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 (Sen̓ákw), the Festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas, and several special events in two performance tents from June through September. NOTE: Bard cancelled its 2020 Festival Season in response to COVID-19 health and safety concerns. The Festival team is working on plans to return to the Park in 2021; subscribe to Bard’s E-News for regular updates.
A custom-built Mainstage Theatre tent offers modern, comfortable reserved seating (729-seat capacity) and a 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 are typically performed in repertory on the theatre’s BMO Mainstage from early June through late September.
The Douglas Campbell Theatre tent has 262 reserved seats and its two repertory productions typically run 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 Shakespeare mission and mandate.
Both tents are located adjacent to the Bard Village, a lively gathering space for Bard theatre patrons to meet and chat with fellow event-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 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, which is a paid internship during the summer season. During the school term, the Festival also offers Bard in the Classroom workshops throughout BC’s Lower Mainland for students and teachers. Since January 2016, year-round education and training programs have been 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. NOTE: All of Bard’s Education programs are currently offered online, given COVID-19 restrictions.
Bard also owns the most comprehensive theatrical costume collection in Western Canada. The collection supports Bard’s own productions and the stock is also available for rental to other theatre companies and educational institutions. For rental enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.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. 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 103,000 in 2019. Almost 2 million patrons have enjoyed the Bard experience over its 30 seasons. Its operating budget has grown from $35,000 in 1990 to $7.5 million in 2019. 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 2019.