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Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival

Bard Village at Bard on the Beach

Theatre at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in 2020 was to include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Paradise Lost and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

In 2020 the festival was going to run from June 10th until September 26th. However, Bard on the Beach was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Details for the 2021 festival are to be confirmed.


Bard on the Beach at Vancouver’s Vanier Park

The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival 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!


The information in this article includes the following topics:

Bard on the Beach Venue | 2020 Bard Program | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Henry V | Love’s Labour’s Lost | Paradise Lost | Admission Details | Special Events | Tips & Recommendations | About Bard on the Beach | First Time Bard Experience Review | 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 Venue

Bard on the Beach performances take place in the Bard Festival Site at Vanier Park in Kitsilano in two separate tent theatres – the 733-seat BMO Mainstage Theatre and 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 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.


Click Bard on the Beach for the festival’s official website.


Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Bard Festival Site


2020 Bard Program

The 2020 Bard on the Beach program was going to include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Paradise Lost. Now that the 2020 season has been cancelled, perhaps 2021 will feature the same selection of productions.

Details about the plays originally scheduled for 2020 are provided below.




A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a Shakespearean comedy about a group of lovers and actors in the woods that are manipulated by a band of fairies. The Vancouver version is set in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and combines the natural and supernatural worlds.

Directed by Scott Bellis, this play was going to be performed in the BMO Mainstage Theatre on select dates between June 10th and September 26th in 2020. In total, this production was going to be performed some 57 or so times in 2020.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream Synopsis

The play begins with the tangled love story of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius but she loves Lysander. Demetrius meanwhile is in love with Hermia but Helena loves Demetrius. All four lovers escape into the forest to begin their journeys to discover who they are and who they love.

Within the forest the four main characters encounter two other groups. The first is a group of fairies who are very mischievous. The fairies’ magic juice is the central item that causes trouble within the plot. Also in the forest is a group of actors practicing their play about Pyramus and Thisbe.

Through many twists and turns, and the spell of the magic juice being added to and removed from almost all of the characters, the characters manage to escape from the forest and their journeys of discovery are complete.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bard
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

(* The above photo is of actress Sarah Roa as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bard on the Beach. The photo is by Emily Cooper.)




Henry V follows the story of young King Hal and two mythical countries at war. The Vancouver edition features an interesting twist as the lead character, King Hal, is portrayed by a female actress (Kate Besworth). This play takes place in the BMO Mainstage Theatre and is directed by Lois Anderson.

Opening night for Henry V in 2020 was going to be on Tuesday, June 16th. Last day of the season was scheduled for Sunday, October 20th. From start to finish, over the course of the summer, Shakespeare fans were going to have about 32 opportunities to see this play.


Henry V Synopsis

King Hal is in charge of leading his country into battle. As he is so young, he struggles with the burden of leadership placed on him as well as his own doubts.

To add to Hal’s struggle, he also has to manage the advice of senior counsellors and the ghosts of his father, Henry IV, and Falstaff, a trickster who attempts to lead King Hal astray. Throughout the story Hal grows up and learns to deal with the pressures of leadership.




Based closely on the original Shakespearean play, the Vancouver version of Love’s Labour’s Lost follows a group of men and their adventures after swearing to abstain from ladies and alcohol.

This play was previously performed at Bard on the Beach in 2015 with the same director (Daryl Cloran). In 2020 though it was going to be set in the Jazz Age and performed on the Howard Family Stage.

First performance of the year for this production was going to be on Sunday, June 28th. The play was then going to continue until the last day of the Bard on the Beach season which was to be Saturday, September 26th. In total, this play was scheduled for close to 50 different dates in 2020.


Love’s Labour’s Lost Synopsis

Love’s Labour’s Lost in its original form is about a King and his three lords who swear an oath that includes fasting and avoiding contact with women. All of the men secretly break their oaths and fall in love with the princess and the ladies in her party.

Through some mishaps and misdelivered letters, the men’s betrayals are revealed to each other. The lords then decide to court the ladies but are mocked in return. The play ends with the ladies returning to their court after learning of the death of the princess’ father.

Following the original plotline but not the setting, the Vancouver version of the play takes place inside a speakeasy club during Prohibition. Here, the club owner and his friends choose to abstain from both liquor and ladies. Their commitment is tested however when a young woman named Princess and her friends arrive at the club.

This play is about love and the realities of being in love, and Bard on the Beach explores this theme through comedy and song.


Bard on the Beach Entrance Gate
Bard Entrance Gate (Photo by Maxine Bulloch)




Paradise Lost is a modern adaptation of a poem written by John Milton in the 17th century. It tells the story of Adam and Eve and the struggle between good and evil. In the local Bard version Satan is also played by a woman! Directed by Anita Rochon, this play is performed on the Howard Family Stage.

First performance of Paradise Lost in 2020 was going to be on July 2nd and the final one was to be on September 20th. In total, there were going to be about 25 shows over the course of the season.

The play begins with Satan who has been kicked out of Heaven and confined to Hell. She is angry and looking for revenge so when she hears about the “humans” that God created she escapes from Hell and hatches a plan to undo his creation. Adam, Eve and the infamous apple are also central to this story.


Click Bard on the Beach for the festival’s official website.


Bard Admission Details

Tickets can be purchased online and in recent years have ranged between around $26 and $40+ 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 $26 to $82 depending on the play, date and where you sit. 2021 prices are to be determined.

For more information, check out the official Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival website.


Bard Village Plaza
Inside the Bard Village


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.


Concerts at the Bard Village

The Bard on the Beach venue hosts a number of special events that don’t involve Shakespeare or theatre. On July 29th, 2020, for example, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was scheduled to perform. Also, on September 14th, there was to be an Opera and Arias event.


Bard-B-Q & Fireworks 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 in late July and the beginning of August. Tickets cost between around $100 and $150 or so and include a play, BBQ dinner, live entertainment and views of the fireworks in English Bay.

In 2020 fireworks nights were supposed to be scheduled for July 25th, July 29th and August 1st. These dates, however, are cancelled due to the coronavirus.


Bard Village on Fireworks Night
Bard on the Beach on Fireworks Night


Bard Tips & Recommendations

Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Vancouver Shakespearean experience.

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 MuseumH.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.


Click Bard on the Beach for the festival’s official 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.


First Time at Bard (at Shakespeare in Love in 2019)

Below is what a 2nd year university student had to say about her first time at a Bard performance. As you’ll see, she attended the production of Shakespeare in Love last summer and loved it.

“Bard on the Beach was a fantastic experience! It was very organized and entertaining. The pre-show activities such as drinks and a reading of the synopsis were incredible and allowed us time to socialize and learn more about Shakespeare in Love.

The entire set up outside of the theatre was impressive and beautiful – it was the perfect backdrop for snapping pictures before the show and at intermission.

The show itself was impressive. The actors were incredibly captivating and they left us laughing the whole time. Everything about the show was very professional, from the acting to the costumes and set design. The volunteers were also extremely helpful and kind as they helped us find our seats and directed us towards the gift and refreshment stands.

Overall the experience was wonderful and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in going in the future.”

Elizabeth K. (2019)


Other Information

For more information and to buy tickets closer to the time, check out the official Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival website.

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