Bard on the Beach is Western Canada’s largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festival. Presented in Vancouver’s Sen̓ákw/Vanier Park against a spectacular backdrop of mountains, sea and sky, the Festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas and special events in two modern performance tents from June through September, with an average attendance of 100,000. The Festival is known for its signature blend of high-quality artistic programming and a welcoming, informal experience for local residents and visitors from around the world. Bard Education offers year-round opportunities to play and explore Shakespeare, through programs for youth, emerging theatre artists, and our general community.
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Bard on the Beach in Sen̓ákw/Vanier Park
A custom-built Mainstage Theatre tent offers modern, comfortable reserved seating (729-seat capacity) and a state-of-the-art sound system. The Mainstage tent is open-ended so the actors perform against a backdrop of mountains, sea and sky – a highlight of the unique Bard experience. The Festival’s large-scale productions are typically performed in repertory on the theatre’s BMO Mainstage from early June through late September.
The Douglas Campbell Theatre tent has 260 reserved seats and its two productions run either consecutively or on an alternating schedule from the end of June through September on its 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 mission and mandate and actively explore today’s cultural and social landscape.
Both tents are located adjacent to the Bard Village, a lively gathering space for Bard theatre patrons to meet and chat with fellow Festival-goers, take in a range of educational events, enjoy concession and bar services and browse the Bard Boutique. The Village is open to patrons for one full hour prior to curtain. Bard also operates an online Boutique.
During the Season, Bard also welcomes our community to come play at the Festival site through programs such as our Summer Camps for 6 to 18 year-olds and a paid post-secondary internship called Riotous Youth.
During the school term, our team of professional Teaching Artists visit schools and community centres throughout the lower mainland for programs like Bard in the Classroom, Bard Youth Fest, and Bard in Your Neighbourhood. We also host training and recreational programs at our administrative home and rehearsal space, the BMO Theatre Centre (162 West 1st Avenue) and online.
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. The collection supports Bard’s own productions and stock can also be rented by other theatre companies and educational institutions. Inquiries: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bard is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. Charitable Registration #129644928 RR0001
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. It has grown into a fully professional, not-for-profit theatre company, engaging thirty actors each season as well as a team of exceptional directors, designers, and technicians; it is also supported by more than 350 volunteers. The productions consistently receive both critical and audience acclaim and consistently play to sold-out houses.
Attendance at Bard on the Beach has grown dramatically over the years, from 6,000 in 1990 to 79,000 in 2022. More than 2 million patrons have enjoyed the Bard experience over its thirty-three seasons. Its operating budget has grown from $35,000 in 1990 to $8.5 million in 2022. The programming has expanded from one play to at least four each season, and from 34 performances in its inaugural year to over 200 in 2022.
Bard’s 2020 Season was canceled due to COVID-19 and instead, it produced a range of digital content focused on Company members’ writing, performance and unique lived experiences. The 2021 in-person season was also canceled due to COVID restrictions, and a Bard-commissioned play, Done/Undone by Kate Besworth was reimagined as a feature film, shot on location at Burnaby, BC’s Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and offered online. After two years of dark stages, the 2022 Season ran in-person from June 8 to September 24, 2022. The 2023 Season marks the return of a four production line-up and is headlined by the critically acclaimed As You Like It.
To hear more about Bard on the Beach’s history and community endeavours, check out this feature on Christopher Gaze for more information about the history and evolution of Bard on the Beach. This feature is part of the BC Legends with Carole Taylor series and is available to view in full at their website or condensed at the link below.