After two years of dark stages, Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival is back.
“It’s thrilling for our festival to return this summer,” says founding artistic director Christopher Gaze. “It’s time again for laughter and magic.”
Magic takes centre stage with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by veteran Bard director and actor Scott Bellis. In this beloved Shakespearean comedy, four young lovers and a troupe of stumbling actors wander into an enchanted forest, where they meet a mischievous spirit and two feuding fairy rulers.
“Dream perfectly captures what we want to share as we all recover — it’s a true celebration of hope and joy that will lift the spirits of everyone who sees it,” says Gaze.
Follow this colourful cast of characters as they discover who they are, whom they love and why it matters — with a few twists and turns along the way.
Another story about love unfolds with Harlem Duet, the Governor General’s award-winning drama by Canadian playwright Djanet Sears.
Sears shared her vision in the forward for the program: “I have a dream. A dream that one day in the city where I live, at any given time of the year, I will be able to find at least one play that is filled with people who look like me, telling stories about me, my family, my friends, my community.”
The play draws on Shakespeare's Othello to tell a new story about a Black couple and their community. Harlem Duet follows the story of Othello and his first wife, Billie, reimagining their relationship across three key periods in the Black American experience: 1860, before the Emancipation Proclamation; 1928, during New York’s Harlem Renaissance; and Harlem in 1997, at the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X boulevards. In each setting, the play centres on Billie’s story, her love for Othello, and the sacrifices she makes in the face of his betrayal.
Brought to life by director Cherissa Richards, Harlem Duet is an unforgettable and thought-provoking play about two complex characters, the love between them, and how the racial tensions of each era play a role in tearing their relationship apart.
Love and courage in the face of conflict are also at the heart of the final play of the season: Romeo and Juliet, directed by Anita Rochon. This production sheds light on Juliet’s perspective, in Shakespeare’s tragic and timeless tale of two young star-crossed lovers who find each other despite a bitter feud dividing their families. Today more than ever, the story of the divide between “two households alike in dignity” is a powerful reminder that love can heal even the greatest wounds.
With three thrilling and unique plays, Bard on the Beach’s 33rd season draws on the healing power of love — and the magic of live theatre — to bring audiences together after two long and difficult years.
Gaze's excitement is clear: “We can’t wait to bring back our signature theatre experience under the Bard tents, to delight Vancouver and visitors from around the world.”
Tickets are now on sale for Bard’s 33rd season, running from June 8 to Sept. 24 at Sen̓áḵw/Vanier Park. Purchase tickets at the Bard on the Beach website.
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