The "Bard on the Beach" main stage tentI love Shakespeare. My first Shakespearean play experience was when I was 13 and attended a school outing to see "Richard the Third"
After that, I was sold on the Bard. So a few years ago when a theatre company called "Bard on the Beach" began a yearly Shakespearean Festival here, I started to attend regularly. This year I managed to take in three performances, all of them superb.
My first show this year was "Timon of Athens" one of Shakespeare's little known plays about a wealthy philanthropist who gives money to his friends but when he finds himself penniless is shunned by them. For this production the performance was staged on the Bard's small stage and it was done in modern dress. The stage itself was interesting, in the centre of the tent with an unusual set design and minimal props.
"'Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after."
Timon of Athens, 1605-1618 Act 1, Sc ii l 108
The next production I attended was one of my favorites, "Romeo and Juliet". This was performed in the large main stage tent.
It was presented in a more renaissance than traditional style and I was especially impressed with the young lovers, Romeo and Juliet, and the interesting stage choreography, including the excellent sword play.
"Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow."
Romeo and Juliet Act II, ii 184
Yesterday I managed to recover from a bout of the flu long enough to attend a matinee performance of "Julius Caesar"
It was interesting going in the daytime rather than at night. For one thing the tent(s) were full with school groups, and I couldn't help but remember that day so long ago when I, a star-struck 13 year old, attended my very first Shakespeare play. This was usual considering I'd spent a number of my childhood days in Stratford Ontario, named for the Bard, and located on the Avon River. I even went to "Shakespeare Elementary School." But this was, in fact, the first time I'd seen Shakespeare performed. I wondered how many of the kids present yesterday would be so affected by the play as I was when I first saw "Richard the Third."
I get so much from watching Shakespeare and love the plays as much as I love the Greek tragedies. For me, a historical writer, I think it's important to soak up as much of this historical 'writing' as I can and as I'm also a playwright, I find I get a great many tips and ideas from watching how the plays are staged as well as how they are written. It has inspired me to return to my Sappho play and hopefully get it finished as I think it's a great idea and just needs to be staged right.
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
"Julius Caesar" Act V ii 73
Besides enjoying the theatre events, each time I've gone to the Bard I've made a special outing of it. Because it's located in a Park near the beach, I've taken a picnic lunch and had a lovely walk along the seawalk as well as attending the production. Here's a picture of the scenery around the Bard location. And as the tents open to the outdoors, in particular from the main stage tent, you get a backdrop of sky and natural beauty that adds to the ambience of the productions.
View from Vanier Park
You can look up events for the Bard on the Beach at www.bardonthebeach.org You can catch snippets and interviews with the directors.
The fourth production this year was "The Taming of the Shrew" which was done as a western. Unfortunately I haven't seen that one.
Now it's time for the Fringe Festival. And yesterday I learned of a play "His Greatness" about two days in the life of Tennessee Williams, my favorite playwright, so that will be my next theatre outing.