On Stage

Bard Blowout

Shakespeare under the stars

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It’s a whole lot easier to understand William Shakespeare’s “all the world’s a stage” line while sitting outdoors watching the late-evening sun set behind actors who are reviving centuries-old language in the name of spellbinding storytelling.

With nature as a complementary backdrop, women and men will tell timeless tales of love, betrayal, mistaken identities, power plays and beyond this summer at locales both south and north of Bellingham.

On Fri., July 14, Shakespeare Northwest will kick off its 15th annual Skagit River Shakespeare Festival with a performance of Edward II at the Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheater. Written by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe, the play seems oddly prescient when viewed through the lens of today’s acrid political climate.

Described by organizers as an “all-too-timely tale of the misuse and seduction of power and how the machinations of a few in the government can be the downfall of many,” the modern-day telling of Edward II sees a new king returning his banished lover, Gaveston, to the court. Royal retribution can be expected when Ed lavishes his boy toy with titles and riches, ignores the law, makes enemies of his former cronies and threatens to destroy the nation. (Adult content and violence are part of the plot, so it might be best to leave the kiddos at home.)

Through Aug. 19, the drama will play in repertory with lighter fare in the form of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. When two sets of twins are separated at birth and stumble back into each other’s lives, expect slapstick humor and wild coincidences to ensue. Watch both plays in one day at the annual “Ironman” performances July 29—along with Shakespeare Northwest’s traveling show, the original Once Upon a Shakespearean Tale.

To the north, Bard on the Beach is currently in the throes of its 28th season, which began June 1 and continues until Sept. 23 at Vancouver B.C.s Vanier Park—a lovely locale long known for being a scene-stealer.

Audience favorite Much Ado About Nothing opened the lineup, and most of the rest of the repertory has since debuted, including the romantic comedy known as The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the poignant family drama The Winter’s Tale, and a contemporary staging of The Merchant of Venice.

In September, a short-run production of Shylock will imagine a modern-day actor playing the character from The Merchant of Venice. Like Shakespeare Northwest’s Edward II, the play wrestles with themes that strongly resonate in our society today—including censorship and political correctness.

Whether you choose comedy or drama, classic or contemporary retellings or all-day Shakespeare marathons, rest assured that you’ll be transported to other worlds. When it comes to watching Shakespeare under the stars, that’s to be expected.

For more information about these productions, including dates and prices, go to http://www.shakesnw.org or www.bardonthebeach.org

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