For­get Solo, Shake­speare’s knock­out plays set to hit High Park

Thornhill Post - - Currents - by Ron John­son

Al­though Han Solo and com­pany might gar­ner big­ger open­ing day crowds and move more mer­chan­dise this sum­mer, Shake­speare’s knock­out plays Romeo and Juliet and A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream are the orig­i­nal blockbusters. They’ve been per­formed for more than 500 years and are still loved by au­di­ences around the world. This year, Toronto’s beloved Shake­speare in High Park the­atre fes­ti­val is of­fer­ing them both in a Bard spec­tac­u­lar un­der the night sky at the Cana­dian Stage’s beau­ti­ful out­door am­phithe­atre open­ing June 28.

Back in the di­rec­tor’s chair this sea­son is Tanja Ja­cobs, who will take the helm of the fairy com­edy, whereas Frank Cox-O’Con­nell han­dles the clas­sic tragedy of star-crossed lovers.

Ja­cobs had her di­rec­toral de­but at Shake­speare in High Park last sum­mer, with Twelfth Night, and says there is some­thing unique and spe­cial about the event, now in its 36th year.

“The union of au­di­ences with the ma­te­rial in that big, open, wel­com­ing space is in­cred­i­bly ful­fill­ing,” says Ja­cobs, adding that au­di­ences of the pro­duc­tions are from all walks of life in the city, of­ten in­clud­ing those who rarely go to any other live the­atre.

“As a sort of fan­tas­tic de­mo­graphic ex­per­i­ment, it is a great suc­cess.” she says. “It draws very large crowds, so mak­ing art, and in this case mak­ing come­dies, for big, wel­com­ing crowds like that is very grat­i­fy­ing. There is noth­ing like it.”

And cer­tainly the two plays se­lected this sea­son are amongst the best-known works in all of the­atre.

“These are two of the most pop­u­lar plays that any com­pany could pro­duce, and it is very smart to put them to­gether be­cause they are the­mat­i­cally tied in a num­ber of ways,” Ja­cobs says. “And I know many many peo­ple adore

Romeo and Juliet and A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream.”

In this ver­sion of the Dream, gone is the generic Athe­nian set­ting of old, and in its place, in this con­densed 90-minute adap­tion, is a derelict amuse­ment park in Rome in the early 1950s.

“It is kind of a car­ni­val at­mos­phere im­me­di­ately af­ter the end of the war,” says Ja­cobs.

In this world, the fairies are the aeri­al­ists at the car­ni­val.

“Part of my no­tion is that the fairies con­sider them­selves im­mor­tal, and who are we to say they are not, es­pe­cially those who risk their lives to per­form these ex­tra­or­di­nary feats,” she adds.

As is the tra­di­tion, the plays will run on al­ter­nate evenings, and ad­mis­sion is pay-whatyou-can, al­though $20 is sug­gested.

Romeo and Juliet, A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream run un­til Sept. 2, Cana­di­

Pic­ture-per­fect sum­mer the­atre in High Park

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