The Georgia Straight

Bard on the Beach goes virtual in pandemic

- By Charlie Smith

The premier Shakespear­e festival in Western Canada has cancelled live performanc­es for the second straight year, due to COVID-19. Bard on the Beach will continue with its season online, according to artistic director Christophe­r Gaze.

“It’s been such a hard decision to give up staging the festival again this year,” Gaze said in a videotaped message released on May 4. “We feel it profoundly and we know that you do, too.

“It’s a feeling of sadness,” he added. “It’s a feeling of loss.”

Bard on the Beach executive director Claire Sakaki stood beside Gaze at an appropriat­e physical distance as he spoke to the camera in Vanier Park.

The theatre company enjoyed a highly successful 30th anniversar­y season in 2019 before being forced to cancel live shows last year in the midst of the pandemic.

Sakaki said on video that their organizati­on “carefully weighed all the factors” before deciding not to proceed with live performanc­es in 2021.

“We watched the clock,” Sakaki declared. “We knew how much time it takes to build our site structures, even on a small scale, and to prepare our plays safely and to our Bard standards in the midst of a COVID environmen­t.

“And our clock ran out May 1,” she continued. “But we know we made the right decision for Bard to keep our teams and community safe, to honour artistic quality, and to protect our financial future.”

On May 3, the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, told reporters that outdoor events with hundreds of people might be possible this summer.

This came even as she ruled out giant celebratio­ns like the Vancouver Pride parade.

“What we hope—with the program we are on now, with the amount of vaccine we have—is that we will be able to have some small outdoor events,” Henry said. “I can say there is not likely to be big events of any sort, even outdoors through this summer and into the fall and winter of next year.”

Gaze assured Bard on the Beach lovers that the organizati­on can carry on because of the tremendous support that it has received from the community during the past year.

“Thank you for your love, for your loyalty; it truly lifts us up,” Gaze said. “We’ll be here, together again, under the tent in 2022.”

 ?? Photo by Emily Cooper. ?? Bard on the Beach’s Christophe­r Gaze is feeling a sense of loss this year.
Photo by Emily Cooper. Bard on the Beach’s Christophe­r Gaze is feeling a sense of loss this year.

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