Friday, July 6, 2012

Shakespeare in High Park, Toronto

Photo by Chris Gallow
O, Shakespeare in High Park, methinks thou art refreshingly entertaining!

If you are itching for a dose of theatre, you do not have to travel far to get your fix. Toronto is home to Shakespeare in High Park, the oldest annual outdoor theatre event in the country. Presented by The Canadian Stage Company, Shakespeare in High Park marks its 30th anniversary with a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Opening its stage on June 28th in celebration of this milestone, and to kick start the new season, Canadian Stage hosted a community potluck before the 8pm show, set to the festive music of the Toronto Brass Quintet.  
Photo by Chris Gallow
As 8 pm drew closer, the outdoor amphitheatre filled with an eager crowd, all waiting in anticipation for the “curtains to rise”. This was my first time experiencing Shakespeare in High Park. I fully expected to be lost in the language of “art thou’s”, “to be’s or not to be’s”, just as I was in my high school English classes where students had to dissect Shakespearean verse and prose. What I did not expect was just how entertaining and hilarious this new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is! The play tells the tale of four lovers and a troupe of actors who stumble upon a forest filled with mischief and magical charms providing an interactive, modern, whimsical and comedic twist on the traditional version. This ain’t your typical Shakespeare.

Photo by Chris Gallow
Although Shakespearean script is still used, this contemporary and unconventional adaptation draws you in and breathes new life into the words. For me, the story became easier to understand and more engaging. Its light-heartedness lets the onlookers be a part of the story (an audience member is even brought onto the stage!). This allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere, putting you at ease and inviting laughter. And trust me; the actors had the crowd in hysterics. I sometimes laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes! 
This year’s opening night had extra festivities to commemorate Queen Elizabeth the II’s Diamond Jubilee. A special guest star, Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson, made a surprise appearance as the Queen. Other VIP guests such as Toronto City Councillors and well-known performers will appear in each performance.  
The outdoor amphitheatre is located in a nice wooded area of High Park just east of The Grenadier Restaurant. Seating is located on a V shaped grassy and stone terraced hilltop directly in front of the stage. he seating is “picnic-blanket style” directly on the grass. The show runs for 90 minutes without an intermission.  I definitely recommend bringing a blanket to sit on, one to prop up and pad your back, a cushion for the tush and a light jacket to wear as the sun sets. Snacks and beverages are also permitted. Free parking is also available adjacent to the restaurant.  
The production is pay-what-you-can and runs Tuesday to Sunday at 8pm from June 26 – September 2, 2012 with gates opening at 6pm. Seats are first-come, first-serve and spaces are limited. On Wednesdays and Sundays from July 4 to September 2, Canadian Stage will offer FREE Backstage Tours at 6pm. Tours are appropriate for all ages.

Get lost in the Dream. If you want a fun summer outing with friends or family, this event is sure to leave you in high spirits.

Natalia Dziubaniwsky is a lover of life, avid traveller, animal lover, movie buff, volunteer, budding writer and is always seeking a new adventure. Interact with her on Twitter @taliasfootsteps or simply follow her footsteps through her blog.

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