The garden city’s newest Shakespeare festival has not only survived to a second season, but is expanding with a new location, new tour and new play.
Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea takes place at Clover Point this year and travels to Sidney, as well as adding Romeo and Juliet to a program that also includes a remounting of last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Artistic director Robert Light said the tragedy and comedy are a perfect romantic pairing, citing literary critic Northrop Frye.
“He said the two plays are mirror images of one another,” said Light. “They’re thematically linked in that Romeo and Juliet is about these opportunities missed and how it sinks into tragedy deeper and deeper as a result. Midsummer’s is the opposite, romantically. It’s always about to dip into tragedy, when suddenly a fairy walks in or somebody plays a tune.”
Both plays will be performed in modern-day clothing and will incorporate the “E.S. Dance” instrument, which allows for aerial choreography.
“So you’ll be able to see the fairies flying in Midsummer’s and we’ll have acrobats in the party scene of Romeo and Juliet,” Light said.
They’ll be staged in the same tent as last year, which accommodates about 100 people. However the stage is double the size. The production continues to overlook Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains, but has been relocated to Clover Point from Holland Point Park.
“We’re very happy with the new spot. It’s a beautiful location and literally thousands of people walk by here each day,” he said.
Eighty per cent of last year’s cast has returned to perform again in the festival, with some moving to the new production.
The former Vancouverite — who has directing and acting credits at the Arts Club Theatre, Prospectus Theatre and Roundhouse Theatre — said his ultimate goal is to turn Shakespeare by the Sea into a professional festival along the lines of Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach.
“That’s our main goal, that we become a fully professional, fully funded company,” Light said.
The festival last year fell short of Light’s anticipated 1,400-member audience, with only 1,017 tickets sold. But they still made it in the black, spending $13,500 of a $15,000 budget and earning a gross revenue of $14,700. The actors were paid an honorarium as well as a share in the profit.
At the same time, Light said he had no plans to compete with the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Festival, which has mounted the bard’s work for 11 years. For that reason, he scheduled his festival after theirs, with only a few days of overlap. “We do not wish to compete with our friends,” he said. “I don’t see a big rivalry.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. as well as Saturdays at 2 p.m. Romeo and Juliet will show Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 7 p.m., as well as Sundays at 2 p.m.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens Aug. 15 and Romeo and Juliet opens Aug. 16.
Both shows move to Sidney in September for three final performances. The festival will stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sidney’s Charlie White Theatre at the Mary Winspear Centre Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
On Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Romeo and Juliet is presented in the Clamshell at the foot of Beacon Avenue. The final staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. in the same place.
What: Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea
When: Aug. 13 to Sept. 1
Where: Clover Point Park
Tickets: $25 at 250-213-8088. $3 discount for residents of James Bay or Fairfield-Gonzales. $2 discount for audience members who don’t arrive in a car.