Bard on the Beach is returning for its 33rd Season after a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic. The professional Shakespeare festival features plays in Vanier Park underperformance tents that incorporate Vancouver’s captivating mountains and sea as a natural backdrop.
The festival’s creative director, Christopher Gaze, says he is overjoyed to be putting on productions again with his colleagues after what felt like a long time apart.
“Everyone is thrilled to be back. Things are the same but different. A lot has changed in two and a half years. It’s just a wonderful feeling to be back in production again,” Gaze says.
Most actors were able to find work elsewhere during the pandemic in TV, cartoon, and radio shows, Gaze says. However, those who made their living in the theatre were greatly impacted nonetheless.
Pandemic restrictions also affected how the theatre conducts its plays moving forward. Before, the company had previously never employed understudies for their actors due to production budgets. Gaze says that it was ingrained in the theatre culture to work through colds, injuries, and other illnesses to ensure the show ran exactly as planned. Now with the threat of COVID-19 still looming, extra precautions like understudies for actors are a must.
“We shall take it one step at a time,” Gaze says. “Tickets are doing marvellously well. And we’re very well supported at Bard. We’re very well-loved. So I think we’ll find our audience again.”
In the years before the pandemic, Gaze says over 100,000 people attended plays at Bard on the Beach over a four month season. He hopes the audience will come filing in, forming the big crowds he frequently saw pre-COVID.
For the festival’s 33rd Season, three well-known plays are coming to the stage. Midsummer’s Night Dream, among Shakespeare’s famous comedies, is about four young lovers who stumble upon an enchanted forest where they reflect upon themselves and their relationships. The story also features an array of wild supernatural creatures such as elves, goblins, and talking trees.
Harlem Duet is another play coming to the stage. This play is an award-winning drama that follows a Black couple whose relationship is tested through three major eras for Black Americans. Their journey through time sheds light on important issues such as race, privilege and sacrifice. The story draws from aspects of Shakespeare’s play Othello.
Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, will take the stage at Bard on the Beach this summer as well. The classic tale of two young lovers trapped in the crossfire between their feuding families will take on a new perspective that focuses on the experience of Juliet. A story of the power of passion, love, and devotion that Bard on the Beach hopes will inspire audiences.
Gaze is hopeful that a new normal is on the horizon, with COVID restrictions easing.
“[My hope] is that we all have a wonderful summer and time for coming together again,” he says. “Family and friends rejoicing in the live arts, especially the theatre. It’s a rich part of life.”