Master Playwright Festival


“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” - Noël Coward


In the winter of 2001, MTC chose to honour Samuel Beckett at its first annual Master Playwright Festival. BeckettFest provided opportunities for both professional and emerging artists from a variety of organizations and independent companies to produce work under the umbrella of a larger festival. It also provided patrons with an opportunity to thoroughly immerse themselves in the work of a playwright who may not have a regular home on Winnipeg stages.

The inaugural event involved 15 Beckett works by 10 local companies in eight venues. Since then, MTC has presented BrechtFest (2002), PinterFest (2003), AlbeeFest (2004), TremblayFest (2005), O'NeillFest (2006), StoppardFest (2007), MametFest (2008), MillerFest (2009), ChurchillFest (2010), StrindbergFest (2011), ShawFest (2012), SondheimFest (2013) and ChekhovFest (2014).

This year (2015), MTC presents CowardFest from January 28 - February 15.



Production History

The Master Playwright Festival has honoured playwrights whose innovation and creativity have influenced fellow artists and left a lasting impression on audiences. For more information on each festival, please click on a link below.

BeckettFest     BrechtFest     PinterFest     AlbeeFest     TremblayFest   

 O'NeillFest     StoppardFest     MametFest    MillerFest

   ShawFest   SondheimFest    ChekhovFest

January 11 – 27, 2001 

"Birth was the death of him." - Samuel Beckett

The inaugural Master Playwright Festival was a resounding success with dozens of sell-out performances throughout the 17-day event. Significant tourism interest was generated with audience members visiting the festival from Toronto, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Vancouver and the northern states. In addition to the plays and films featured at the festival, BeckettFest also showcased a free series of lectures and forums and a late-night open microphone series.

Companies 10 
Total attendance 10,260

List of Productions

Adhere & Deny – Found and Lost
The Black Hole Theatre Company – Krapp’s Last Tape, Catastrophe, Breath
CBC Radio
Le Cercle Molière – Text for Nothing/Texte pour rien
The Cinematheque – Krapp’s Last Tape (Film)
The King’s Players – Endgame
MTC Warehouse – Waiting for Godot
The Royal Liechtenstein Theatre Company – Happy Days
Spatial Relations – Act Without Words I; Not I
Tara Players – All That Fall
UMFM Radio – Rough for Radio, Rough for Radio 2, Words and Music, Rockaby, All That Fall
The University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre & Drama – Play


January 10 – 26, 2002

"Don't tell me peace has broken out." - Bertolt Brecht

Building on the momentum generated by BeckettFest, the 2nd annual Master Playwright Festival featured an eclectic mix of professional companies and emerging artists in celebration of the life and work of German poet, playwright and theatrical reformer Bertolt Brecht. The rebroadcast of CBC’s IDEAS documentary allowed the festival to reach a broad and diverse audience.

Companies 18 
Performances 150 
Paid attendance 11,523

Radio and public forum audience 38,066

List of Productions

The Black Hole Theatre Company – The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Breakfast Productions – The Seven Deadly Sins
Brecht Und Kaffee – Brecht und Kaffee
CBC Radio One & Radio Two – IDEAS Documentary Rebroadcast: BRECHT
The Cinematheque – Bertolt Brecht: Rare Films (A Man’s A Man, Galileo, Kuhle Wamp or Who Owns the World?, Mother Courage and Her Children, Private Silent Films, The Brecht Films of Hans Syberberg, The Mother, The Mysteries of a Hairdresser’s Shop, The Threepenny Opera)
The Conspiracy Network – Baal
MTC Warehouse/Shakespeare in the Ruins – The Threepenny Opera
Sarasvàti Productions in collaboration with River’s Edge Theatre Company –
 Fire Visions: The Poetry of Bertolt Brecht
U of M School of Music Opera Workshop – Der Jasager
Tara Players – Señora Carrar’s Rifles
The King’s Players – The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
UMFM Radio – Baal and Saint Joan of the Stockyards
U of W Department of Theatre and Drama –
 Fear and Misery of the Third Reich
Westwood Collegiate – The Life of Galileo
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre – The Jewish Wife: A Creative Collection
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre – Bertolt Brecht
The Winnipegger Ensemble – The Wedding


PinterFest 2003
January 9 – 25, 2003

"I find critics on the whole a pretty unnecessary bunch of people. We don't need critics to tell the audiences what to think." - Harold Pinter

More than 19,000 theatre enthusiasts braved subarctic temperatures to experience Pinter in winter. Festival highlights included the participation of Dreamsurf Theatre who travelled from Britain, as well as performances by Harold Pinter’s long-time friend Henry Woolf.

