Jackie Maxwell, a director with a background in nurturing new Canadian plays, will be the Shaw Festival's next artistic director, beginning in 2003, it was announced July 11. The widely-known festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, celebrates the work of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries and writers writing about the period in which Shaw lived.
Outgoing artistic director Christopher Newton, who retires following the 2002 season, made the announcement with Shaw board chairman Lorne A. Barclay in Toronto July 11. Maxwell comes to the Shaw job with only one directing credit at the festival — the current Picnic. Observers in the Canadian theatre community were surprised by the announcement. In general, artistic directors with credits at the hiring theatre are engaged for the leadership positions. Maxwell ran the new writing program of the Shaw Academy in the 1980s.
Maxwell was head of new play development at the Charlottetown Festival 1996-2000 and has worked as a free-lance director throughout Canada. She staged The Memory of Water for Mirvish Productions and Tarragon Theatre, Susannah for Opera Ontario, The Orphan Muses for Centaur Theatre, Dancing at Lughnasa for Canadian Stage Company and Theatre Calgary, and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning, Juliet) at the Grand Theatre. She was artistic director of Toronto's Factory Theatre, 1987-1995, and directed many productions there.
Her upcoming directing jobs include Elisa's Skin for Tarragon Theatre, Lonesome West for Canadian Stage Company and Zadie's Shoes for Mirvish Productions.
Maxwell joins the Shaw Festival for the 2002 season, working alongside Newton. She assumes the artistic director role Nov. 1, 2002.
— By Kenneth Jones