Story by Vacay.ca Staff
In Canada, there are many places that celebrate the greatest playwright in the English language. You can watch the works of William Shakespeare alongside the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, in the forests beside historic forts, and under black-brow’d nights.
On April 23, 1564 — 450 years ago today — the Bard was born. He was brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town in Great Britain that will always be known as his home. But each summer all the world becomes Shakespeare’s stage — including communities across the pond from his realm, his England.
Here’s a look at Vacay.ca’s Top 5 Shakespeare Festivals in Canada.
1. STRATFORD FESTIVAL, Ontario
Without question, Stratford is the best place in Canada to celebrate the genius of Shakespeare. This year, the Stratford Festival isn’t going to disappoint. Soon to raise the curtain on its 62nd year, Stratford celebrates the season with “King Lear” (runs May 26-October 10, 2014), starring Canadian actor Colm Feore (“Thor,” “24,” and “The Good Wife”). Another masterpiece not to be missed is “Antony and Cleopatra” (August 14-September 20), a play that will be anchored by another Canadian favourite, Geraint Wyn Davies (“Murdoch Mysteries” and “24”), as Antony. Yanna McIntosh (“This Is Wonderland” and “Riverdale”) plays Cleopatra. Other Shakespearean offerings in 2014 are “King John” (May 28-September 20) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (May 31-October 11). Stratford is about a two-hour drive southwest of Toronto.
Tickets: Prices vary depending on the play and showtime. Balcony seats usually start from $50; an A+ Orchestra seat goes for $130. Two-for-one tickets are available Tuesday and Thursday evenings (some restrictions apply). Tickets can be purchased online or by telephoning 1-800-567-1600 (toll free).
Schedule: Season runs until October 12, 2014.
2. BARD ON THE BEACH, Vancouver, British Columbia
Situated under circus-style tents at Vanier Park, the non-profit Bard on the Beach festival features a professional Vancouver-based acting troupe that takes on the Bard’s finest works each summer. The festival, located next to Kitsilano Beach and on the south side of English Bay, is celebrating its 25th year in 2014. This year’s plays include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest,” and “Cymbeline.” Special events include Bard-B-Q & Fireworks evenings during the city’s Celebration of Light (July 26 and 30, and August 2), wine tastings, Bard, Beer and Pretzels evenings, and talks about Shakespeare and his plays.
Tickets: Evening shows cost $47 and matinees go for $35 each. Tickets can be purchased online or by telephoning 1-604-739-0559.
Schedule: Previews begin June 1; regular performances run from June 11-September 20.
3. SHAKESPEARE ON THE SASKATCHEWAN, Saskatoon
The main stage of this festival, founded in 1985, seats 282 and is called the Billy Tent, in honour of the Bard. The festival is set on the South Saskatchewan River, which swerves its way through Saskatoon and beneath the city’s lovely bridges. Two full-length plays are performed each season. In 2014, Shakespeare lovers will enjoy a pair of history’s greatest plays: “Taming of the Shrew” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Tickets: Evenings from Tuesday-Saturday cost $34; Sunday evenings cost $28; matinees cost $25. To purchase tickets, telephone 1-800-970-7328 (toll-free).
Schedule: July 9-August 24 (matinees are at 1 pm and evening shows are at 7:30 pm).
4. SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK, Toronto, Ontario
In High Park in the west end of Canada’s largest city is one of the nation’s most unique stages. It’s an amphitheatre with stone stairs leading down to a wooden stage, making for a charming and antiquated experience beneath the starry Toronto night. In 2014, Shakespeare in the Park will feature two plays: the comedy “As You Like It” and the riveting tragedy “Titus Andronicus.” Visitors can reach High Park on the TTC subway line (there’s a station stop for the public park on the Bloor-Danforth line) or by streetcar.
Tickets: Pay what you can at the gate.
Schedule: July-September; official dates still to be announced.
5. SHAKESPEARE BY THE SEA, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Point Pleasant Park, one of Halifax‘s forested municipal green spaces, is transformed during the summer into a venue for Shakespeare productions. Park Place, an 82-seat showcase theatre, serves as a rain venue for Shakespeare by the Sea during June, July and August. For 19 seasons, Shakespeare has been performed alongside the Atlantic Ocean, with a troupe showcasing the Bard’s tales in the forest against the backdrop of historic forts and batteries.
Tickets: Performances are free, but a $15 voluntary donation per person is suggested.
Schedule: June-August; official performances and dates still to be announced.