On Stage

Bard Alert

Beyond the beach

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

My brother-in-law has dual citizenship in the United States and Canada and owns property in Kamloops, but not even he dared cross the border during a recent trip to Whatcom County for fear of having to adhere to the Canada’s strict two-week quarantine mandate before taking care of business—and eventually returning to a COVID-ridden country travelers aren’t in a particular hurry to visit.

Even before the restriction on all discretionary travel at the border was implemented on the first day of spring—and recently extended until at least Aug. 21—Canadians who depend on income from tourism, recreation and entertainment were already thinking ahead to what the ban might mean to their bottom line.

In the case of Bard on the Beach, the powers that be had already spent a month intensively exploring what could be possible for the popular Shakespeare-focused festival’s 31st season, which had been scheduled to run from June 10-Sept. 26 in Vancouver B.C.‘s scenic Vanier Park. Their conclusion: Ensuring the safety and well-being of their patrons, staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors and partners meant Bard on the Beach needed to be shuttered for the summer of 2020.

An April 6 press release announcing the pandemic-related closure came with both bad and good news. In the negative category was the stark fact that more than two-thirds of Bard’s $8 million annual operating budget comes from ticket and ancillary sales generated over its four-month run, and the organization employs nearly 300 administrative and production staff and artists—people who rely on these jobs for a large portion of their annual income.

In the better-news category came a report from founding artistic director Christopher Gaze, who noted that the 2020 lineup—including the beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the epic drama Henry V, a restaging of 2015’s hit Jazz Age production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Paradise Lost, Erin Shield’s modern take on the battle between good and evil—would return in the summer of 2021, with the intention to reassemble the same talented teams next spring.

“There is some good news in that we are able to confirm we intend to present the same dynamic 2020 lineup of plays in our 2021 season,” Gaze said in a video announcement. “Each production’s concept is unique and innovative, and we’re thrilled that the promise of each of them will survive and be fulfilled next summer.”

In the meantime, however, Bard on the Beach intends to remain relevant. Last week, they announced they’ve repurposed their vision for this season to focus on creating new digitally delivered content and experiences to festival followers as well as new audiences from around the world. No cross-border considerations are required, and everybody stays safe.

The bard’s own “Hearts remote, yet not asunder” quote is the tagline of the Bard Beyond the Beach initiative, which in addition to providing “Bard Around Town” videos, performances by dancers who would’ve been portraying fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and related content—as well as blog series, behind-the-scenes blogs, Shakespeare-related resources and activities, and virtual interactive gatherings—is also meant to elicit donations to help “build a bridge” to 2021.

“Our focus must be to keep the festival’s stories and spirit alive in the hearts and minds of festival followers during this ‘gap year’—and also reach new people who are able to visit our virtual spaces more easily than a physical location,” Gaze says. “We are truly excited about what we’re creating, and the new opportunities it offers for growth, relevance and inclusion.”

For more information about Bard Beyond the Beach, go to http://www.bardonthebeach.org

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