Back in May we posted a story about a bear sighting in downtown Vancouver. Well, that lovely bear made its way to Vanier Park and has become an audience favourite as Ned Lowenscroft’s pet in Elizabeth Rex.
Nicholas Harrison spent many hours training actor Benjamin Elliott, who plays the bear, to get him used to moving in the large costume. Before he became Bard’s Fight Director, Nic spent a summer in Anaheim at Disney as a character cast member, making him the perfect choice to train Ben. It’s no small task to wear that bear suit – there is no air circulation (imagine that in the hot weather we’ve been having!), the actor must stay on all fours, and rather than keep his hands on the ground, he holds crutches to keep the bear’s legs true to size. Nic began by simply getting Ben in and out of the suit, then gradually increased the length of time, staying inside from 10 to 15 to 20 minutes and eventually up to 40 minutes. The pair worked together to fine-tune the bear’s movements and successfully create a lifelike character that has audiences gasping in surprise when he enters. The costume comes to Bard from the Guthrie Theatre in Minnesota, which had the bear costume made for its production of Elizabeth Rex and now rents it out to companies across North America for when they stage Findley’s play.
Check out this behind-the-scenes video of Assistant Head of Wardrobe Amy McDougall and Assistant Stage Manager Sam Van Nostrand as they prepare Ben to make his entrance onto the stage.