A cross country guide to celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death this summer
Get on Bard with this coast-to-coast look at 2016's big Shakespearian events
This Saturday, April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, but it's certainly not the only day you'll be able to celebrate the English playwright this year. Festivals across Canada are planning (or in some cases, already performing) their latest seasons of Bard classics, and we have an ultimate guide to where, when and what you can see at a theatre (whether it's in a park or near the sea or in old ruins) near you.
From west to east, a Shakespearian feast:
When: July 7-31
Where: Camosun College's Lansdowne Campus, Victoria, BC
What: Around since 1991, this festival will have a duo of plays to celebrate Shakespeare's 400th. On July 7, they'll open The Winter's Tale, which will be Dora Mavor Moore award winner Barbara Poggemiller's seventh time directing a play for the festival. A day later, Governor General's Award finalist Janet Munsil will debut her take on Twelfth Night. Both will run until July 31. Get tickets and more information here.
When: June 3-September 24
Where: Vanier Park, Vancouver, BC
What: Vancouver's Shakeseare festival goes down right on the waterfront (as its name suggests), with actors performing against an incredible backdrop of mountains, sea and sky. This year marks the 27th season of the fest, and will offer a quartet of shows: Romeo and Juliet (directed by Kim Collier), Othello (directed by Bob Frazer), Pericles (directed by Lois Anderson) and The Merry Wives of Windsor (directed by Johnna Wright and altered to be set in 1968 Windsor, Ontario). There's also a slew of special events happening through the season, including a "Bard-B-Q" with fireworks and a special performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Get tickets and more information here.
When: June 21-July 17
Where: Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, AB
What: Created in 1989 by The Free Will Players, this festival began with "a truly cooperative, pass-the-hat spirit with the mandate to produce the works of William Shakespeare." 27 years later, that spirit will continue over the 400th summer since Shakespeare's death with a "summer of love" thanks to presentations of Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost. Get tickets and more information here.
When: Now until May 22
Where: Lunchbox Theatre and Vertigo Theatre, Calgary, AB
What: Not a summer fest like most on this list, Calgary's Shakespeare Company is already in the midst of its latest season (and has been since last year). This weekend, you can honour Shakespeare's anniversary quite substantially with their current production, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). The play showcases three actors on a mission: to bring the sum of Shakespeare's work to life on stage in one fell swoop. It runs through April 24 and will be followed by Goodnight Desdemona, running May 12-21. The rest of 2016's programming has yet to be announced, but head here for eventual information about that and the current shows.
When: July 6-August 21
Where: Next to the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, SK
What: Since 1985, this festival has taken their barren riverbank perch and transformed it into a cultural hub that combines mainstage performances with numerous festive activities. This year, J. Caesar (an adaptation by Tracey Power and James MacDonald directed by Anita Smith) and A Midnight Summer's Dream (directed by Will Brooks) will run starting in early July — though this weekend the festival is having a "Bard's Birthday Bash" as a fundraiser. Get tickets and more information here.
When: June 1-25
Where: Ruins in the Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park, Winnipeg, MB
What: Vancouver has a sea, Saskatoon has a river, but Winnipeg has ruins. Since 1993, Winnipeggers have been enjoying the Bard amidst what remains of a monastery and church that was built in the early 1900s and mostly burnt down in the early 1980s. This year, Richard II will come to the ruins, which are incorporated into the play itself. Get tickets and more information here.
When: Apr 22-Sept 25
Where: Various theaters, Stratford, ON
What: Though no longer exclusively Shakespeare, the Stratford Festival is the grand daddy of Canadian offerings of his work. When the railway industry pulled out of Stratford in the early 1950s, journalist Tom Patterson had an idea for breathing new life into his native city's economy: a festival of Shakespearean theatre. Some sixty years later, the 2016 season will bring Macbeth (opening May 30), As You Like It (opening June 3), Breath of Kings: Redemption (opening June 22), not to mention the North American premiere of the stage adaptation of Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love. Get tickets and more information here.
When: June 30-Sept 4
Where: High Park, Toronto, ON
What: Canadian Stage returns to Toronto's High Park for its 34th season to celebrate Shakespeare's landmark year with two of his great "Roman" plays on alternating nights throughout the summer: Hamlet and All's Well That Ends Well. A Toronto summer fixture at the High Park Amphitheatre, the plays are directed by Birgit Schreyer Duarte and Ted Witzel. Get tickets and more information here.
When: July 16-August 20
Where: Kinsmen Amphitheatre, Prescott, ON
What: A relative newbie to the circuit, this Eastern Ontario festival has been holding a Shakespeare festival every summer since 2003 at the only professional outdoor theatre in the St. Lawrence Seaway area. This year's offerings are Julius Caesar (directed by Rona Waddington) and Much Ado About Nothing (directed by Craig Walker). Get tickets and more information here.
When: July TBD
Where: Touring across the Montreal, QC area
What: Montreal has yet to announce its 2016 production, which — if like previous years — will tour parks in and around the Quebec city. However, they have announced a fundraiser this Sunday for said 2016 season that will both celebrate the 400th anniversary and announce details of the summer. Stay tuned.
When: July 1-Sept 3
Where: Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, NS
What: Not to be confused with Vancouver's Bard on the Beach, Halifax's Shakespeare By The Sea Festival is the largest outdoor summer theatre festival east of Montreal. In 2016, things will kick off with As You Like It on July 1 and follow it up with King Lear the next month on August 5. Get tickets and more information here.
When: Summer TBD
Where: Various locations, St. John's, NL
What: Oddly, St. John's and Halifax both named their Shakespeare festivals the same thing. Their 24th edition has yet to announce dates or programming, but check back here for more information soon.