Bard on the Beach is a very popular Shakespearean theatre festival in Vancouver. It normally takes place at Vanier Park from June until early autumn.
In 2024 the festival celebrates its 35th season. This year’s productions include Twelfth Night, which is a romantic comedy, and Hamlet, which is a tragedy. Other productions in 2024 include The Comedy of Errors and an irreverent, footloose play called Measure for Measure. This year’s season runs from June 11th until September 21st.
For the most up-to-date details, visit the bardonthebeach.org website.
The information in this article includes the following topics:
Bard on the Beach Venue | Summer Lineup Program | Julius Caesar | As You Like It | Henry V | Goblin: Macbeth | Admission Details | Special Events | Tips & Recommendations | About Bard on the Beach | Other Information
Click on any of the above links to jump to details on a specific topic, or see below for all information.
Bard on the Beach at Vanier Park
The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival takes place in an outdoor tent theatre every year from early June until the end of September. It’s a world-class series of Shakespearean productions that has been going on for over 30 years.
In 2023, the 34th annual edition of the festival ran from June 8th until September 30th. The plays included Julius Caesar, Henry V, a Beatles-themed version of As You Like It, and Goblin: Macbeth. The last of these was a goblins-produced version of the famous Shakespearean play.
If you like Shakespeare, then it’s a festival you won’t want to miss!
Bard on the Beach Venue
Bard on the Beach performances happen in the Bard Festival Site at Vanier Park in Kitsilano in two separate tent theatres. One is the 733-seat BMO Mainstage Theatre and the other is the smaller 240-seat Howard Family Theatre. Two productions take place in each theatre over the course of the summer, with the four shows alternating over different evenings.
Parking for the Bard is at the nearby H.R. MacMillan Space Centre at 1100 Chestnut Street. The cost there is about $7 (or maybe more) for the evening after 6:00 pm.
Click Bard on the Beach for the festival’s official website.
2023 Bard Summer Program Lineup
The 2023 Bard on the Beach program featured four plays – Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Henry V and Goblin: Macbeth. Details about each of the plays for 2023 season are below.
The season this year starts on June 11th and runs until September 21st. For full details about the 2024 season, see the Bard on the Beach website.
Julius Caesar is a well-known Shakespearean play packed with drama. For those not familiar with this story, it’s about Roman general and statesman, Julius Caesar, who is murdered by a trusted member of his inner circle. Mark Antony, a close ally of Julius Caesar, was unable to stop Caesar’s assassination. “Et tu, Brute” are famous words penned by William Shakespeare when he wrote this play about the legendary Roman general.
In Bard on the Beach, the timeless story of Julius Caesar took place against the backdrop of a modern-day world where finding and holding onto power fuels ambition. If left unchecked, this ambition can turn order and good governance into chaos. Given all that is going on in our world today, and the zest to find and hold onto power at all costs, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar connects history with today’s political landscape. It left food for thought long after the play finished.
Directed by Cherissa Richards, Julius Caesar happened in the BMO Mainstage Theatre on select dates between June 15th and September 24th in 2023.
To learn more about this show, click Julius Caesar at Bard on the Beach.
AS YOU LIKE IT
As You Like It is a nod to The Beatles, the band, as opposed to the Bard himself. You could relive the 1960s as you watched this Bard on the Beach play with its themes of laughter and love. The production featured more than 20 famous Beatles songs. Audience members sang along to live performances of I Want to Hold Your Hand and Here Comes the Sun.
When As You Like It first performed at Bard on the Beach in 2018, it did so to a sold-out audience. The version has been a runaway success ever since in North America. Critics have hailed the production. The Vancouver Sun in 2018 wrote: “One of the most joyous productions in Bard’s history. … You’d have to be a real Nowhere Man not to be on your feet and singing along.” In its review in 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: “A total blast … and entirely in the spirit of the Bard.”
Directed by Daryl Cloran, As You Like It happened in the BMO Mainstage Theatre on select dates between June 8th and September 30th this past year.
To learn more about this play, click As You Like It 2023.
The moral cost of war today is no less than the moral cost of war during the time of Henry V’s reign. Past and present collide in Bard on the Beach’s Henry V. Young Prince Hal, later to become England’s King Henry V and immortalised in Shakespeare’s famous play, is ill-advised by his counsel, thus hastening two nations into war.
In this Bard on the Beach play, the audience was left to ponder whether victory at all costs is worth the price. Should love and hope not be the answers as opposed to a bloody victory? Although written 424 years ago, Shakespeare’s Henry V has remarkable similarities to our world today. The Bard on the Beach play explored the complexities of war then and now.
Directed by Lois Anderson, Henry V took place in the Howard Family Stage on select dates between June 28th and August 13th in 2023.
To learn more about this play click Henry V at Bard on the Beach.
Using Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a backdrop, Bard on the Beach’s Goblin: Macbeth told the story of three goblins intrigued about Shakespeare after finding a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The goblins are fascinated by the Bard’s thorough knowledge of fairies, witches, monsters and, of course, goblins.
