A summer long effort has paid off for the Great Southwest Shakespeare Festival, with the Festival winning Heritage Saskatchewan’s Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Heritage Award in the Community Development Award category.
“It’s a big award in our estimation,” explained Gordon McCall, the Artistic Director of The Great Southwest Shakespeare Festival. “We’re really honoured and proud of our community. The award goes to us specifically, but this is very much a community event so we couldn’t have done it without so many people involved. So that’s what made me feel so proud. And we’re all proud and excited.”
The 2021 edition of the Festival featured Twelfth Night which ran from July 23 to August 21, while there was also a series of six midnight productions of Macbeth.
The Great Southwest Shakespeare Festival had its debut in 2019 with a summer long production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the 2020 festival was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was the potential of a second straight cancelled season, but with the lifting of Public Health Restrictions on July 11, the decision was made to rush production and have a second summer of the Festival.
“Once we got the go ahead we decided alright we’re going to have to put the pedal to the metal here. And, to use another term, we came out of the chute very quickly and worked really hard. I just couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved in putting the productions together.”
“That company just deserves nothing but praise. They went well beyond the call of duty. And you know why, because people love it.”
He said even with a condensed timeline to prepare for the Festival, he knew both the cast, volunteers and audience were up for the task of making it a success.
“The audience response to the shows, both of them, was tremendous. We didn’t do the numbers quite as much as we had hoped, but we did pretty darn well.”
McCall was also impressed that people came to midnight showing of Macbeth.
“My instinct said yes they will, and they did. It was people of all ages that came out to it. I don’t know that we’re going to do any more midnight shows, but I wanted to see what response we would get in the community. It tells you a lot about the personality of the community when you do something like that. And the response was tremendous.”
He also gave a nod to the City of Swift Current and the business community for their support in backing the Festival.
“Everything from the tent to the infrastructure, there’s a real belief in the festival. This award is shared by absolutely everyone who participated, including the audience members.”
He agreed that earning an award overlooks the reality of performing in 35 degree Celsius evenings, shows during a thunderstorm, and late summer cool performances in single digit weather.
“The audience, they came prepared. That’s the beauty of this festival is that it is like a camping experience. They’re going out in the elements. It could be hot, cold, wet. But we’re under cover. We’re protected. The actors are going on in the face of all this. And you feel a real kinship, a real partnership with the audience.”
“I felt like we were definitely in this together, every performance. I think it’s one of the beauties of doing the festival the way we are in terms of its informality.”