Companies 15 
Performances 130
Paid attendance 11,075
Lectures/radio plays 7,929

List of Productions

The Black Hole Theatre Company – The Hothouse
CBC Radio Two 98.3 FM – Arts Encounters: Landscape and Silence
The Cinematheque – Harold Pinter: Rare Films (The Homecoming, The Servant, The Go-Between, The Comfort of Strangers, The Pumpkin Eater)
The Conspiracy Network –
 Night School
Dancing Bear Productions & Theatre New West – Nine 
Dreamsurf – The Lover
The King’s Players – The Dumb Waiter
MTC Warehouse – The Homecoming
New Theatre – The Birthday Party, Monologue 
The Probable Cast – PinterProv 
Sarasvàti Productions –
 One for the Road
Tara Players – The Caretaker
Toothsome Breed Theatre Company – Ashes to Ashes
University of Winnipeg Theatre Students’ Association – Celebration 
Who Knows Productions – No Man’s Land


January 22 – February 8, 2004

"The only time I'll get good reviews is if I kill myself." - Edward Albee

AlbeeFest offered a distinctly international flavour for festival audiences. In coordination with L’Alliance Française du Manitoba, Le Théâtre Alambic travelled from Montreal to present The Zoo Story in French and Le Théâtre Gyptis from Marseille, France staged Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. French-speaking audiences also enjoyed two productions by St. Boniface College’s theatre company Les Chiens de Soleil.

Companies 16
Performances 138 
Paid attendance 10,384
Radio/public forums 7,863
Total attendance 18,247

List of Productions

The Adriana Theatre Collective – A Delicate Balance
L’Alliance Française du Manitoba et le Théâtre Alambic – The Zoo Story (French)
L’Alliance Française du Manitoba et le Théâtre Gyptis – Qui a peur de Virginia Woolf? (French)
The Black Hole Theatre Company – The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
CBC Radio Two 98.3 FM – Arts Encounters
The Cinematheque – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Film), A Delicate Balance (Film)
Les Chiens de Soleil – Le tas de sable, Le rêve de l’Amérique (French)
Dreamsurf – Seascape 
The Hen Coöp – The American Dream
MTC Warehouse – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Moving Target Theatre Company –
 Counting the Ways
Tara Players – Marriage Play
Theatre on T.A.P. – The Sandbox
Toothsome Breed Theatre Company – The Zoo Story
University of Winnipeg Theatre Students’ Association – Box and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
Westwood Collegiate – Malcolm


January 20 – February 6, 2005

" I know what I want in the theatre. I was a real political theatre, but I know that political theatre is dull.
I write fables."
- Michel Tremblay

The 5th annual Master Playwright Festival celebrated a number of firsts. TremblayFest was the first festival ever dedicated to the life and work of Michel Tremblay. He was the first Canadian to be honoured as our master playwright. And it was the first time the master playwright attended the event, which provided a huge thrill for everyone involved.

Companies 16 
Performances 134
Paid attendance 9,866
Lecture series 515
Total attendance 12,381

List of Productions

L’Alliance Française du Manitoba et Soluart – Surprise! Surprise! (French)
At Home Theatre Company – Johnny Mangano & His Astonishing Dogs
Avera Theatre – Stories for Late Night Drinkers
Black Hole Theatre Company – Marcel Pursued by the Hounds
Les Chiens de Soleil – Le train & Éloge de la gourmandise (French)
The Cinematheque – The Heart Laid Bare: Film adaptations of Michel Tremblay (Once Upon a Time in the East (Il était une fois dans l’est), Albertine in Five Times, It’s Your Turn, Laura)
Dreamscape, UK – Damnée Manon, Sacrée Sandra
The Hen Coöp – Albertine in Five Times
MTC Warehouse – Hosanna
Sarasvàti Productions – The Impromptu of
Tara Players – For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again
Theatre on T.A.P. – Surprise! Surprise!
Toothsome Breed Theatre Company – Forever Yours, Marie-Lou
101.5 UMFM – Berthe, Johnny Mangano & His Astonishing Dogs
University of Winnipeg Theatre Students’ Association – En pièces détachées
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre – The Real World?


