Wednesday, December 21, 2005

All's well for Shakespeare in Saskatoon

Saskatoon's Shakespearean festival will go ahead with a four-week season in 2006 now that organizers have conquered a debt that had threatened to end the festival.

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, the second-oldest Shakespearean festival in Canada, after the Stratford Festival, has run for 21 seasons.

Last year festival organizers faced a debt of more than $100,000, with a major sponsor pulling out and little success in fundraising. There were fears the 2005 event, which takes place in tents on a riverbank in Saskatoon, would be cancelled.

Instead, it went ahead with a shortened season and deep cuts to operating costs.

Marc von Eschen, the artistic and executive director of the festival, said the total debt is now a manageable $37,000 with the majority of that not due until 2007. He's planning a four-week season in 2006 with the possibility of a one-week extension.

Mainstage plays in 2006 include The Taming of the Shrew and Two Gentlemen of Verona, which are scheduled to run July 5 to Aug. 13.

Von Eschen said it will help encourage arts funding agencies to see the festival as a well-run operation again.

However, finances haven't improved to the point where fundraisers can be complacent, he said. Von Eschen said he's spending the winter looking for corporate donations.

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