Michael Bawtree – Doctor of Letters (’22)


Michael Bawtree’s career as a writer, director and professor has led him to invest personally and professionally in diverse projects that build community through the arts.

Born in Australia, Michael was brought up in England and educated at Radley College. After two years of National Service, serving as a platoon commander in Cyprus, he read English Language and Literature at Worcester College, Oxford, leaving with a BA in 1961 (MA 1963). He emigrated to Canada in 1962.

His education provided a strong foundation in the classics, language and literature, and established his lifelong passion for the arts. Michael sees the arts as a means to explore the human condition and humanity’s impact on the planet and he brings the classics to modern audiences to demonstrate their timelessness and to show common experiences across culture.

Michael founded numerous theatre and musical projects and companies across Canada, but he is probably best remembered in Nova Scotia as the Founding Artistic Director and Executive Director of the Atlantic Theatre Festival from 1994 to 1998. This initiative provided a showcase and training for many Atlantic Canadian theatre artists and practitioners, and during its years of activity is estimated to have brought as much as $2 million annually in economic spin-offs to the local area.

He worked for many seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, serving as Assistant to the Artistic Director, and in 1973 was named Associate Director of the Festival. He was the Founder and Artistic Director of the Banff Music Theatre Studio in the 1980s, and professor and Director of Drama at Acadia University from 1990 to 2003, where he taught acting, theatre history and criticism, and directed many student productions.

In 2003, he founded the Joseph Howe Initiative to celebrate in 2004 the 200th birthday of Joseph Howe. He performed as Howe on several occasions and also wrote a young adult novel, Joe Howe to the Rescue, to introduce Howe to the young generation. In 2008, he appeared as Joseph Howe on many occasions for Democracy250, an initiative set up by the Province of Nova Scotia to celebrate the birth of Canadian democracy in Nova Scotia in 1758.

In 2017, Acadia University named the Festival Theatre stage the 'Michael Bawtree and Colin Bernhardt Stage', in honour of Michael and his long-time Acadia colleague Colin Bernhardt.

In recent years he has toured in Nova Scotia and the UK with readings of A Christmas Carol and Three Men in a Boat, and in the UK with his own one-man show, The Pegasus Bridge Show (published in book form in 2022). He served on the board of the Wolfville Historical Society. He is Treasurer and Past President of the Wolfville branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. He received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for service to the community in 2002, and the Lisa Stirling Award for Children’s Literature among numerous other accolades.

Now retired, Michael Bawtree resides in Wolfville, where he has published two volumes of memoirs: As Far As I Remember, Coming of Age in Post-War England. A Memoir: Vol. 1 in 2015 and The Best Fooling, Adventures in Canadian Theater. A Memoir: Vol. 2, in 2017.