Theatre Inconnu established the Shakespeare Festival in Market Square in 1991. In 1992, with the support of the City and the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC), the Festival performed in a tent in the Inner Harbor on a number of sites, until it moved to St. Ann’s Academy, which it used until 2002. At that time, Theatre Inconnu decided to focus more on contemporary and experimental theatre. However, the actors who were committed to seeing the Shakespeare Festival continue in some form asked Clayton Jevne, founder of Inconnu, for permission to keep the festival going. With Jevne’s blessing, the Victoria Shakespeare Society was formed to produce the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival.
In 2003, the Society launched its first festival with one play, Taming of the Shrew, in Centennial Square, attracting an audience of about 500 people. In 2004, the Festival moved back to St. Ann’s Academy, where two shows were presented that season. After a venue search, the Festival moved to the grounds of Camosun College’s Lansdowne Campus in 2005. Building on audience feedback and the success of the previous year, the Society staged two outdoor shows. The season was both critically and artistically successful and Camosun College became the GVSF’s current outdoor venue.
In 2007, Michael Glover, then president of the Society, became producing artistic director of the Festival, and the Society reorganized the GVSF’s format and schedule. The 2013 season experienced further growth, as the Festival built a modular semi-permanent stage in its usual playing space on the Dunlop Field. This new stage, with seating on three sides, allowed a more intimate experience for audiences, and was dubbed the Camas Stage by the Board of Directors in recognition of both the First Nations land on which it sits, and Shakespeare’s original stage, The Rose.
In 2014, Michael Glover stepped down from the organization, and then-festival producer Karen Lee Pickett was appointed by the Board as producing artistic director. The 2014 season saw the inauguration of the repertory company model, and in 2015, the Festival celebrated its stellar 25th anniversary season with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet, which achieved critical success and record-breaking audience numbers.
Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival Production History
2017: Macbeth, Love's Labour's Lost View Program
2016: The Winter's Tale, Twelfth Night View Program
2015: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream View Program
2014: Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew View Program
2013: Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor View Program
2012: Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It View Program
2011: Comedy of Errors, Hamlet
2010: Richard III, Taming of the Shrew
2009: Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar
2008: The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing
2007: Romeo & Juliet
2006: Macbeth, Pericles
2005: Cymbeline, Midsummer Night’s Dream
2004: As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost
2003: Taming of the Shrew
2002: Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice
2001: Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing
2000: Hamlet, Twelfth Night
1999: Comedy of Errors, Othello, All’s Well that Ends Well
1998: King Lear, The Tempest
1997: The Taming of the Shrew
1996: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Two Gentlemen of Verona
1995: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth
1994: As You Like It
1993: King Lear
1992: The Winter’s Tale, The Merchant of Venice
1991: Julius Caesar, The Tempest, Richard III