Stage Door News

Toronto: Marquee lights of the Royal Alexandra and the Princess of Wales to be dimmed to honour Christopher Newton

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Actor, director, writer, and producer Christopher Newton passed away at the age of 85 on December 20. The Shaw Festival’s artistic director from 1979 until 2002, he was a major force in theatre, building the Shaw into one of the world’s greatest repertory companies in the world.

To honour Christopher Newton’s legacy, the marquee lights of the Royal Alexandra and the Princess of Wales theatres will be dimmed at 8 PM on Thursday, December 23, 2021.

He directed three productions for the Royal Alexandra Theatre: One for the Pot in 1996, The Innocent Eye Test in 2006 and The Audience in 2017. As artistic director of Shaw, he also brought Cyrano de Bergerac to the Royal Alex in 1984 and The Women in 1987.

“Chris was a visionary,” said David Mirvish. “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.”

Although born and raised in England, he pursued post-graduate studies in the United States, but it was in Canada that he truly blossomed as artist. He worked with the seminal Canadian Players as an actor and performed at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Stratford Festival. He founded Theatre Calgary and served as the company’s first artistic director. In 1973 he became the artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse, where he founded the Playhouse Acting School.

It was his appointment at the Shaw Festival in 1979 that cemented his reputation as one of the country’s finest theatre artists. His work included assembling a superb company of actors and discovering, nurturing and promoting new talent. He championed both classical and new plays, unearthed forgotten masterpieces, and established a design aesthetic that made a Shaw production instantly recognizable.

“The last time we worked with Chris was on The Audience,” David Mirvish recalls. “It had all the hallmarks of 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."

Photo: Christopher Newton.