Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver, B.C., set a new attendance record in its just-completed 25th Anniversary Season. Bard on the Beach coupled this news with the announcement of its 2015 season that will feature three plays by William Shakespeare and the world premiere of a new play set in Shakespeare's company.
The 2014 season attracted about 101,000 patrons, a significant increase from the previous record of 91,000 set in 2009. Aside from the festival's lineup of plays—A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Cymbeline, and Bill Cain's Shakespearean-themed drama Equivocation—Bard on the Beach drew crowds to several anniversary season special events, such as the Bard-B-Q & Fireworks nights and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Opera & Arias concerts featuring a Shakespeare-inspired repertoire that delighted close to 1,500 patrons. Other special events focused on sword-fighting, improv comedy, choral concerts. and wine and beer tastings, plus a retrospective evening presented by the Festival’s Artistic Director and Founder, Christopher Gaze.
“We are blessed with so many loyal repeat patrons, while also attracting thousands of locals and tourists to Bard for the first time," Gaze said in a press release. "Together they fill our houses and this year they’ve given us a remarkable, record-breaking season.”
He also praised the Vancouver International Wine Festival, which made Bard on the Beach its charitable beneficiary in 2012 and was a major financial supporter again this season. He also saluted this past spring’s generous contribution from Vancouver arts philanthropists Darlene and Paul Howard who endowed the Douglas Campbell Theatre tent’s stage, now named the Howard Family Stage. More than 260 volunteers helped the organization contain its costs and fulfill its “accessible and affordable” promise: Collectively they contributed almost 19,000 hours of service, a major increase from 2013.
The number of student matinees was increased from the 2013 season, and while British Columbia's school labor dispute meant many students weren’t able to see the plays this year, thousands of others experienced productions at a discounted $18 student price, offered for both matinees and some regular evening performances. More than 10,000 patrons between the ages of 6 and 25 took advantage of the $27 GLOBAL BC Youth Price, an incentive for young people to discover and enjoy Shakespeare. The Young Shakespeareans Workshops (ages 8–18) were filled to capacity, giving hands-on experience in performing Shakespeare to almost 250 young people in sessions led by current and past Bard on the Beach acting company members. Ten young people attended the workshops through Bard’s Education Bursary program, which will be offered again in 2015. This season a new program called Riotous Youth was introduced for 19- to 24-year-olds so they could continue their training in Shakespearean performance. Riotous Youth members assisted with the Young Shakespeareans Workshops and delivered preshow talks in the Bard Village.
For the 2015 season, running from June 4 to Sept. 26, the BMO Mainstage’s opening production will be Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors,directed by Bard Artistic Associate Scott Bellis (who played Bottom in this year's A Midsummer Night’s Dream). This comedy will alternate with Shakespeare's monumental tragedy King Lear, directed by Theatre Calgary’s Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum. Lear will be a co-production with Theatre Calgary and will feature a mix of British Columbia, Alberta. and Ontario actors, including Shaw & Stratford Festival veteran Ben Campbell as King Lear.
Opening first in the intimate Douglas Campbell tent will be a world premiere of a new play based on best-selling author C.C. Humphreys’ historical novel Shakespeare’s Rebel. Gaze will direct. This will run in repertoire with a music-filled Jazz Age setting of Love’s Labour’s Lost directed by Daryl Cloran, artistic director of Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre.
Tickets go on sale in early April through the Bard on the Beach website or by calling the box office at 604-739-0559.
September 25, 2014