New amphitheatre for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan coming summer 2020

Organizers of a Saskatoon theatre festival expect to unveil a whole new look next summer.

Overhaul of riverbank site includes new running trail

Renderings of the planned update of the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan site show opened-up riverfront paths where fencing currently stands. (Submitted by Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan)

A running group in Saskatoon is throwing $100,000 worth of support behind an overhaul of the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival site.

The site makeover includes tearing down fences that isolate the site from other riverbank infrastructure and building a new running trail, bar, box office, dressing room and amphitheatre.

Construction is set to get started this fall. Festival organizers say they're hoping to host the 2020 edition of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, which runs in July and August, with the brand new amphitheatre setup.

The current iteration of the festival requires a five-week setup process for the tent and seating that hosts plays, whereas the tent top and play set for the new amphitheatre would take about three days to set up.

Trailers on the site used for the festival made it impossible to open it up to the public, said the artistic director Will Brooks. (Matt Garand/CBC News)

New running trail

The new running trail will be a part of the Meewasin Valley Authority and give a continuous path for people to run along the riverfront between the Nutrien Wonderhub — the new children's museum in the old Mendel gallery building — and the University Bridge.

Opening up the site to the public is a goal that requires major upgrades and landscaping to turn into reality, said Will Brooks, artistic director of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan.

"When we have all our temporary things that are down on site, it just isn't safe for the public to be here in the off-season or when we're not here," he said.

Construction on the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan site is set to start this fall. (Matt Garand/CBC News)

'The river, it's the lifeblood of this city'

While the fences will be done away with, there will be gates at both entrances to the festival site. They will only be shut to cut people off from the trail while festival plays are in progress, Brooks said.

The trail is a welcome addition for the Saskatoon Road Runners Association, said the group's president, Peter Goode.

"The river, it's the lifeblood of this city almost. And we run this river and its trails constantly. And it's not just the Road Runners, it's everybody," Goode said. "It's a special experience, I think, and anything that's going to to supplement that and help it, the better it is."

The trails can be accessed year-round, and will have bathrooms for the public to use. There is already interest in using the amphitheatre and other buildings for community events like the children's festival outside of the festival's run, Brooks said.

The donation announcement Tuesday included a lighthearted bit of wordplay and dressup from the festival's director of marketing and development, Alan Long. He ran to the microphone, accompanied by members of the Road Runners, dressed in the likeness of William Shakespeare.

"For this, be sure tonight, thou shalt have cramps," Long said.

Alan Long, Director of Marketing and Development, played the part of William Shakespeare for the donation announcement. (Matt Garand/CBC News)

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan launched a campaign to upgrade its festival site last year, with an initial goal of raising $3 million. That goal is now $3.5 million, as new lighting for the site was added to the plan.

The campaign has received more than $2 million so far.


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