On Stage

Betting on the Bard

A seasonal dose of Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

During the course of my four-plus decades of life, I’ve seen a whole lot of Shakespeare.

Whether I was watching comedic masterpieces (Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, etc.) or shuddering at the tragedies unfolding in front of me via iambic pentameter (Romeo and Juliet, King Lear), the intoxicating language the Bard of Avalon left behind has remained one of the reasons I’ve watched more than eight iterations of Macbeth and nearly as many productions of The Taming of the Shrew. (In college, I even let my body be plastered with felt fig leaves and braved the role of the impish Puck in the perennially popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

Through it all, watching Shakespeare in the great outdoors has remained my favorite way to soak up a seasonal dose of what many—including me—consider to be the best playwright of all time. I don’t know if I enjoy it so much because watching theater performed outside brings audiences closer to the elements, or because it hearkens back to a simpler time, but watching dusk settle on actors who are re-creating plays that were written hundreds of years ago moves me in ways that are hard to name. 

In perusing the Shakespearean offerings that can be seen nearby this summer, it’s pleasing to note there are a wide variety of productions to choose from.

To the north, Vancouver B.C.’s long-running Bard on the Beach spent last month getting revved up for a full summer of Shakespeare at their permanent seaside space at Vanier Park. They’ve spent June showing off their version of the comedic Twelfth Night—which they’ve updated by setting in a European spa—and the tragic Hamlet, which a recent press release described as being about “a troubled young man trying to make sense of a modern-day world where power still corrupts absolutely.”

Starting this month, Bard on the Beach will add two more plays to the repertory. Measure for Measure, which they’ve sent in early 1900s New Orleans and added live jazz to, begins July 3. Elizabeth Rex opens July 5, and although it’s not a technically a play written by William Shakespeare, it is set in Elizabethan England. Its subject matter is fitting, as well, as the plot sees the great Queen joining up with Shakespeare’s acting company the night before her traitorous lover is to be executed.

“Vancouver audiences have told us they want to see us produce some non-Shakespearean works that complement his world and his themes; Elizabeth Rex fits that description perfectly,” longtime artistic director and Bard on the Beach founder Christopher Gaze says.

“Outdoors and under the stars, the way it was meant to be” has always been the motto of Shakespeare Northwest, the Skagit River Shakespeare festival that has been bringing audiences the best of the Bard since first performing at Mount Vernon’s Edgewater Park in 2001. And, other than the summer of 2008—when they moved operations inside for a season—they’ve remained committed to showing their productions al fresco.

For the third year, those who want to venture to the Skagit Valley to seek out the Bard can do so at the Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheatre—a former quarry Shakespeare Northwest has cleaned up and reclaimed from the forces of nature. When you’re sitting inside its craggy confines as night falls—as I was a few years ago when a friend got married on the same spot—it’s possible to believe you’re far removed from the modern world.

Starting July 11 and continuing at various times through August 19, both comedy (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and tragedy (Hamlet) will help transport viewers even further away from contemporary society and back to a time when live theater was one of the only ways to be entertained during long summer nights.

And even if you’ve seen each and every one of the plays mentioned in this story before, as a lifelong viewer of all things Shakespeare, I feel safe in saying that with the Bard, it’s always like the first time. 

ICU Roof #2
More On Stage...
Threads
The fabric of our lives

She died 30 years ago, but I still have a couple of my mother’s cardigans hanging in the far corner of my closet—along with a blue silk bathrobe of my grandmother’s, a faded T-shirt I wore while traveling in Central America in 1997, and assorted other items of adornment I can’t bear to…

more »
3MB
Minimizing Macbeth

When it comes to Macbeth, William Shakespeare’s timeless tale of war, murder and betrayal typically boasts large casts who share the heavy lifting required to tell the tale of a Scottish general who resorts to bloodshed in order to gain access to the throne. In iDiOM Theater’s 3MB—which…

more »
Evil Dead
A date with demons

A certain coworker of mine can be counted on to join me for theatrical displays that are more than a little out of the ordinary.

For example, she’s been my plus-one to shows sporting everything from performing cats to vampire bunnies, as well as dramatic productions featuring full (male)…

more »
Events
Today
Dog Day Afternoon

4:00pm|Ferndale Library

Dig Into Fall

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Restoring Gut Health

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Village Books
Tomorrow
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Quail Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Hawk Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Coping with a cooper's hawk

7:00pm

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Spectrum Dance Theater Lecture and Demo

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Wednesday
Kombucha Class

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Healing Through Art

5:00pm|PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Beer Tasting Class

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Eat Your Words Cookbook Club

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Buried Treasure

7:00pm|Village Books

The Rhythm Runners

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Scottish Dancing

7:30pm|Fairhaven Library

see our complete calendar »

CWWarrenMiller Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books