Bard on the Beach is located on the ancestral lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) people. The Festival grounds sit on the site of Sen’ákw. Learn more about the history of this vibrant Coast Salish village here.

We’ve arrived at the third and final segment of the Building Bard series — the BMO Mainstage. Learn fun facts about the BMO Mainstage, plus take a 360 virtual tour inside the tent!

Building the Mainstage tent (2019)

So far in our Building Bard series, we’ve shared fun facts about the Festival Village and a look into the Douglas Campbell tent and the Howard Family Stage. Now we’re going to explore the largest tent at Bard – the BMO Mainstage.

Bard purchased its first five-hundred seat saddle tent in 1992. By the summer of 2010, there were considerable issues with the structure, so a capital campaign – “Staging Our Future” – was launched to raise funds for a new tent. This new 742-seat tent was ready in time for the 2011 Season with a redesigned stage named after the BMO Bank of Montreal in recognition of its lead contribution to the fundraising campaign.

Building the Mainstage tent was truly an international effort – drawing on suppliers and expertise from the UK, France, New Zealand, the US, and Canada. The tent fabric alone travelled by boat over 30,000 km before arriving in Vancouver!

The BMO Mainstage is now beloved for its open-backed design and Bard’s signature backdrop of False Creek, the Coast Mountains, and the city skyline.

Christopher Gaze and the old Mainstage tent canvas against Bard’s signature backdrop

Each Season, Bard typically stages two productions in repertory on the BMO Mainstage alongside a selection of choral, symphonic and operatic presentations. The stage presents a unique challenge for set designers as it must incorporate elements that can be shared by both productions and also used for special events.

Take a look at how Set Designer Cory Sincennes made his vision work for both our 2019 productions, Shakespeare in Love (top) and The Taming of the Shrew (bottom). 

Ghazal Azarbad, Charlie Gallant & Austin Eckert | Photography: Tim Matheson

The Company of The Taming of the Shrew | Photo: Tim Matheson

Here are some fascinating facts about building the Mainstage tent:

  • The old tent had a length span of 90ft and the new tent spans 135ft from end to end.
  • The crane required to raise the new tent is 4 times the size of the crane used to raise the old tent.
  • The new tent is supported by 6 steel arched trusses. Each truss weighs 15,000 lbs or more than double the weight of the entire old tent. Each truss also supports 4,000 lbs of lighting, sound and set pieces.

Installation of the Mainstage soundbooth

  • The tent is secured by eighty-four 18’ screws buried underground.
  • The steel structure is separate from the fabric, which means that the tent can be erected at wind speeds up to 35km/h. The old tent could only be deployed on calmer days.
  • The new theatre seats were shipped from the United States, the house risers came from England, the tent steel was manufactured in Oregon and the tent fabric was manufactured in France and sewn in New Zealand.
  • It takes our expert crew almost three weeks to construct the tent, plus another five weeks to install the seating inside.
  • Timing is everything! The Mainstage acting company arrives on site for technical rehearsals while the site crew are still working to finish the venue flooring around the public areas around the Village. The site crew actually have to shift their lunch breaks because once the actors are on stage, the venue can’t have the loud noises that come with building a site.

Inside a packed tent for Shakespeare in Love (2019) | Photo: Tim Matheson

Want a more in-depth look at the BMO Mainstage? Take the virtual tour!


Although we didn’t have our regular 2020 Season under the tents this summer, BMO stepped up as our Virtual Mainstage Sponsor. Video content from the BMO Virtual Mainstage can be viewed here.

With continued generous support from