Canadian Shakespeare News

CASP publishes the Virtual Shakespeare Made in Canada Exhibit (VSMIC)

The Shakespeare–Made in Canada Virtual Exhibit is a media-rich online version of the Shakespeare–Made in Canada exhibition that was hosted by the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre from January to June 2007. Based on research conducted by the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP) at the University of Guelph created by Dr. Daniel Fischlin, the Shakespeare–Made in Canada exhibition was a unique imnitiative sponsoired by the Office of the President at the University of Guelph, and supported by a wide range of community partnerships.

The SMIC Virtual Exhibit offers an in-depth exploration of contemporary Canadian adaptations in theatre, pop media, and visual arts, through a diverse collection of visual media. The Shakespeare–Made in Canada exhibit brought together, for the first time, hundreds of rare artifacts, including the Canadian-owned Sanders portrait, contemporary Canadian theatre designs, Shakespeare in French Canada, First Nations/Aboriginal adaptations of Shakespeare, new Canadian portraiture, a Shakespeare Learning Commons for youth, as well as archival materials from the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project, the L.W. Conolly Theatre Archives (University of Guelph), and the Stratford Festival of Canada.

To access the Virtual exhibit, click on the following link:


The most famous playwright in history, William Shakespeare, has definite ties to Canada, even though he lived his life across the pond in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

His ties can be seen in the many Shakespearean productions that have graced stages across Canada, from the Théatre du Nouveau Monde in Montréal, Québec, to the famed Stratford Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. They can also be seen in the numerous Shakespearean plays that we all have read while we worked our way through high school English classes. However, there is an additional connection of which few are aware. A body of work that is believed to be one of the few – if not the only – authentic paintings of William Shakespeare was done by John Sanders, an ancestor of Canadian Lloyd Sullivan. This unique connection has prompted the Shakespeare-Made In Canada festival, a celebration of the life and art of William Shakespeare, which is currently in full swing in Guelph, Ontario.

The University of Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC) is the primary venue for this festival, housing vast amounts of information and artwork on the playwright, including the Sanders portrait itself.

Dr. Daniel Fischlin, professor, founder of the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project (CASP) and curator of the MSAC Shakespeare exhibition, was instrumental in securing the Sanders portrait for display in Guelph. “I approached [Lloyd Sullivan] in 2004 just before we launched the CASP [website] and asked him for permission to use the portrait as our signature image in the site design,” Dr. Fischlin noted.”He more than graciously agreed and we were off to a friendship that led eventually to his agreeing to loan the portrait to the University.”

Although the Sanders portrait is the centerpiece of the exhibition, there are many other works of interest at the MSAC. Shakespeare’s influence on Canadian theatre designs, snapshots of the various interpretations of the Bard’s work, a Shakespearean learning centre for younger visitors, as well as other archived material from the CASP.

The response to the exhibition thus far has been outstanding. Dr. Fischlin said “the MSAC galleries have never had this kind of traffic they’re getting,” and expects “over 50,000 people through the [MSAC], which is phenomenal. I know of people who are going into the exhibit every day just to spend time with the portrait.”

Mat Buntin, project manager with the CASP, agrees. “The exhibition has been very well received so far, with visitor traffic to the art centre having increased dramatically.”

Other events are also taking place alongside the exhibition, and they will be running until May. These events consist of things such as a musical interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a speaker series, and films related to Shakespeare. Those that are interested in attending these events may visit the Shakespeare-Made in Canada website (

Voltaire is said to have referred to William Shakespeare as “a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays please only in London and Canada.” Perhaps he was right, for Canada has loved Shakespeare for some time, and one can see it in a myriad of ways in Guelph.

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