Christopher Newton

Dates: 
1968-present

Christopher Newton was born June 11, 1936 in Deal, England. He attended university in the U.K. and U.S., graduating from the University of Illinois with an MA (1960). His first professional acting performance was as Cassius in the Canadian Player's tour of Julius Caesar (1961). Throughout the 1960s he appeared in productions in Vancouver, Winnipeg, New York, and at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The founding Artistic Director of Theatre Calgary in 1968, he formed a small acting company which served as the core performers of the company--these included Neil Munro, Dana Ivey, Pat Armstrong, Eric Donkin, Kenneth Welsh, and William Hutt.

When he moved back to Vancouver as Artistic Director of the Vancouver Playhouse in 1973, he established a similar core companies there as well as an acting school. The Shaw Festival saw what he was doing in Vancouver and courted him to bring the same passion and vision to Niagara-on-the-Lake as Artistic Director. After some considerable persistence, the Shaw Festival gor its way in Winter 1979 when Newton finally took the reins of the Shaw Festival. With the assistance of Cameron Porteous as Head of Design and Jeffrey Dallas as Lighting Specilist, who both came with him from Vancouver, they managed to turn the Shaw Festival around. One of Newton's most notable contributions was that "He sought out talent, to be sure, but he passed if the talent showed the slightest hint of arrogance. He insisted the cast participate in all rehearsals and never tried to draw crowds by importing marquee names."1 

Between 1980 and 2002 he developed the Festival's international affiliations, created and encouraged its ensemble of creators, and directed such productions as Pygmalion and Candida, even though his initial reaction to joining the Shaw had to do with his dislike of Shaw (Scott, "Newton's Law")! He retired from Shaw after 23 seasons in 2002. After some 30 years as an artistic director, he is widely considered the foremost artistic director that Canada has ever produced. Newton is a member of the Order of Canada and has received numerous awards including the Governor General's Award, the Molson Prize, the Chalmers Award, all the Jubilee Medals, five doctorates (Brock University, University of Guelph, Wilfred Laurier University, University of Toronto and New York - S.U.N.Y.) and two fellowships (Ryerson University and the Royal Conservatory of Music). Newton continued to act and direct on a freelance basis until his passing on December 20, 2021, aged 85.

 

1. Scott, Alec. "Newton's law: when he joined the Shaw Festival, Christopher Newton pledged to build a troupe where actors--not egos--would be the thing. Twenty-two years later, the outgoing artistic director leaves behind one of the finest ensembles in North America. (Arts)." Toronto Life, vol. 36, no. 12, Aug. 2002, pp. 59+. Gale OneFile: CPI.Q, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A94078783/CPI?u=guel77241&sid=bookmark-CPI&xid=2797f6bb. Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

Type(s) Of Materials: 
Photographs
Posters
Published Material
Technical Drawings
How To Access: 

Call Numbers : XZ1 MS A545-549 ; XZ3 MS A548001 ; XZ3 MS A549001-002 This collection is available for viewing on-site in Archival & Special Collections during our regular business hours.