Shakespeare’s Summer Show at Theater Calgary Keeps Moving

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Once again, Theater Calgary’s Shakespeare by the Bow will hit the road and become Shakespeare on the Go.

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Instead of performing in Prince’s Island Park, this summer’s production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor will travel to Heritage Park, various community centers and several residential properties in Brookfield. The full schedule is available at theatrecalgary.com/shakesgoperformances.

Jane MacFarlane, who adapted and directed Merry Wives, said: ‘When we planned the summer program we had no idea what COVID restrictions would be in play so we felt it was safer to schedule another Shakespeare on the Go rather than return to Prince’s Island.

“Also, last year, when we went to four different communities, we found a whole new, very enthusiastic audience. We’re going to expand our audience base even further and that’s really what we want to do.

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The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known comedies. It tells the story of how the devious Falstaff plans to increase his fortune by courting the wives of wealthy businessmen Master Ford and Master Page. He foolishly sends the women identical love letters which, when they compare each other, urge them to teach him as many lessons as possible.

“Shakespeare has written many comedies but The Merry Wives is really his only farce and it works well for an outdoor summer show because it’s written in prose which makes it very approachable,” says MacFarlane.

“I reduced the script to 75 minutes by removing all subplots. Now it comes down to how women conspire to deceive Falstaff and their husbands. Now it’s fast and furious fun and it’s a terrific 75 minutes that you can enjoy with your family and friends outdoors.

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Sam Free, who plays Master Ford, admits, like most people who will come to see The Merry Wives, that he had never read or seen the play before being cast.

“I had heard of it but knew almost nothing about it, so it was a treat to find out how funny it was when I read it, especially this version that Jane created. It’s a hilarious show and the humor is very broad and very accessible. Our production is all about action and laughs. It’s very silly. You might even say silly at times, which will definitely appeal to younger viewers.

Free and Javelin Laurence, who plays Falstaff, are the only members of the six-actor company who don’t play multiple roles. Their co-stars include Kathleen Faith Ballangan as Mistress Ford, Christian Daly as Master Page, Abby McDougall as Mistress Page, and Keysha Swanson as Mistress Quickly. Beth Kates designed the set and Cathleen Sbrizzi created the costumes.

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Free recently graduated from the drama program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, where he starred as Malvolio in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Like Falstaff, Malvolio is the subject of trickery.

“What happens to Malvolio is much, much darker than what women do to Falstaff and yet Falstaff actually deserves more of the tricks played on him. Falstaff is never actually tortured, which makes the play suitable for young audiences.

Theater Calgary’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is a co-production with The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions and runs until August 7.

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