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A Platform for Empowering Canadian Youth

DramaFest is a platform for young people to exercise their empathy, their listening skills, their sense of community, to have conversations about the complexity of the world. It is a place to safely explore self-expression, trust and friendship.



Beginning in 1946, with just three plays, the Festival now has approximately 350 entries annually. It began as an idea generated by founder Ken Watts and has flowered into the remarkable annual event we now call the Ontario National Theatre School DRAMAFEST. For thirty years, until her death in 1981, Ken's wife Ann worked tirelessly with her husband organizing and maintaining the Festival. After his wife's death Wayne Fairhead and Ian Waldron were co-opted by Watts to be his Executive Assistants. Both had served on the Toronto and Districts' Festival Committee for a decade. Watts appointed Fairhead Executive Coordinator of the Festival in 1986, and when he retired in 1991, Fairhead became Executive Director.

Supporting Canada's next generation of theatre practitioners

The strength of the National Theatre School DRAMAFEST is rooted in its many dedicated teachers and community members across the Province. They work to ensure that each District Festival is truly a celebration of theatre in their local community.

More than 12,000 students and their dedicated teachers are involved annually in the celebrations, garnering some 500 Awards. These include up to four (4) $3000 Ken & Ann Watts Memorial Foundation Scholarships and up to four (4) $1500 Bursaries awarded to graduating students pursuing a career in the performing arts.


Apply for a Scholarship

Support for emerging Playwrights

The festival encourages the writing and development of original scripts and upon his appointment as Executive Director in 1991, Fairhead introduced a Playwriting Award for the 1992 season. The recipient of this Award receives a Bursary of $750. As well, to honour student and teacher writers, he and the late Mira Friedlander edited an anthology of five original scripts entitled CONCRETE DAISY AND OTHER PLAYS for the 45th Anniversary of the Festival. They created Volume 2 for the 50th Anniversary.

In 2010 FESTIVAL VOICES: Plays by Students and Teachers for the Sears Ontario Drama Festival was published by Playwrights Canada Press, edited by Fairhead and Jane Gardner of the Carousel Players.

Apply for the WFNP Award


District Festivals

Secondary school drama groups must first enter one of approximately 24 District Festivals held in various areas of the province. Each District is organized by geographic location.

Regional Showcases

District finalists are then invited to one of six Regional Festivals (North, East, South, West, Central and Toronto), each usually running three to six nights.

Provincial Showcase

Two Outstanding Productions from each Regional Festival are invited to perform at the Ontario Showcase, moving locations across the province from year to year. The 2024 Provincial Showcase is being held in North Bay! Check out the Provincial website for more info: https://sites.google.com/view/dramafest-provincials

Participate in the DRAMAFEST

Would you would like to get involved in your District’s DramaFest or are you interested in holding a festival in your district? Contact your District representative or the Ontario Coordinator for more information.

Consult the directory
Ontario Drama Festival 
Photo par Daniel Lane

Festival Awards

Discover this year's and past recipients!

Take a look at the awards!

News archive

September 14, 2020
Welcome back. We hope you are taking the time to adapt to this new context. We know it's not easy; the new frameworks will feel rigid to some, not enough to others, but it will provide us with an opportunity to meet in this moment; to come back to our communities of learning and sharing.

While we will try to find new ways of being together, we will need to bring patience, curiosity and openness to our daily lives. The NTS team firmly believes that this is a moment to honour what drama teaches us: collaboration, compassion, safety and a real sense of community.

The DramaFest team is committed to the values of bringing people together, of learning with and from each other, now more than ever. We are committed to supporting you and your students as they make their way in this world, exploring their passions.

Finding each other, finding joy in conversations and building something together in a safe environment will be critical in the years to come. We are committed to find ways to help teachers, students and coordinators to imagine and to produce a safe and empowering DramaFest this year.

We look forward to exploring and learning from this moment and from each other in safety and wellness, together.
May 21, 2020

We're sure that some of you still have calendar reminders of the events that should have been. Events that we were so eagerly waiting for, carved out in our agendas months in advance. It breaks our hearts to be reminded that the Provincial Showcase was scheduled for May 20th-23rd, 2020. It would have been this weekend that we would have been all together, showcasing your love and commitment for theatre.

The pandemic has truly shown us all what it is to be resilent, and how to adapt. For now, until next year, let's find a way to come together and still celebrate what would have been a great end to the season of your DRAMAFEST.

April 9, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on our community has been vast. Our thoughts are with all of you and we hope you’re safe and healthy. We are reminded of just how critical it is to support one another during these challenging times. We are in awe of the many ways individuals have rallied to bolster unity and understanding.

It was a heartbreaking decision to cancel the remaining DRAMAFEST events this year, but we are encouraged by our history. The Festival has faced many challenges over its 74 years, and although the beginning of our season was filled with much uncertainty facing the job action in Ontario, it truly did take a pandemic to halt it!

We look forward to resuming our activities when it is safe to do so and in the meantime, we encourage you to create, lead, and inspire in the face of adversity. We hope that next year's 75th anniversary will make up for the strange times that we are living now.


March 25, 2020

Dear Festival community,

Following a meeting with the Regional coordinators in Ontario this morning, as well as the British Columbia team, it has been decided that the NTS DRAMAFEST will not be holding its Provincial Showcases in British Columbia and Ontario this year. Regional Showcases in Ontario are also cancelled. 

As a national festival, we are accountable for the safety and wellbeing of our communities of dedicated students, teachers, volunteers and spectators. It was collectively decided that we must do our part in minimizing the Coronavirus’ impact.

The NTS DRAMAFEST team is actively looking for creative solutions to this year’s tempest. We are taking this time to consult with the pedagogical team to see what is possible or what we can come up with as a plan to give students and teachers access to resources and to give everyone a positive outcome in the end, even if it's just a ray of theatrical light!

In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and your families.

Let's look forward to happier times.


Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators
Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas

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