Bard on Bower is planning a delayed return to the Bower Ponds outdoor stage with two Shakespeare plays and other festive entertainment in August.
Two light comedies will anchor the upcoming summer season of Prime Stock Theater because people need to laugh, said artistic director Thomas Usher. “We wanted to avoid tragedy – there has already been too much going on,” Usher added, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lot of noise for nothing and The comedy of mistakes are scheduled to open on August 12 and 17, respectively, and run in the repertoire until August 29 – along with other theatrical entertainment.
As with other live entertainment events, the 2020 Bard on Bower season had to be canceled to prevent viral transmissions. But now that Alberta is set to reopen Stage 3, Usher has asked the City of Red Deer to rent the outdoor stage in August, instead of July for extra wiggle room.
He is keeping his fingers crossed and hoping for the best when it comes to continuing to lift health restrictions.
Usher said he plans to invite other local theater companies – including Bull Skit, Central Alberta Theater and Red Deer Players – to stage improvisations or scenes that promote their upcoming seasons to open the Prime Stock Shakespearean productions.
“I kind of hope they put something in place to make it more of a festival,” he said.
Live shows have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions, so Usher envisions an outpouring of creativity in August, “with maybe dancing and heritage stuff and musicians too…”
This summer’s Shakespearean comedies will be staged with a smaller-than-usual set of nine actors. They will be led by Richard Baune (A lot of noise) and Jake Tkaczyk (Comedy of errors). Additionally, director Andres Moreno plans Shakespeare-themed Bard in a Box improvisations with four actors to tour local parks as pop-up presentations.
While Moreno and Tkaczyk are seasoned members of the Prime Stock Theater, Baune will be the Red Deer cast’s first director – and Usher is thrilled to have him on board..
Baune has experience as an assistant director at the Stratford and Shaw festivals in Ontario, and plans to bring a fun 1950s perspective to Shakespeare’s comedy about two established singles – Benedict and Beatrice – who are cheated on. falling in love with each other in A lot of noise for nothing.
Baune, who moved to Red Deer for family reasons after two decades in Ontario, said he opted for the Mid-Century Modern period for the play because “I wanted something fun, shiny, frivolous and groovy “.
With great stories, characters, and language, playing Shakespeare outdoors is very “rock and roll,” Baune said. “It’s like playing a big power chord,” so he’s planning a production that looks like a rock concert, “with a hint of the 60s counterculture revolution to come.”
Rehearsals will begin the first week of July – the first being scheduled by Zoom, to be on the safe side, Usher said.
During that first year, the company faced some losses, including the cancellation of a fundraising casino as well as the Red Deer College Theater support program, which was permanently closed due to low numbers of ‘registrations at the start of the pandemic.
Prime Stock is still hoping to land a grant from the city, but already has talented residents of the community lined up to build costumes and sets.
Usher is hoping the entertainment hungry crowds return in August to support Bard on Bower. “We hope people will come forward and donate” to help the struggling local arts scene get back on their feet, he added.