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The Shaw Festival will celebrate its 50th season next year by affirming the theatrical importance of its namesake. The 2011 season will feature four plays by, or nearly by, George Bernard Shaw, artistic director Jackie Maxwell announced Tuesday.

Former artistic director Christopher Newtown will return to Niagara-on-the-Lake to direct Heartbreak House, a play he first directed at the festival 25 years ago. Director Gina Wilkinson will follow up her popular successes with Born Yesterday and Half an Hour by taking on Candida.

Meanwhile, in the not-quite-Shaw category, My Fair Lady, Lerner and Loewe's enduringly popular musical adaptation of Pygmalion, will make its first appearance at the festival. It will be directed in the main theatre by Molly Smith, visiting from Washington, DC's Arena Stage. Joseph Ziegler, director of this season's hit production of Harvey, will tackle Shaw's late comedy On the Rocks in a "contemporary remix" by celebrated playwright Michael Healey.

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They will be more to the season than just Shaw, of course. National Arts Centre artistic director Peter Hinton will make his directing debut at the festival with the Canadian premiere of Australian playwright Andrew Bovell's generational epic When the Rain Stops Falling; Morris Panych will be back to direct J.M. Barrie's The Admirable Crichton, a comedy from the writer of Peter Pan that's like Upstairs, Downstairs meets Lost; and Eda Holmes will direct Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, bringing Tennessee Williams back to the playbill for the first time since 2007.

In the new Studio theatre, Obsidian Theatre's Philip Akin will direct the Canadian premiere of 2002 Pulitzer winner Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks, while Blair Williams's smash production of Ferenc Molnar's The President will return in the lunchtime slot.

As for Maxwell, she's not taking the year off. She will direct the world premiere of Maria Severa, a new musical by Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli, and the Canadian premiere of the 1933 Irish comedy Drama at Inish by Lennox Robinson.

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