Niagara-on-the-Lake remained a sleepy town until 1962, when local lawyer Brian Doherty organized eight weekend performances of two George Bernard Shaw plays, Don Juan in Hell and Candida. The next year he helped found the festival, whose mission is to perform the works of Shaw and his contemporaries, including Noël Coward, Bertolt Brecht, J. M. Barrie, J. M. Synge, and Anton Chekhov. Now, the festival has expanded to close to a dozen plays, running from April to October, including some contemporary plays by Canadian playwrights, and one or two musicals (which are performed unmiked). All are staged in one of four theaters within a few blocks of one another. The handsome Festival Theatre, the largest of the three, stands on Queen's Parade near Wellington Street and houses the box office. The Court House Theatre, on Queen Street between King and Regent streets, served as the town's municipal offices from the 1840s until 1969, and is a national historic site.
At the corner of Queen and Victoria streets, the Royal George Theatre was originally built as a vaudeville house in 1915. The Studio Theatre, the smallest of the four, hosts mostly contemporary performances. The festival is one of the biggest events in the summer. Regular-price tickets cost C$45 to C$110, but discounts abound; see "Ways to Save" on the Web site.