THE ORIGINAL SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS
Forget Solo, Shakespeare’s knockout plays set to hit High Park
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-what-you-can, although $20 is suggested.
Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream run until Sept. 2, Canadianstage.com.
Picture-perfect summer theatre in High Park