Bard on the Beach is one of Canada’s largest not-for-profit professional Shakespeare Festivals. The Bard is a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America (STAA), whose mandate is “…to provide a forum for artistic and managerial leadership of theatres whose central activity is the production of Shakespeare’s plays”. The festival takes place in Vanier Park, Kits Point at the foot of Whyte Avenue, a notably Vancouver waterfront setting. Not only does the festival offer Shakespeare’s plays, but also other related dramas which take place from June to September each year. The festival is intended to offer residents affordable productions of quality, and is attended in numbers that exceed 86,000 annually. This year was the 20th anniversary of these productions.
There are two performance tents. The mainstage tent seats 520 people, and is open-ended allowing guests a natural backdrop of mountain and sea and is where the classic Shakespearian plays are performed. The smaller tent holds lesser known dramatic performances. This year’s performance list included The Comedy of Errors, Othello, All’s Well that Ends Well, and Richard II. Thirty actors perform each season as well as a background team of the finest directors, designers and technicians. Outstanding costumes and sets enhance the experience. The plays offer a full repertoire of comedy, tragedy, drama and romance.
The covered Bard tent village offers souvenirs, coffee, wine and light refreshment. On four designated evenings you can enjoy a BBQ dinner of fresh salmon, coffee and treats. These special nights also include spectacular fireworks, called the “Celebration of Lights”. Usually a sell-out, this event is a joint fundraiser with the HR MacMillan Space Centre.
The venue includes Vancouver’s annual Bard wine tasting appropriately called “Celebrating the Red and White”. It is a casual wine and cheese event and a perfect combination when added to the exquisite acting and drama the evening promises. Wines are provided by Calona Vineyards, a well known producer of wine in the famous wine producing area of the Okanagan BC. Statistically, this is the fastest selling event, and for good reason.
The Bard also offers a Shakespeare Lecture Series, which is usually sponsored by Simon Fraser University. These are informative talks designed to give insight and explanation into the plays that were the “World of Shakespeare”. Included in this event is an opportunity to order a picnic to enjoy pre-show.
There is no end to this rich experience since the Bard also offers Chatterbox Tuesdays, another opportunity to learn more about the plays and the themes. A talkback session allows for both questions and answers from interested attendees.
Although you may come away from the Bard with an earnest desire to become an actor, only professional artists who are members of the Canadian Actor’s Equity Association need apply.