January 19 – February 5, 2006

"Man's loneliness is but his fear of life." - Eugene O'Neill

For the first time, the festival offered a play reading to raise funds for The Actors’ Fund of Canada. The successful reading of The Iceman Cometh, featuring a dynamic cast, allowed for one of Eugene O’Neill’s most ambitious works to be part of the festival. This reading also led into the closing night festivities at the King’s Head Pub, which stood in for Harry Hope’s saloon.

Companies 14
Performances 127
Paid attendance 8,584
Lecture series 180
Total attendance 8,602

List of Productions

The Actors’ Fund of Canada – The Iceman Cometh (Reading)
Black Hole Theatre Company – Ah, Wilderness!
Bonded Bourbon Productions – A Moon for the Misbegotten
The Cinematheque – Eugene O’Neill: A Glory of Ghosts, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey into Night (Films)The Hen Coöp/Seeking Productions – Here Before You – Eugene O’Neill
Lyndesfarne Productions – Hughie
MTC Warehouse – Long Day’s Journey into Night
Pi-sin-ian Revolver – A Touch of the Poet
Tara Players – The Rope
Theatre Anywhere – Welded
Theatre Incarnate – The Hairy Ape
University of Winnipeg Theatre Students’ Association – Desire Under the Elms
Westwood Collegiate – Diff’rnt
Winnipeg Experimental Theatre Works – Before the Fog of Thirst


January 18 – February 4, 2007

"Age is a very high price to pay for maturity." - Tom Stoppard

Inspired by the wit and wordplay of British playwright Tom Stoppard, the festival enjoyed strong attendance. Theatre Incarnate added a matinee to accommodate demand for their production of Arcadia. And the Black Hole Theatre Company’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead set an attendance record for the university’s theatre program. Another highlight of the festival included Westwood Collegiate’s free presentation of 15 Minute Hamlet in the MTC Warehouse lobby before three performances of The Real Thing.

Companies 12
Performances 93
Paid attendance 10,132
Lecture series 220
Total attendance 10,352

List of Productions
The Actors’ Fund of Canada – Indian Ink (Reading)
The Black Hole Theatre Company – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
The Cinematheque – Brazil, Empire of the Sun, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Films)
Dancing Hen on a Tuba – After Magritte
Dimestore Watch Theatre Works – The Dog It Was That Died
MTC Warehouse – The Real Thing
Persnickety Players/Echo Theatre – Jumpers
Tara Players/Shoestring Players – Teeth, A Separate Peace
Theatre Incarnate – Arcadia
University of Winnipeg Theatre Students’ Association – Enter a Free Man
Westwood Collegiate – 15 Minute Hamlet
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre – The Real Inspector Hound


January 17 – February 10, 2008

"I always thought the real violence in Hollywood isn't what's on the screen. It's what you have to do to raise money." 
- David Mamet

The eighth annual Master Playwright Festival focused on the works of David Mamet, one of the grittiest, most dynamic and compelling playwrights of the 20th century. The ever popular lecture series welcomed Dr. Ira Nadel, a professor of English at the University of British Columbia. Author of David Mamet: A Life in the Theatre, the first biography of the award-winning author, Dr. Nadel shared his insight with festival audiences. This was Dr. Nadel’s second visit to the master playwright festival – he also participated in Stoppard Unbound.

Companies 14
Performances 131
Paid attendance 10,249
Lecture series 224
Total attendance 10,473

List of Productions
Academy Productions – The Frog Prince
The Actors’ Fund of Canada – The Cryptogram, Oleanna (Readings)
Black Hole Theatre Company – Romance
The Cinematheque – Lakeboat, Glengarry Glen Ross (Films)
Echo Theatre – The Poet and the Rent
Fancy Bred Theatre – The Duck Variations
The Incompletely Strangled Theatre Company – Squirrels, A Sermon
MTC Warehouse – Glengarry Glen Ross
Tara Players – The Shawl
Theatre Anywhere – Sexual Perversity in
Theatre Incarnate – Boston Marriage
Westwood Collegiate – The Blue Hour: City Sketches
WJT – Speed-the-Plow
Wooden Nickel Productions – American Buffalo


MillerFest 2009
January 22 – February 8, 2009

The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life.” - Arthur Miller

The highly anticipated MillerFest offered theatre and film enthusiasts the chance to experience the hard-hitting socio-political analogies and moving family dramas of the great American playwright Arthur Miller. On the strength of classics such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, along with well-received productions of lesser known works, MillerFest was the second-best attended Master Playwright Festival after BrechtFest. 

