The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts has announced that this year’s recipient is visionary director, actor and writer Christopher Newton whose distinguished career in the arts spans more than five decades. The Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award will be presented to him on Friday, January 13 in the Yale Simpson Lounge at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
Christopher Newton is the Artistic Director Emeritus of the Shaw Festival where he served for nearly a quarter of a century (1980-2002). During his tenure, the company grew steadily and came to be regarded as one of the most important acting companies in North America, renowned for its exquisite ensemble work and for its innovative theatrical designs. With an eye to the future, Mr. Newton expanded the mandate in 2000 to include new plays written about the period of Shaw’s lifetime (1856-1950).
While the BHMA is typically presented every two years at a press conference announcing the Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, the Barbara Hamilton Committee decided to make an exception and award it two years in a row to celebrate and take advantage of the fact that Mr. Newton is currently working in Toronto, directing the David Mirvish and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre co-production of The Audience by Peter Morgan which opens next week, running January 17- February 26 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.
After teaching and studying in the U.S., British-born Christopher Newton arrived in Canada in 1961. His rich career ensued and acting roles came at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, the Manitoba Theatre Centre as well as in New York City where he played the lead in The Knack directed by Mike Nichols.
Mr. Newton founded Theatre Calgary in 1968 where he served as Artistic Director until 1971. In 1973, he took over the Vancouver Playhouse where, with the late Powys Thomas, he launched the prestigious Playhouse Acting School. At the same time, he created three acting ensembles: for large-scale classical work, for new work and for theatre in education.
Over the years, Mr. Newton’s directing credits have included operas for the Canadian Opera Company and Pacific Opera, and several iconic theatrical productions.for companies across this country (including the Vancouver Playhouse, Theatre Calgary, Mirvish Productions and the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, among others) and in Australia. They include Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House and Misalliance, Noel Coward’s Cavalcade and Easy Virtue, August Strindberg’s The Father, and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. As a writer, Mr. Newton is the author of several plays dealing with the history of Calgary and British Columbia.
Mr. Newton’s indomitable spirit and standards of excellence have impacted hundreds – if not thousands – of artists and an entire generation of arts practitioners. His tremendous immeasurable contributions to the arts in Canada have been recognized with such honours as the Governor General’s Award, Molson Prize, seven honorary degrees and the Order of Canada. Now Mr. Newton adds another accolade to his lauded career with the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award.