The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre is giving the Master Playwright Festival its final curtain call.
After a 20-year run, the festival’s final edition kicks off Monday and organizers have picked William Shakespeare for the event’s swan song.
“You have so much freedom when you’re doing Shakespeare because you can put different interpretations on it, you can move the time and place,” said festival producer Chuck McEwen.
“I think the opportunity for artists to be creative with this playwright has really inspired our local artistic community.”
McEwen said ShakespeareFest, which runs until Feb. 9, will be the festival’s biggest yet with 28 different productions — including 10 by the Bard himself — planned at venues across the city.
“It’s going to be contemporary, there’s a wide variety,” said McEwen of this year’s lineup, which includes the classics, newer twists on the classics and even a couple of musicals.
“If you’re interested in finding out a little bit about Shakespeare and not necessarily going to see Othello, there’s lots for you to choose from.
“We want to be accessible to everybody in the community.”
20 years of the masters
That accessibility — bringing work to the stage that was little seen in Winnipeg — was the original mission of the festival, which started in 2001 with a spotlight on the work of Samuel Beckett.
Since then, the festival has evolved into celebrating the work and life of important playwrights, including George Bernard Shaw (2012), Henrik Isben (2019) and Arthur Miller (2009).
“The Master Playwright Festival, like the Fringe (Festival), has helped to foster and build Winnipeg’s independent theatre community,” said McEwen, who has produced the festival since 2008.
Individual tickets for ShakespeareFest are $15 and companies are offering discounts for students and seniors, as well as pay-what-you-can performances and two-for-one specials. A festival pass, which allows entry to 10 shows, is available for $100.
There are also a number of free events planned during the festival’s run.
For more information on the performances, go to the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre website.