Bard on the Beach
We have been discussing a night at Bard on the Beach for a few years but were not quite sure we were ready for the line up, the rush seating and of course the row of port-a-potties. But on Tuesday night (thank you Jacquie) we had a chance to experience Bard for the first time in a more ‘civilized’ manner (minus the line up and rush seating, still with the portable facilities). We were invited to by-pass the line and enjoy a pre-theatre reception and then be ushered to reserved seats. We also had the great pleasure of a pre-show synopsis by artistic director Christopher Gaze so us ‘neophytes’ would have a clue as to what was transpiring on the stage.
The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival was established in 1990 with a mandate to provide Vancouver residents and tourists with affordable, accessible Shakespearean productions of the finest quality. Bard now engages thirty actors each season as well as a team of directors, designers, and technicians; it is also supported by more than 200 volunteers. The plays are staged in Vanier Park in open-ended tents against the spectacular English Bay backdrop. The Main stage seats 520 and offers two productions staged in repertory from end of May through September. The 240-seat Douglas Campbell Studio Stage was added in 1999 as a venue for the lesser-known plays in Shakespeare’s canon. Attendance has grown significantly from 6,000 patrons in 1990 to more than 90,000 patrons in 2009. Bard on the Beach is a not-for-profit society and a registered charity.
We sat under the main stage tent to view Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”. The set was simple but took advantage of a great outdoor backdrop with English Bay and the North Shore mountains showing through the arch at the back of the stage. The actors were amazing to watch. It is unbelievable to us still how they can keep the multitude of words straight from not just one play but from two. (All of the actors play a different character on opposite nights in “Antony and Cleopatra”. The play was actually quite easy to follow and the humor very good. This was a great choice for those who had not seen Shakespeare before. The passion of Christopher Gaze for the festival also shows clearly in the actors and the on-site staff and volunteers.
The evening was very entertaining and fun. We will plan to attend again as ‘regular’ ticket holders. Parking was amply available for a special rate of only $5.00. After seeing a variety of lawn chairs, blankets and picnics in the line-up it actually looked kind of fun (as long as the weather is good). As well the system of tagging your seat with your name also appeared quite civilized. Our only other concern can be dealt with by not having anything to drink and waiting for facilities until we get home.
Our staycation continues…