Edmonton’s Freewill Shakespeare Festival begins Tuesday.
The theatrical celebration runs for nearly a month, featuring live performances every day of the week, except for Mondays, at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. This year audiences will be transported to Italy as A Winter’s Tale and Two Gentlemen of Verona play on alternating days of the week.
“It’s so gorgeous,” said Dave Horak, the director of A Winter’s Tale.
“Even if the weather is a little bit dicey, you’re under a great, big giant tent. It’s casual, you can sit here and have popcorn. You can drink a beer if you want.”
“It’s a professional theatre company but it’s got a nice casual summer feel,” said Horak.
After more than 30 years in Edmonton, organizers are committed to creating a memorable experience for guests.
The festival prides itself not only on the performances on stage but also its food and drink pairings. An Italian feast, Shakespeare feast, and afternoon tea are on the bill, as well as a number of special beer and wine nights.
After his first performance at the Freewill Shakespeare Festival as a 10-year-old in 2001, Ben Stevens grew up around the festival. The eight-time performer says the event is a good mix of old and new.
“As the actors change, as the sets change, as our interpretations of the play changes, the plays are still the same,” said Stevens.
“We get to do these plays that have been performed for over 400 years and we get to do it in this beautiful venue,” Stevens continued.
The one thing that can always be different — and out of the show producer’s control — is the weather.
“Since we are under a nice big tent you are protected from all the elements, so a thunderstorm can enhance the show, it can make it even better,” said Stevens.
The festival site will open to the public 45 minutes prior to each performance and if you’re a little uneasy about the plays, the troupe Thou Art Here can help. The puppet show synopsis can help guests make sense of unfamiliar Shakespearean language.
For a full schedule of the shows, theme nights and to purchase tickets in advance, visit the Freewill Shakespeare Festival website.