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Shaw Festival finishes 50th year $1.5-million in debt

Benedict Campbell as Henry Higgins and Deborah Hay as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, at the Shaw Festival.

Handout | Emily Cooper/Handout | Emily Cooper

The Shaw Festival ended its 50th season with a $1.5-million deficit, the Niagara-on-the-Lake theatre company announced Friday afternoon at its annual general meeting.

This is the second year in a row that the Shaw has ended a season more than a million dollars in the red.

But, there was some good news too: Molly Smith's production of My Fair Lady was the best-selling show in the festival's history, while overall attendance was up nine per cent and fundraising grew 12 per cent from the 2010 season.

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Nevertheless, the Shaw Festival was unable to meet its aggressive revenue targets for a golden anniversary season that cost just under $30-million to produce.

"While the artistic success of 2011 and the growth in ticket sales and fundraising is encouraging, the Board and Senior Management take the deficit situation very seriously," Shaw board of governors chair Gary Comerford said in a statement.

According to the Festival, management will be responding to the deficit by "implementing an organizational restructuring plan, setting conservative revenue goals, and instituting comprehensive plans to expand fundraising and increase ticket sales for the 2012 season."

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