Companies 12
Performances 103
Paid attendance 11,264 
Lecture series 333
Total attendance 11,597

List of Productions
The Actors' Fund of Canada - The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (Reading)
The Black Hole Theatre Company - The Crucible
The Cinematheque - Focus and The Crucible
Fancy Bred Theatre - Resurrection Blues (Reading)
Manitoba Theatre Centre - The Man Who Had All the Luck: A Fable (Reading)
Manitoba Theatre Centre - The Price
Playing For Time Productions - Playing For Time (Staged Radio Play with Live Music)
Shoestring Players - An Enemy of the People
Tara Players - All My Sons
Theatre Anywhere - Clara
Theatre on TAP - Some Kind of Love Story
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre - A View from the Bridge
WJT - Death of a Salesman


ChurchillFest 2010
January 21 - February 7, 2010

“Whatever you do your point of view is going to show somewhere. It usually only gets noticed and called ‘political’ if it’s against the status quo.” – Caryl Churchill

British playwright Caryl Churchill made her mark in
Winnipeg as the 2010 Master Playwright Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary by honouring its first female playwright. ChurchillFest provided a wonderful opportunity for theatre lovers to immerse themselves in the work of a playwright who pushes the boundaries of theatre. As might be expected with a sometimes-controversial playwright, the challenging and evocative work onstage got audiences talking, resulting in an engaging festival experience for artists and theatre-goers.

Companies 15
Performances 98
Paid attendance 9,613
Lecture series 189
Total attendance

List of Productions

The Actors' Fund of Canada - Traps (Reading)
The Black Hole Theatre Company - Cloud 9
Dancing Hen - Blue Kettle
Shoestring - The After-Dinner Joke
Echo (Beach) Theatre - The Skriker
Eggshell Theatre Company - Seven Jewish Children
Manitoba Theatre Centre - Top Girls
Sarasvati Productions - Fen
Scattergood Theatre - Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (Staged Reading)
Selardi Productions - Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? (Staged Reading) and Seagulls
Skyline Theatre - Owners (Staged Reading)
Tara Players - A Number
Theatre Anywhere - A Mouthful of Birds
Theatre Incarnate - Far Away and Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen
University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film -
Vinegar Tom


StrindbergFest 2011
January 20 - February 6, 2011

"I am a devilish fellow, who has mastered many arts." – August Strindberg

Swedish playwright August Strindberg was a poet, painter, photographer, telegrapher and alchemist. Like this eccentric master playwright, StrindbergFest celebrated invention, experimentation and innovation.

Companies 18
Performances 137
Paid attendance 8,866
Lecture series 139
Total attendance

101.5 UMFM - Strindberg's Shorts
The Actors' Fund of Canada - The Pelican (Reading)
The Adriana Theatre Collective - Play Strindberg
At Home Theatre Company - Creditors
Black Hole Theatre Company - A Dream Play
Fancy Bred Theatre - A Mouthful of Birds
Manitoba Association of Playwrights - Miss Julie at the Gates (Reading)
Manitoba Theatre Centre - After Miss Julie
Naughty Sailboat - August Strindberg's Flying Circus
One Trunk Collective - The Big Gravel Sifter
Shoestring Players - The Burned House
Tara Players - The Stronger/Debit and Credit
Theatre Incarnate - Dionysus is Getting Impatient
Theatre on TAP - Harriet Bosse
University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film - The Ghost Sonata
Westwood Collegiate - Playing With Fire
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre - Miss Julie
WJT (Winnipeg Jewish Theatre) - The Father

ShawFest 2012
January 19 - February 5, 2012

"I often quote myself. It adds spice to the conversation" - George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw is credited with revolutionizing British Drama, by bringing naturalism and intelligent discourse to the Victorian stage. His incredible body of work includes 63 plays, five novels, 250,000 letters and three film adaptations.