Intrigue turns to acting and the mischievous goblins roped the audience into joining them in their first attempt at “doing theatre.” And how does Macbeth feature into the goblins’ theatre acting? For the goblins, a short and bloody tale is their mastery! This Bard on the Beach play was a fun and interactive production. It engaged the audience in reliving Macbeth in modern-day times.
The Calgary Herald wrote of this play: “Shakespeare goblins veer from inspired lunacy to riveting command of the language. Unpredictable, unrestrained and uninhibited, Goblin: Macbeth is the stage equivalent of a theme park funhouse ride.”
This play was a Spontaneous Theatre creation by Rebecca Northan with Bruce Horak. It took place in the Howard Family Stage. The play was initially scheduled to run on select dates between August 19th and September 17th in 2023. However, due to popular demand, Goblin: Macbeth was extended until September 24th.
To learn more about this production, click Goblin: Macbeth in 2023.
Bard Admission Details
Tickets can be purchased online. In 2023 single-ticket prices for youth (ages 6 to 22), started at about $15 each. Children under 6 aren’t permitted to most performances (and they probably wouldn’t appreciate Shakespeare anyway). Single-ticket prices for adults in 2023 started at $30. (Note: Older youth may require ID to prove they are under 23 years of age.)
For more information about tickets and pricing, visit the official Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival website.
Bard Special Events
In addition to its usual Shakespearean plays, Bard on the Beach also offers a number of special events each season. These include extra evening choir and opera performances, as well as exclusive fireworks viewing nights.
Bard Pride Night
June is Pride Month is Canada. To celebrate the month, and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, Bard on the Beach hosted Bard Pride Night on June 24th in 2023. The event included a “Nutshell Talk” about the play As You Like It by Drag Queen Karmella Barr. There were also artisan vendors on-site on the day.
Family Days & Relaxed Performances
A special event that provides a way for all ages to enjoy the Bard experience happens during the Bard on the Beach season. Family Days and Relaxed Performances are when families can attend and enjoy various activities and a performance.
Dates for the Family Days in 2023 were July 16th and August 20th. There were family-friendly activities on both days followed by a performance of As You Like It. The Relaxed Performance took place on July 1st this past year and also featured As You Like It. On this day, the environment is more casual. Folks in the audience can make noise and move around without worrying too much. This is perfect for families with young children.
Tickets for Family Days usually start at $30 for adults and youth. Special pay-as-you-like pricing is available for the Relaxed Performance.
Bard Fireworks Nights
The Bard Fireworks events usually take place during the Celebration of Light Festival on the last two Saturdays and last Wednesday prior to the BC Day Long Weekend. There is live entertainment each day and private views of the fireworks in English Bay.
2023 dates were July 22nd, 26th and 29th.
Concerts at the Bard Village
The Bard on the Beach venue sometimes hosts special events that don’t involve Shakespeare or theatre.
In 2022 the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performed on June 28th. The Opera & Arias celebration was in mid-September that year. Tickets started at $27 for all ages.
Other Special Events
Bard on the Beach offers a number of other special events as well. Talkback Tuesdays feature question and answer sessions with cast members after select performances. Wine Wednesdays for adults include wine tastings and savoury bites before select shows for an extra $55 each.
There are also three Bard Explored sessions with Paul Budra, who talks about the plays in-depth and takes questions from the audience. For folks with disabilities, there are also Accessibility Nights.
Bard Tips & Recommendations
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your Vancouver Shakespearean experience.
TIP #2: Consider combining your trip to see a Shakespearean show with other activities in the area. The Vancouver Maritime Museum, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and the Museum of Vancouver are all right next door, also in Vanier Park. Kitsilano Beach is also just down the way in one direction and Granville Island isn’t far in the other. The whole area is connected by the False Creek Seawall which is perfect for a pre-show stroll or cycle.
TIP #3: Unless you’re already a fan of Shakespeare and familiar with his works, consider reading up on the story before attending your show. Bard on the Beach is Shakespeare, with the original script written in Elizabethan English close to 400 years ago. If you read a synopsis in advance, it can enhance your Bard on the Beach experience and understanding of the plot and script.
TIP #4: If you have problems sitting comfortably for long periods, take a blanket or cushion to sit on. The seats are good and typical for a theatre, but some folks will appreciate the extra padding.
Click Bard on the Beach for the festival’s official website.
About Bard on the Beach
Founded by its present Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze, Bard on the Beach has been entertaining Vancouver audiences since 1990.
As a not-for-profit theatre, the theatre company employs about 30 talented actors each year, plus a large team of theatrical wizards working behind the scenes. Supporting the staff is an army of over 200 dedicated volunteers.
Since its founding, over 1.5 million people have enjoyed the Bard on the Beach shows, including over 90,000 spectators per season in recent years.
For more information and to buy tickets, check out the official Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival website.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Shows and Events
- Vancouver Theatre Companies
- Lower Mainland Festivals & Events
- Vancouver’s June, July, August and September Calendars