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Less Shaw, more Ragtime at Shaw Festival next year Add to ...

The Shaw Festival’s 2012 season was officially announced this morning – and next year’s offerings in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont, will range from Ragtime to Rattigan to a newly discovered, never before performed play from 1914.

Namesake playwright Bernard Shaw, however, has been moved to the back burner now that the festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations are over.

Ragtime, the Tony Award-winning musical that had its world premiere in 1996 in Toronto, will take pride of place on the Festival Theatre stage. Artistic director Jackie Maxwell will direct this ambitious work – with book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty – that shows American history through three different families.

Also on the main stage is His Girl Friday, John Guare’s 2003 stage adaptation of the 1940 movie of the same name, which was itself a film adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play The Front Page. The screwball comedy set in a newspaper office will be directed by ensemble member Jim Mezon.

Another Shaw company member, David Schurmann, will make his directorial debut on the festival’s flagship stage with Noel Coward’s classic comedy Present Laughter.

For the first time since the Festival Theatre opened in 1973, however, there will be no plays by Shaw on the festival’s largest stage.

The Irish playwright will be represented in the smaller theatres, with two comedies written a quarter-century apart. Associate director Eda Holmes will take on Shaw’s 1910 comedy Misalliance at the Royal George, while Blair Williams will direct Shaw’s 1936 comedy The Millionairess at the Court House.

Other classics from Shaw’s lifetime on the 2012 bill include British playwright Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears (directed by Kate Lynch), American playwright William Inge’s Come Back Little Sheba (directed by Maxwell) and Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, which will be directed by Stratford Shakespeare Festival veteran Martha Henry.

As part of the Shaw Festival’s ongoing archeological exploration of long-forgotten plays, Alisa Palmer will bring British playwright Githa Sowerby’s recently discovered 1914 play A Man and Some Women to the stage for the very first time. (The festival has previously staged Sowerby’s play Rutherford and Son and premiered her play The Stepmother.)

And as the lunch-time show, company member Jay Turvey will tackle composer Leonard Bernstein’s little-known one-act operetta, Trouble in Tahiti.

Finally, as previously reported on The Globe and Mail website, Quebec playwright Carole Fréchette’s 2001 play Helen’s Necklace will be showcased in the jewel box that is the Studio theatre, the festival’s fourth stage.

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