Ontario theatre is alive and well. Get the scoop on how to find local performances.
Do you love live theatre? If so, Ontario is a great place to visit. You’ll find live theatre performances all across the province, from small towns like Orillia to big cities like Toronto. Any time of year, you’re sure to find something to see.
An overview of Ontario theatre
The Toronto theater community is the third largest English-language theatre centre in the world; only London and NYC offer more productions! The city is especially well-known for hosting Broadway blockbusters, but it offers smaller, quirkier productions and community theatre as well. For more information, see my page on Toronto Theatre.
In Ottawa, the National Arts Centre hosts plays in English and French. They feature a mix of modern and classic plays by Canadian and international playwrights. The works tend to be on the serious side. You’ll find several other smaller theatre companies in Ottawa as well.
Hamilton’s main professional theatre company is Theatre Aquarius. The city’s amateur group, Hamilton Theatre Inc., which specializes in musicals, is very worth while as well. The Players Guild also puts on about 4 shows a year.
The Shaw Festival is located in the quaint and touristy town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, just a short drive from the American border. The Shaw specializes in plays by George Bernard Shaw but puts on other works as well, including a fair bit of Noel Coward recently and even the occasional Canadian play.
You've probably heard of the Stratford theatre company, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, right? They specialize (naturally) in Shakespearean theatre but they have branched out to modern works including light-hearted musicals. Stratford is a charming, artsy town for a weekend break.
Drayton Theatre is a busy organization that runs 6 theatres in southwestern Ontario including one in the famous Mennonite town of St. Jacobs. They specialize in musicals. They mount favourites like Cats, Brigadoon, High School Musical, Me and My Girl, etc. They cater to the senior crowd and organize guided tours abroad as an offshoot of their business (NYC, Russia, etc). Every age can enjoy their shows, though. The plays aren’t heavy or challenging but they’re professional, creative and good family fun.
Fringe Theatre and other Ontario theatre venues
Ontario loves its summer fringe theatre festivals. They usually last about 10 days and give you the chance to see some pretty wacky, brilliant and bad stuff. If you’re up for adventure and experimentation check out a fringe. You’ll find them in these cities.
If you're in a university town, check their local listings too. Many universities and some colleges have theatre productions. It's a great chance to see the future stars of Canadian theatre.
What’s Playing Where?
One of the best places on the web to find out what’s playing in Ontario is the Theatre Ontario website, at http://www.theatreontario.org. This site lists current productions year-round. Click on the onstage tab and then choose your region. You might even discover new theatres to visit!
Another site is http://www.summertheatre.org. Their organization has 25 member theatres. They produce an annual brochure showcasing their theatres. The map on their web site is handy if you’re planning a trip and aren’t familiar with all of the small towns with summer theatres. Want to save money? They also list package deals where you can get a theatre ticket, a hotel room and even a meal for one low price.
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