Bard on the Beach is a theatre festival running from June 5 to September 21 at Vancouver’s Vanier Park. 2019 shows include Coriolanus and Shakespeare in Love.
Other plays scheduled for the 2019 season are a Wild West version of The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well That Ends Well (set in India). Mark your calendars!
Bard on the Beach
Bard on the Beach takes place in an outdoor tent theatre every year from early June to mid-September. It is a world-class series of Shakespearean productions that has been going on for over 25 years.
If you like Shakespeare, then it’s a festival you won’t want to miss!
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Bard on the Beach Venue
Bard on the Beach performances take place in the wonderful Bard Village at Vanier Park in Kitsilano in two separate tent theatres – the 733-seat Mainstage Theatre and the smaller 240-seat Douglas Campbell 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 can be found at the nearby H.R. MacMillan Space Centre at 1100 Chestnut Street. The cost there is about $7 for the evening after 6 pm.
2018 Bard Program
The 2018 Bard on the Beach program included the following plays: As You Like It, Macbeth, Timon of Athens and the Greek classic Lysistrata.
Bard plays in 2019 are Coriolanus, the romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love, a “Wild West” adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well That Ends Well. Details about these 2019 productions will be provided closer the the summer.
Details about the plays last year are provided below.
AS YOU LIKE IT
In the original play, As You Like It is a pastoral comedy set in a French duchy a few hundred years ago. In the local Bard version, however, the story takes place in the hippy era of 1960’s Vancouver and includes close two dozen different Beatles songs.
Bard on the Beach’s As You Like It is a great show and the music is tons of fun! When we went, we loved it!
As You Like It Synopsis
In Shakespeare’s original version, Frederick has exiled his older brother, the Duke. Rosalind, the Duke’s daughter, remains behind initially, but Orlando, the man who loves her, is forced to flee due to fear of his own brother.
Frederick then banishes Rosalind from court and she too flees, disguised as a young man named ‘Ganymede’, along with her cousin Celia, disguised as a poor woman named ‘Aliena’. The two make their way to a forest where the Duke and Orlando are both living. There, still in disguise and unbeknownst to her love, ‘Ganymede’ is reunited with Orlando.
In typical Shakespearean comedic fashion, someone else (Phoebe) falls in love with Rosalind (who she thinks is the young man Ganymede) while someone else (Silvius) is in love with Phoebe. Orlando, meanwhile, still pines for Rosalind, not realizing that she’s Ganymede. Miscellaneous other characters also fall in love with each other, but the feelings are either not always mutual or blocked by other circumstances.
Also in typical Shakespearean fashion, by the end Frederick and the Duke resolve their differences, Orlando and his brother also make amends, Orlando’s brother falls in love with Celia and virtually everyone except Frederick and the Duke gets married to someone in the final scene.
In short, is it a bit confusing? Will it be funny? Does it follow a pretty typical Shakespearean storyline? Is it fun and thoroughly entertaining with all the Beatles music? Yes, yes, yes and yes!
Macbeth is a Shakespearean play about ambition and power. It takes place in medieval Scotland and it’s one of the playwright’s shortest but most famous tragedies.
In Scotland, on a beach, General Macbeth, is informed by three witches that he’s destined to become King. What follows is a terrible series of murders – of a monarch, close friends, women and children.
Believing it’s his destiny, and urged on by his wife, Macbeth secretly assassinates his king and seizes the crown. Then, to retain his power and conceal his evil dead, Macbeth is forced to kill others and becomes a tyrannical despot. In the end the resulting bloody conflict drives Macbeth and his queen mad and to their own deaths.
TIMON OF ATHENS
Timon of Athens is a Shakespearean play about a popular and generous man who is tricked out of his wealth by a group of false friends and acquaintances. The Vancouver edition features an all-female cast and it’s a tragedy, but also a “problem play,” and explores the themes of greed, capitalism and power.
Timon of Athens Synopsis
The play begins with a large and extravagant banquet hosted by Timon to which he invites all his supposed friends. At the event guests take advantage of Timon’s generosity and trick the protagonist into foolishly giving his entire fortune away.
After losing everything, the formerly wealthy and now bankrupt Timon is forced to live in a cave and subsist on roots and whatever else he can scavenge. In his new surroundings he finds golden treasure, but word of his discovery quickly spreads.
Over the course of the rest of the play, Timon is met by bandits, plans revenge and an assault on his old city, and once again wastes his fortune before dying in the wilderness.
Lysistrata is not a Shakespearean play, but actually a Greek comedy written in 411 BCE by Aristophanes of ancient Athens. In its Vancouver version the setting is modern-day 2018.
The play, in its original form, is about a Greek woman’s clever and creative attempt to bring the Peloponnesian War to an end by denying all men of sex. Lysistrata, the main character, persuades the women of the country to withhold sexual relations from their male partners until peace is negotiated. As a result, the Peloponnesian War soon expands into a domestic battle of the sexes!
Vancouver’s all-female and modern-day adaptation is “a glorious, bawdy romp that investigates how humour and art can take their place in the political arena.”
In both its original and Bard on the Beach versions, the plot addresses a range of societal, gender, injustice and feminist issues.
Bard Admission Details
Tickets can be purchased online and range between around $24 and $30+ for youth, which is defined as ages 6 to 22 (with ID required for the older ones). Children under 6 are not permitted (and they probably wouldn’t appreciate Shakespeare anyway). Adult prices range from about $24 to $61 depending on where you sit.
For more information, check out 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.
The Bard-B-Q & Fireworks event takes place during the Celebration of Light Festival on the last two Saturdays and last Wednesday prior to the BC Day Long Weekend at the beginning of August. Tickets cost between around $100 and $135 and include a play, BBQ dinner, live entertainment and views of the fireworks in English Bay.
Bard Tips & Recommendations
TIP #1: Especially if seeing a show in the evening in early June, late August or September, dress warmly, and maybe even take a blanket with you. Vancouver can get cool at night, even in the summer.
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, Granville Island is not far in the other, and the whole area is connected by the False Creek Seawall, which is a perfect place 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 folk will appreciate the extra padding.
For more information and to buy tickets closer to the time, check out the official Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival website.
About Bard on the Beach
Bard on the Beach was founded in 1990 by its present Artistic Director, Christopher Gaze, and it has been entertaining Vancouver audiences ever since.
As a not-for-profit theatre, Bard on the Beach employs about thirty talented actors each year, plus a large team of theatrical wizards working behind the scenes, all of whom are supported by an army of over 200 dedicated volunteers.
Since its beginning, over 1.5 million people have enjoyed the Bard on the Beach shows, including over 90,000 spectators per season in recent years.