SHAKESPEARE CELEBRATION - Pictured here is a scene from last year’s rendition of the Bard on Bower Festival summer 2017 performance. This year’s run of plays kicks off on July 12th. Red Deer Express file photo

Bard on Bower gears up for exciting summer season

Celebrate William Shakespeare with a festive ’Mardi Gras’ theme

Bard on Bower cast and crew are thrilled to unveil their thoroughly original takes on a few classics from none other than William Shakespeare this summer.

Heading into its eighth season, the annual Prime Stock Theatre-produced festival runs at Bower Ponds July 12th to the 29th.

“We would really like to see it more appreciated, and also see some bigger audiences come out,” said Thomas Bradshaw, a board member for Prime Stock Theatre. “We are trying to encourage more people to come out. It’s great that a city this size has a summer Shakespeare (event).

“But I still meet people who have no idea that this show is going on, so we’ve got to do a better job of letting people know about it.”

This year’s selections feature Romeo and Juliet and Henry V and also a touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

And as always, the productions are adapted in wonderfully unique ways. This year, there’s a Mardi Gras ‘feel’ to the lively stagings.

This makes the plays all the more accessible to modern audiences, although there is a certain universality and timelessness to Shakespeare’s works, said Bradshaw. “Shakespeare is so adaptable, and it’s been done in so many different ways over the last 400 years,” he said. “His stories are so relatable to us.”

Performances will also feature live New Orleans-style tunes, and the shows are suitable for all ages.

Romeo and Juliet, directed by David Owen, taps into the world of Mardi Gras and of course focuses in on love-sick Romeo exchanging vows with Juliet, the daughter of his family’s sworn enemy.

In the role of Romeo is Zach Running Coyote, who recently posted a video about a racist incident in relation to an incident at a local McDonald’s.

The story made national headlines, and Bradshaw said it of course had an impact on cast and crew as well as they sought to support Running Coyote in the wake of the incident.

“The group has come together, and for us, it’s also a rallying cry,” he said, referring to bringing more exposure to the issue of racism overall. “We hope to inspire others in our community, too, that if you know someone who believes that that was wrong, that you will come out and support our production, especially on Indigenous Day.”

Each day of the festival is dedicated to various segments of society, and July 14th is Treaty 6 & 7 Day.

“We have invited some more Indigenous performers to come out that day as well, so there will be a blending of Indigenous culture with Shakespeare,” he explained.

Family Day is July 21st, New to Canada Day runs July 22nd; LGBTQ Day is on July 26th and Senior’s Day is July 28th.

Henry V is being directed by Thomas Usher, who also serves as artistic director for Bard on Bower, and the story follows England’s ambitious young king who seeks to confirm his godly authority by beginning a brazen invasion of France.

And as mentioned, a touring pocket-production of a Shakespearean classic, performed for a limited audience in select neighbourhood parks is also a highlight this year. Audiences can enjoy a lively 45-minute performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, using only four actors. For dates and times for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or to book a show in your area, email info@primestocktheatre.com.

Those neighbourhood shows have been well-received, said Bradshaw. “People in the community find out about it and walk down with their kids to see what’s going on. There really is that interest factor.

“It’s a great way for people to get introduced to (Shakespeare), because you can just be in the park and walking by and say, ‘What’s going on?’

“I love the fact also that we are taking Shakespeare out to the community.”

Tickets for Bard on Bower remain free again this year, but donations are greatly appreciated.

For more, visit www.primestocktheatre.com.

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