Christopher is best known as the Founding Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival. He hosts the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's ever popular Tea & Trumpets series and has hosted their annual traditional Christmas concerts for over 20 years.
His many honours include Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal, Honorary Doctorates from UBC & SFU, the Mayor’s Arts Award for Theatre and the Order of British Columbia. Last summer, he directed the world premiere of C.C. Humphreys’ Shakespeare's Rebel, part of Bard's 26th season.
Christopher plays a leading role in British Columbia as an advocate for the arts in general, and his passionate dedication to Bard on the Beach has fuelled its growth into one of the largest professional theatre companies in Canada, drawing more than 1.5 million patrons since its inception.
Christopher Bower Gaze
Artistic Director & Founder
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Born May 12, 1952 and educated in England, Christopher Gaze was inspired to come to Canada in 1975 by his mentor, legendary Shakespearean actor Douglas Campbell. He spent three seasons at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake and acted at various theatre companies across Canada and the USA, then moved to Vancouver in 1983. After a couple of experiences with other tented Shakespeare festivals, Christopher recognized the potential in blending excellent Shakespeare productions with Vancouver’s spectacular location. In 1990 he founded Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, where Bard’s signature open-ended tent allowed actors to perform against a backdrop of the city’s skyline and mountains.
The first summer of Bard on the Beach was a huge success. Beginning as an Equity Co-op production, it staged one play in a rented tent in Vanier Park on a budget of $35,000.
Today the Festival, now in its 27th season, has a budget of over $6 million and has seen its attendance rocket from 6,000 in that first summer to 100,000 in 2014. The growth has been slow and organic, and the Festival has been able to sustain its mandate "to provide quality Shakespeare productions that are accessible and affordable". Not only has patronage burgeoned from the local community but Bard has contributed significantly to the city as a major tourist attraction, with approximately one-tenth of its patrons from outside BC’s Lower Mainland.
Bard on the Beach has also become a significant employer within the arts community, providing jobs in Vancouver annually for more than 200 artists and support staff; This includes a full time administrative team plus more than 30 actors, 4 directors, 7 designers, 6 stage managers as well as the production crew, Box Office, front of house and concession employees. Bard is a member of PACT, employs professional Equity actors and mentors upcoming talents each season both on stage and on the production team. Many emerging actors have cut their professional teeth at Bard and have gone on to secure leading roles in subsequent seasons at Bard and with other major theatre companies across Canada and beyond.
Christopher also nurtured the Young Shakespeareans Program at Bard that provides an opportunity every summer for nearly 300 young people to train with company artist/instructors on the Bard stages. The Festival has also developed a Student Matinee series that annually brings as many as 8,000 students to play performances, introducing them to the magic of Shakespeare’s stories and language. During the past several years, Bard has expanded its education programs with Bard in the Classroom, Bard in your Neighbourhood and Riotous Youth workshops for young people, students and teachers. This commitment to youth outreach and education has made an important contribution to the development of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic “audience of the future” for the performing arts in general.
Christopher, who trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School from 1970 to 1973, is an accomplished and talented actor and director. Over his extensive career in the theatre he has performed at major centres across Canada, England and the USA. In 2004 he was honoured with the Jessie Richardson Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Playhouse production of Equus and a Career Achievement award in 2014.
In addition to his role as Artistic Director, Christopher has frequently performed and directed at Bard on the Beach. His directing credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1990 and 2003), As You Like It (1991) The Winter’s Tale (1997), Henry V (2002) and Shakespeare’s Rebel (2015). Favourite roles among the innumerable characters he has played at Bard are Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, the title roles in Richard III and King Lear and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
A gifted public speaker, Christopher frequently shares his insights into the theatre and Shakespeare in the community at large, with school groups, service organizations and local businesses. He works with many other arts organizations, notably as host of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Traditional Christmas Concerts series since 1993 and its legendary Tea & Trumpets series since 2002.
Christopher also works extensively as a character actor in film and radio, and he narrated the Emmy Award-winning animation series Madeline. He serves as a Board Member for many different organizations and plays a leadership role as a cultural ambassador in BC. As an Olympic ambassador, Christopher was honoured to run with the Olympic flame for the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Christopher’s many honours include induction into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), Honorary Doctorates from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, the BC Community Achievement Award (2007), the Gold Medallion from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America (2007), the (Vancouver) Mayor’s Arts Award for Theatre (2011) and the Order of British Columbia (2012).