For centuries, Shakespeare has graced society with classical works and continues to do so as the Prime Stock Theatre Company plans its sixth consecutive year of Bard on Bower.
The local theatre company will host historic plays such as Julius Caesar, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Shakespeare.
“The ensemble this year, couldn’t be any better,” said Emily Pole, director of Love’s Labour’s Lost. “They’re just amazing.”
Thomas Usher, artistic director of Prime Stock Theatre since 1994, and professor of various arts classes at Red Deer College takes the reins again this year as the director for Julius Caesar.
The festival will feature two main plays, the tragedy, Julius Caesar, and one of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost.
In addition to the two main plays, a third play, Much Ado About Shakespeare, will be hosted at the Bower Pond Boathouse Pavilion for a ticket fee of $15.
The show in the pavilion will have only 40 available seats, promising an intimate view on several ‘pocket skits’ of several famous Shakespeare scenes that the kids will love and will be co-directed by Nicole Leal and Albertus Koett.
The plays are all family-friendly and feature a dedicated ensemble of talented actors, say the organizers.
“They’ve (the actors) have been rehearsing this since the beginning of June,” said Usher. “Half a dozen of them are driving in everyday from Calgary and Edmonton just for rehearsals.”
Though Bard on Bower gets federal and civic funding, the festival relies on donations from individuals who come to watch the shows to pay the actors’ wages.
In addition to donations, organizers say that Bard on Bower is always open to more corporate sponsorships and gifts-in-kind from local companies.
But it’s not all just classical acting and leotards, the event will also be host to a daily beer tent. The Red Deer Public Library will also be on location with Red Deer Reads events, along with the Central Alberta Theatre Company’s booth, and the Canadian Blood donation tent.
“There are dozens of productions of Shakespeare in the Park across Canada this year,” said Usher. “Canada has a real affinity for doing Shakespeare outside in the summer for some reason, and of the 34 productions happening in the country this year, Red Deer alone is hosting two or three of them which is pretty cool.”
Usher said though working around scheduling is an issue, the actors all working hard to put on the shows.
“It’s taxing,” said Usher. “It’s wearing but these guys, they’re ‘theatre warriors.’
“They love to act and so they’ve committed themselves to this project from day one, even after being made aware of what the schedule will be like.”
The festival plans on having some type of event going on each and every night, whether it be a showing of one of the main plays, or the play in the Boathouse Pavilion, or the Mad House Cabaret downtown at Fratters Speakeasy.
But when the acting company isn’t on the stage, organizers say that the festival plans on having smaller events featuring Bullskit, and the Tree House Youth Theatre group.
Usher said that there are several actors within the ensemble that have been with the theatre company in previous seasons of Bard on Bower.
Bard on Bower began as a summer opportunity for the Prime Stock Theatre Company to introduce Red Deer citizens to Shakespeare in the Park by using the then newly added stage at Bower Ponds in 2010.
“To be able to dig into a Shakespeare script is such a blessing,” said Pole. “There’s so much there, especially when you come and see the show and then go home and read the script.
“Shakespeare was never meant to be read – it was meant to be seen.”
Bard On Bower will the begin the festivities with its shows for Julius Caesar at the Bower Ponds stage on July 14th and will continue productions until July 31st.