Canadian Shakespeare News

Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP)

“Shakespeare is a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays please only in London and Canada.”  Voltaire

“Pourquoi Shakespeare?  Parce que ce rendez-vous avec le plus grand poète dramatique nous en revions depuis longtemps. Il nous était devenu nécessaire.” Jean Gascon

“The Québécois people really, really, really, really love Shakespeare.”  Reynald Robinson

“Shakespeare’s not a Black woman; he could not see things from my perspective.”  Djanet Sears

CASP is the first research project of its kind anywhere in the world devoted to the systematic exploration and documentation of the ways in which Shakespeare has been adapted into a national, multicultural theatrical practice. Directed by Prof. Daniel Fischlin, the CASP website features a wealth of learning, teaching, and research tools related to how Shakespeare has been adapted into (and out of) Canadian theatre.  As well as physical archives which document nearly 500 theatrical adaptations of Shakespeare in Canada from pre-Confederation to the present, the CASP website includes an online database, multimedia sections, original interviews and an online anthology of scripts that all help to enliven our research for a broader online audience.  Upcoming developments will include an RSS news feed of original and syndicated Shakespearean news, a virtual learning commons and ‘Speare: The Literacy Arcade Game.

Controversial Shakespeare Portrait Coming to U of G

Will be Focus of Shakespeare — Made in Canada Festival

There is growing evidence that a Canadian man, who happens to be a friend and supporter of U of G, may own the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted while he was alive. That painting is coming to Guelph next year and will be the focus of the region’s Shakespeare — Made in Canada Festival.

Known as the Sanders portrait, the painting is thought to depict the Bard at age 39 and is owned by Ottawa resident Lloyd Sullivan. It’s also the signature image of U of G’s Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project, which is headed by English Prof. Daniel Fischlin and includes the largest and most complete website in the world dedicated to showing the playwright’s cultural influence on Canada. Fischlin’s research team has been working closely with Sullivan on the Canadian side of the portrait’s history.

The Sanders portrait was also the subject of the 2001 book Shakespeare’s Face and is used by the Stratford Festival of Canada.

The painting will be coming to U of G for a special exhibition at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre from January to May 2007. In celebration, the University, Stratford Festival, Guelph Arts Council and City of Guelph are teaming up to host a series of regional Shakespeare events that will be held for the duration of the exhibit.
The Shakespeare — Made in Canada festival will include theatrical and musical performances, an exhibition, a speakers’ series and educational programs. The festival will be launched locally May 25 with a special Shakespeare-inspired concert by U of G professor (see related story on page ).

The goal of the festival is to create a regional cultural synergy focusing specifically on Canadian interpretations, adaptations and exhibitions of the work of Shakespeare. It will involve local and regional arts and cultural organizations, local businesses, and elementary, secondary and university students and teachers.
“We hope to provide opportunities to increase awareness of our regional cultural excellence and to create a dynamic and appealing program of events that will attract audiences from within and outside of the community,” says Sue Bennett, the University’s special projects manager.

The Sanders portrait is coming to Guelph thanks to Fischlin. He and his research team travelled across the country to schools, libraries and even people’s basements and attics to uncover original Canadian adaptations of Shakespeare. Fischlin contacted Sullivan and obtained the rights to use the image of the controversial Sanders portrait. “We’re delighted that a rare combination of humanities research, community involvement, University initiative and private support (exemplified in Lloyd Sullivan’s contributions to our project) will culminate in a unique series of events and an even more unique museum exhibit hosted at the University” says Fischlin.

Sullivan inherited the painting from his mother in 1972. It’s believed that Shakespeare sat for an ancestor of Sullivan’s, an unknown actor and painter called John Sanders, in 1603. The portrait was held in the family for 400 years, and at one time was stored under Sullivan’s grandmother’s bed. The portrait has been confirmed by six years of painstaking forensic studies to date from around 1600, and it has not been altered since.

Fischlin is working with Sullivan and others to develop a screenplay based on how the painting was discovered and authenticated, and the controversy it ignited around the world.

Before coming to Guelph, the Sanders portrait will be part of “Searching for Shakespeare,” an international exhibit by the National Portrait Gallery in London that will tour North America during the summer and fall of 2007. The Sanders portrait will join the National Portrait Gallery’s famous Chandos painting and four other early “contender” portraits purporting to represent Shakespeare. It is the first time the portraits have been displayed together. The exhibition will also present the results of new technical analysis and research on several of these pictures

Stratford Festival, U of G Partner on New Website

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council supports collaborative project with $163,000 award


One year after the unveiling of U of G’s Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP), the largest and most sophisticated website in the world dedicated to showing Shakespeare’s cultural influence on a nation, Guelph has signed a unique memorandum of understanding with the Stratford Festival of Canada to create a new hybrid website that combines CASP and the vast holdings of the Festival’s archives.

Adding momentum to the project is an award of $163,000 announced two weeks ago by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The agreement, which creates a formal partnership between Guelph and Stratford, states that together they will create the world’s most advanced site devoted to teaching Shakespeare, says Prof. Daniel Fischlin, English and Theatre Studies, who designed and manages the CASP website, located at

“The idea is to produce a site that will play to every possible audience from grade school and high school students to post-secondary and longtime learners to theatre aficionados at an international level,” he says.

Stratford’s director of information technology, Darina Griffin, approached Fischlin last September after the CASP website caught her eye.

“To function in an Internet marketplace, we need to create hubs that are intelligently partnered,” says Griffin, who notes that 85 per cent of the Festival’s patrons are university-educated and that collaborating with a university is a logical move. Making the choice even more obvious, she says, is the existence of the CASP website.

“The work that Daniel has done is so far ahead of anything currently out there on the web that it seemed like a brilliant partnership. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with his ability to envision the future. He’s really a powerful, creative mind.”

The Stratford Festival, now in its 53rd year, is currently storing countless artifacts that have been collected since the 1960s, including images, memos between staff about various production plans, costumes, props, stage plans, tapes of rehearsals and music.

The task of the website team is to go through the vast collection, sort through the archives and decide what to present online.

“Objects of major importance to Canada’s national heritage are buried in vaults that nobody has looked at for a very long time,” says Griffin. “We’re proposing the digitization of these objects for the purposes of long-term preservation, as well as to provide a curatorial component to various educational materials that will have the Internet reach. It’s very exciting.”

Fischlin’s expertise will be applied to Stratford’s archives, along with input from a group at the University, to prepare the context for teaching modules.

In return, a team from Stratford will create the framework to present the content in a format that will be useful to the target audience – teachers and students – by providing access to the Festival’s archival and performance resources. This will allow the new hybrid site to bring together analytical, historical and performance materials in an integrated teaching site and virtual learning commons.

Fischlin says there is also potential for U of G to create international distance education courses through the site, as well as educational games for students of all ages.

“People will be able to access the site and play these games and not necessarily know that they’re receiving advanced literacy skills based on Shakespearean vocabulary and contexts,” he says.

A prototype of the site is expected to be up and running by the end of May.