I’m not an experienced play-goer. But I have a hunch that the Shakespearean society might be reinventing itself, like German opera.
In Vancouver, the classic way to see Shakespeare is by Bard on the Beach.
Meeting the producer, Christopher Gaze, was the moment it clicked that I was in for Shakespeare. The charming gentleman speaks like an actor onstage and off.
I’m not trying to convince you to thumbs-up Shakespeare– his work speaks for itself– but if you’ve decided to visit a few of his classic works, here are a few ways to get something extra from the performance.
Don’t forget sunglasses and a blanket
… if it’s outdoors. Some of the audience had the sun in their eyes throughout the first half because Bard on the Beach has a hole cut into the back theatre wall (upside: we see a real, live beach backdrop). It also gets chilly if you are by the water.
Bring interesting people
This is not turning out to be the sun-drenched summer that I imagined it to be– someone in my family has fallen ill. The particular day of the play was especially tiring, but I’d made a rule that there is no such thing as changing plans last-minute.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t hack the situation. Before I leave the house, I say to my sister, “I’m only going to talk to one person there.”
Then I get to the Bard and I make zero effort to start conversation. But there’s an endless stream of awesome. It’s like playing piano in your room for 3 years, then finally meeting another pianist out there.
My eyesight is blurry, so the first time I saw Melody, I thought she was my favourite calculus teacher. Megan is insanely kind and I never want her to cry. Robin is warm, as always. Adelina is bright like sunshine and has been around the world (which makes her triple awesome).
Shakespeare requires so much concentration that it’s best to see the performance with people who are comfortable or interesting, so you don’t have to exert extra effort trying to understand them as well.
Soak up song and dance
This performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my first time hearing the actors sing exceptionally well. For a few stray moments, I felt like I was watching a musical. I’d encourage you to seek out a performance that has a bit of song and dance.
Some of the singing was acapella and that’s what I loved best, after a monologue when the theatre was silent. I’m wondering, where did they get their first note, singing right after the silence? (Leave a comment below if you know!)
Talk to the cast
Meeting the cast offstage gives a new perspective into the production.
Get the gist of the story
Like opera–which, by the way, is re-inventing itself in Germany–Shakespeare’s English can be hard to understand if you don’t already know the story;
Get the gist of the story beforehand. Like, watch the 5-minute summary on Youtube.
See a comedy
For light summer fun, I recommend a comedy like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was taken aback when the actors started shaking their tutu’d bums to Wiggle. Then for a while, I had the nagging feeling that they were doing Shakespeare wrong.
But the comedy won me over because I love funny– Shakespeare wanted it to be funny, so why shouldn’t it be updated? If you’re in Vancouver, I encourage you to check out Bard on the Beach.
It’s summertime, so enjoy the fun. Save the darkness for wintertime, yeah?
What’s your favourite Shakespeare play? I’d love to hear it in your comment below.