‘Bard on Bower’ gears up for summer shows

Prime Stock Theatre is gearing up for Shakespeare performances on the outdoor stage at Bower Ponds.

Macbeth runs July 26-28 and Aug. 1, 3-4 at 7:30 p.m. There is also a performance on July 29 at 2 p.m.

This familiar story find new roots in Northern Ireland during the 1970s where the nationalists are as religious as they are superstitious; they are fighting in the streets to get out from under the thumb of British rule, and there’s no reason to hesitate to throw that Molotov cocktail when you can save your own soul in confession.

The Taming of the Shrew will also be presented, with shows set for July 19-21, 25, 29 and Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are also set for July 28 and Aug. 4 at 2 p.m.

The battle of the sexes will be played out in a contemporary Canadian city where patriarch Baptista Minola runs a cafe in Little Italy – when he’s not distracted by the none too simple task of marrying off his daughters, the well sought after Bianca – but not before a suitor is found for her older sister Kate who is far from keen on being defined by her relationship status.

Obviously, these renditions aren’t what some would first think of when considering a Shakespearean production, but that’s part of keeping them exciting and attractive to modern audiences.

“Traditional is a scary word that is often brandished at any artist who attempts anything newly revealing or inspirational,” explained director Thomas Usher. “We know that Shakespeare himself only wrote ‘new’ works – although most were based upon existing tales or stolen from other ‘traditional’ works in the European cannon of plays.

“Some of the most inspired versions of Shakespeare have been those who have re-visioned his work with acute attention to the themes of the times.”

Usher said that at its root, Macbeth deals less with ‘evil’ that makes men do things, and more with the evil that men do who choose indiscreetly or who fear their inadequacy.

“That remains timeless.”

The 2012 Bard On Bower ensemble includes Jennifer Cocolicchio, Cam Chapman, Tori Grebinski, Lisa Heinricks, Dylan Hopkins, Martin Kvapil, Nicole Leal, Alex Mackie, Andres Moreno, Drue Oliver, Nate Rehman, Tara Rorke, Matthew Taylor, Jarrett Viczko, Harry Woods, Silve Materi and Anna Pinder.

The adventure was launched in 2010 with the initial planning to host a series of summer performances on the newly renovated Civic stage at Bower ponds, said Usher.

“We honestly believed that Red Deer would benefit from an outdoor theatrical event which would fill the delicious summer evenings that Central Alberta can enjoy in late July and early August,” he said.

“We chose to present two plays in repertory over a three-week period to enable keen audiences to attend a live performance of either play on a variety of days, to allow word of mouth to build and to ensure a run which would take into account the vagaries of Red Deer weather.”

The first season featured The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing through a very wet summer, and “One which was enjoyed immensely by the resident mosquito population.”

Still, it was well received and that audience was polled as to what productions they would like to see next. The top choices were Macbeth and Taming of the Shrew.

There is no charge to attend the shows, but donations are welcome.

“We wish to make Bard on Bower a summer destination event for Red Deer, and to foster the support of the community and the province at large,” said Usher. “Red Deer is big enough for dreamers yet; there are citizens who are enthusiastic to pour their entrepreneurial hearts into presenting public events that can entertain and inspire and employ the talents of Red Deer’s hidden artist heroes.

“As a performer or theatre practitioner, working on Shakespeare represents a true challenge in communication of complex ideas, rich characters, and timeless stories wrapped up in vibrant imagery and language,” he said.

“To attempt to deliver 16th century English dramatic literature in a way that is comprehensible and engaging requires boundless courage and skillful delivery. At Bard, we hope to make the works of Shakespeare much more fun and interesting to the average citizen. We believe there is a market to revisit these classic stories in the unique setting that Bower provides.

“We mostly hope that our audience will take away the sense of fun that discovering a new world can offer, and recognize in themselves the thrill that live performance permits. We hope that they will in some small way recognize just how relevant the playwright can become to their own lives. We hope that they develop a desire to see more.”

Meanwhile, Bard on Bower is offering the public an opportunity to help fund this year’s festival via a popular website. The ‘Indiegogo campaign’ can be found at www.indiegogo.com/bardonbower.

For more information, Prime Stock Theatre Company can be found online at www.primestocktheatre.com.

editor@reddeerexpress.com