WATCH: Tales from the Bard usually hit the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park every summer. But the curtain on the Freewill Shakespeare Festival will rise this year indoors. Sheldon Elter and Zvonimir Rac have the details.
EDMONTON – The Freewill Shakespeare Festival is kicking off its 26th season Wednesday night. And for the first time, it is doing so indoors at the University of Alberta’s Myer Horowitz Theatre.
The festival has always performed the Bard’s works in the open air, as was originally done. But damage to the Heritage Amphitheatre’s tent in Hawrelak Park forced a change for this year only.
Festival organizers are hopeful they’ll still have a successful production of The Taming of the Shrew, described by its director as a “bright, lovely comedy.”
“We’re hoping that people are following us. It’s a 680-seat theatre. We have lots of seats. So hopefully, with people seeing the advertising we’re doing, they’ll come down,” said Marianne Copithorne, the festival’s artistic director and director.
“We’re trying to bring as much of our outdoor experience indoors, in terms of our staging and what we do down at the park,” she continued, adding that audiences won’t have to deal with rain and mosquitoes.
When the City of Edmonton told festival organizers that the amphitheatre tent was torn and was unlikely to be fixed in time, Copithorne says they weighed their options. Organizers considered setting up their own tent, but ultimately decided it would be too costly.
“You can imagine the Cavalia tents, how big they are, and how much they cost,” Copithorne said.
An indoor production had its own problems, including reduced revenue, but it was just too costly to move to a different outdoor location.
While the festival’s most-dedicated fans will likely follow the production inside, the impact on attendance numbers remains to be seen.
The Taming of the Shrew runs from July 9 through July 27. Many performances are “pay-what-you-will” shows, and students with valid student ID get in free on Sundays. For more information, visit the festival’s website.
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