Chair

Your VET has been busy planning some wonderful events for 2024. Put these on your calendar now and don’t miss the fun!  Details and registration information will be sent out prior to each event. Stay tuned for other events to be added as we go – some of the details are as yet unconfirmed, but here is something to look forward to in the meantime!

Highlights this year are:

  • Scene Shop Visit – Sunday March 24 at 1 pm

  • Spring Preview Luncheon *Show & Tell* – April 22

  • Invitation to a Dress Rehearsal for My Fair Lady – May 3

  • Guild Gear-Up – Mon May 13:  An informative showcase of all the different opportunities available to Volunteers.  Stay tuned for more information to come.

  • Coffee Connections is back! Last Monday of the month from May – September 10-11 am

  • The Shaw Guild Annual Garden Tour – Saturday June

  • Garden Tour Appreciation Event Monday June 24 from 4 – 6 pm

  • Guild Night at the Pop-Up Patio – July 18 from 4 – 6 pm

  • Shaw/Stratford Cricket Match – in NOTL this year! Watch for the date in August

  • Volunteer Recognition Event at the NOTL Community Centre – Wednesday October 16 at 2 pm

  • Shaw Guild Soiree at Chateau Des Charmes - October 4

  • Annual General Meeting – Monday November 18 at 10 am

Welcome to Jess Gorman, Education Assistant 

Jess Gorman has returned to the Shaw Festival, as the newest Education Assistant working for Pragna Desai in Community Engagement & Outreach.  Jess will work closely with the rest of the team on our educational and engagement programming for students and life-long learners, here at the Shaw, in our Niagara community and beyond.  Jess is a familiar face, having previously held positions in the Box Office and most recently with the Membership Services team before departing the Shaw Festival to work in project management.

Jess is excited to return to this hotbed of creativity because theatre is one of her strongest passions. She recently participated in Tarragon Theatre's playwriting unit and performed in Firehall Theatre's productions of An Ideal Husband and Blithe Spirit. Jess is also a co-host of 'The Introvert's Guide To...' podcast, a show which explores various social situations through the eyes of an introvert trying to thrive in an extrovert's world.

When you see Jess at the Shaw, please give her a warm welcome!

Do you have any spare bike locks?