The beauty of Theatre Calgary's 'Shakespeare by the Bow' summer performances is that you can pop along on a whim, without prior planning or a ticket, enjoy a balmy summer's evening sitting on the grass in a riverside park, eating your picnic and being entertained by young, emerging actors for just over an hour.
We went along on a weekday and walked along the Bow River pathway to reach Prince's Island Park where the performances are held in a natural amphitheatre near the middle of the park. A sloping, grassy bank, roughly sectioned off, lends itself to a seating area for the audience as well as a conduit for energetic actors launching themselves down the slope, where a few props near a cluster of trees mark centre stage.
This unconventional and wide, open setting is particularly fitting for this year's play, 'The Tempest', where the action takes place on an island. Unlike traditional venues, where the actors are confined to a fixed stage, the park setting allows them to make full use of all the open space, creating a much more dynamic performance. The actress playing the part of the magical fairy Ariel was particularly exuberant.
The acting was of a high standard and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening's entertainment. It was great to see people of all ages enjoying Shakespeare, from children to seniors, making up an audience of about one hundred. Picnics and non-alcoholic drinks are encouraged and there are washrooms in the park and refreshment outlets nearby.
At the end of the performance you are asked to pay something to show your appreciation and support for the young actors. CN$20 per person is suggested.
Shakespeare by the Bow is part of Theatre Calgary Emerging Artists Programme and has been running as such for three years. All the actors are recently graduated, post-secondary drama students from across Alberta, at the start of their careers, who receive mentoring from professionals.
Performances take place almost every evening except Monday at 7pm in Prince's Island Park with a 2pm matinee on Saturday from the end of June to the middle of August. It is worth checking the website before you go as there is a venue change for a few days in July.