Companies 15
Performances 116
Paid attendance 9,675
Lecture series 233
Total attendance

101.5 UMFM - The Shaw Shaw Redemption (Radio Broadcast)
The Actors Fund of Canada - Heartbreak House (Reading)
The Actor's Fund of Canada - PSHAW! A Literary Roast of George Bernard Shaw
Black Hole Theatre Company - Arms and the Man
Manitoba Association of Playwrights - My Affair with George Bernard (Staged Reading)
Merlyn Productions - Augustus Does His Bit
Nomadic Players - Caesar and Cleopatra
PAL Winnipeg - Saint Joan (Reading)
Resonator Theatrical - How He Lied to Her Husband
Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre - Mrs. Warren's Profession
Shoestring Players - Great Catherine & Annajanska, The Bolshevik Empress
Tara Players - Candida
Theatre on TAP - Queen of My Heart
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre Society - Major Barbara
Winnipeg Public Library - My Fair Lady (Film Screening)
zone41 - Village Wooing

SondheimFest 2013
January 16 - February 3, 2013

"Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos." - Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim has been called the greatest artist in musical theatre, and the founding father of the modern musical who revolutionized the medium. Over the course of his career, he's won an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards, multiple Grammy Awards, Laurence Olivier Awards, Drama Desk Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. He's written music and lyrics for more than 19 major works, has composed film scores and has been the subject of multiple anthologies and revues. SondheimFest was the first festival to concentrate on the musical.

Companies 13
Performances 79
Paid attendance 9,087
Lecture series 163
Total attendance 

The Actors Fund of Canada - Sondheim Karaoke 
District Theatre Collective - Into the Woods
Dry Cold Productions - Follies
Gallery Works - Sunday in the Park with George
Impel Theatre - Dear Mama
Kiss the Giraffe Productions - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Manitoba Association of Playwrights - What's Love Got to Do With It? (Staged Reading)
Naughty Sailboat/The 28th Minute/Shadling Productions/Snakeskin Jacket - Stephen Sondheim's Excellent Adventure
Resonator Theatrical - The Last of Sheila 
Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre - Assassins
Tara Players/Murder on the Menu - Rehearsal for Murder: A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre - Impromptu Splendor
Winnipeg Public Library - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street / West Side Story (Film Screenings)
zone41 - Me and my Town: Thom Allison in Concert

ChekhovFest 2014
January 22 - February 9, 2014

Chekhov's relatively short life has left us with four major plays, a handful of hilarious one-act farces and innumerable masterful short stories. It is difficult to imagine what Chekhov would have had in store for his audience if he had lived beyond his 44 years. Despite the fact that he is most famously known for only four plays, his incredibly influential body of work has ensured his lasting legacy. Anton Chekhov truly deserves his title of Master Playwright.

Companies 19
Performances 157
Paid Attendance 10,411
Lecture Series 277
Total Attendance 12,688

101.5 UMFM - Chekhov Short Stories (live radio broadcast)
The Actor's Fund - Platanov (a reading)
Adhere and Deny Theatre of Objects and Puppets - Swan Song
At Home Theatre - The Bear & Inside the Moscow Art Theatre
Black Hole Theatre Company - Aristocrats
Broken Record Productions - The Good Doctor
Fancy Bred Theatre - About Love & Champagne
Manitoba Association of Playwrights - Chekhov and Me
Merlyn Productions - A Marriage Proposal

Merlyn Productions - The Anniversary
MTYP Young Company - The Devil and Anton Chekhov
PAL Manitoba - The Wood-Demon
Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre - The Seagull
Shoestring - The Quick-Change Room
The Talentless Lumps - F#©koff Check-off
Tara Players - Uncle Vanya
Theatre by the River & little ECHO theatre - The Cherry Orchard
This Reality Theatre Company - The Samovar
Westwood Collegiate - Chekhov: Comic Sketches
Who is John Moe? Productions - Three Sisters: A Black Opera in Three Acts
Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre - Three Sisters
Winnipeg Public Library - Vanya on 42nd Street and The Lady with the Dog (films)
WJT - Ivanov