About the Festival

Celebrating its 28th Season in 2017, Bard on the Beach is Western Canada's largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festival. Presented in a magnificent setting on the waterfront in Vancouver's Vanier Park, the Festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas, and several special events in two performance tents from June through September.

A custom-built Mainstage Theatre tent offers modern, comfortable reserved seating (733-seat capacity) and an custom-built sound system. The Mainstage tent is open-ended so the actors perform against a spectacular backdrop of mountains, sea and sky - a highlight of the unique Bard experience. Two large-scale productions of plays in the Shakespearean canon are performed in repertory on the BMO Mainstage from early June through late September. The theatre is also home to a series of concerts each summer, featuring performers such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the UBC Opera and the award-winning mens' choir, Chor Leoni.

The Douglas Campbell Theatre tent holds 250 reserved seats and its two repertory productions run from the end of June through September on the Howard Family Stage, named in 2014 in honour of Vancouver arts philanthropists Darlene and Paul Howard. This intimate performance space hosts a mix of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays, his classics presented with less traditional staging and in recent years, contemporary plays with stories and themes that link to the Festival’s Shakespeare mandate.

Both tents are located in the Bard Village, a lively gathering space for Bard theatre patrons where they can meet and chat with fellow Festival-goers, hear a free pre-show insight talk, enjoy full concession and bar services and browse the Bard Boutique. The Village is open to patrons for one full hour prior to curtain.

The Festival also offers a range of special events, including Family Nights, educational talks, wine tastings and performances with visual-assist (Vocal Eye) services and new in 2017, a Relaxed Performance of a Mainstage play.

Bard is constantly expanding its educational programs and community outreach. It hosts the immensely popular Young Shakespeareans Workshops for 8-18 year-olds at its Vanier Park site during the summer, and has added the Riotous Youth program for 19 to 24-year-olds. During the school term, the Festival also offers Bard in the Classroom workshops throughout BC’s Lower Mainland for students and teachers. Year-round education and training programs are also offered in Bard's administrative home, the BMO Theatre Centre (162 West 1st Avenue). Bard Artistic Director and Founder Christopher Gaze spreads enthusiasm for the magic of Shakespeare's plays through frequent guest appearances at corporate, scholastic and private events.

Bard also owns the most comprehensive theatrical costume collection in Western Canada. It supports Bard’s own productions and the stock is also available for rental to other theatre companies and educational institutions. For rental enquiries, email costumes@bardonthebeach.org

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History & Statistics

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival was established in 1990 with a mandate to provide Vancouver residents and tourists with affordable, accessible Shakespearean productions of the finest quality. The Festival began as an Equity Co-op, funded primarily by a Canada Council Explorations grant awarded to Artistic Director and Founder Christopher Gaze. A fully professional, not-for-profit theatre company, Bard on the Beach now engages over thirty actors each season as well as a team of exceptional directors, designers, and technicians; it is also supported by more than 200 volunteers. The productions consistently receive both critical and audience acclaim and repeatedly play to sold-out houses.

Attendance at Bard on the Beach has grown dramatically over the years, from 6,000 in 1990 to 100,000 in 2016. Over 1.65 million patrons have enjoyed the Bard experience over its 27 seasons. Its operating budget has grown from $35,000 in 1990 to $6 million in 2016. The programming has expanded from one play to four each season, and from 34 performances in its inaugural year to over 200 in 2016. In August, 2003, through a partnership with Mission Hill Family Estate winery called Bard in the Vineyard, Bard presented a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Okanagan.