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This weekend marks the opening of the 52nd annual Shaw Festival, a summerlong celebration of theater in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. As local companies scale back on their schedules ever so slightly for the summer, theatergoers will have a full slate of contemporary and historical plays and musicals to choose from just across the border.

Opening this weekend are productions of George Bernard Shaw’s 1894 play “Arms and the Man,” St. John Harkin’s little-known piece “The Charity That Begins at Home” and a much-anticipated attempt at John Kander and Fred Ebb’s beloved musical “Cabaret,” set in 1930s Berlin during the harrowing rise of the Nazi regime.

Future openings include: June 6, J.B. Priestly’s comedy “When We Are Married”; June 7, Phillip Barry’s perennially popular 1939 comedy “The Philadelphia Story”; July 11, “The Sea,” an Edward Bond play about a small English village recovering from the devastating effects of a maritime accident that swallowed up one of its citizens.

The Shaw’s short lunchtime play this year, opening July 12, is Tennessee Williams’ “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur,” followed later that day by the opening of Shaw’s “The Philanderer.” The season openings wrap up with Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s beloved “Juno and the Paycock” on July 25 and Katori Hall’s play about Martin Luther King’s last day on earth, “The Mountaintop.”

More information and a full calendar are online at www.shawfest.com, or call (800) 511-7429.

– Colin Dabkowski