With a final bow approaching, Will Brooks is preparing for a Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan season like no other.
This upcoming summer will be the eighth and final season for the Saskatoon theatre company’s artistic producer, whose contract goes until Nov. 18.
“It’s exciting for me on all kinds of fronts … It’s just a great time for myself to move on to a new challenge and it’s a great time for the company to have a new voice as well,” Brooks said via Zoom.
“I’m a big believer that it’s very healthy for an artistic organization to change over the artistic leadership about every seven or eight years because our audiences … deserve a fresh voice every once in a while.”
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan announced on Tuesday its 2021 season will offer one production, instead of two, which will be a unique version of Macbeth — adapted by Brooks — with only five actors.
“For Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, (Macbeth) usually would have been around 12 to 14 (actors). If money is no object, it could be more like 20. So trimming it down to five actors is an interesting challenge and an interesting adventure,” Brooks said.
“Essentially what we’ve done is highly adapted the piece and all five actors play witches and those witches then, in turn, tell the story and become the other characters, so they all do it through the lens of the witches.”
Organizers expect to welcome back its first live audience since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This would be a return to the stage for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan – one planned during a time of uncertainty.
“As all other organizations did last summer, we had to cancel the (2020) festival and we essentially started right then and started planning and re-planning and changing and trying to roll with the punches,” Brooks said.
“We built in all of the COVID protocols into the adaptation. So the adaptation is built for physical distancing and masks and all of those kinds of safety protocols.
“Our entire rehearsal period will take place essentially over the course of the Saskatchewan (government’s) reopen roadmap so things will change completely as we go through it.”
This summer, actors will also get the opportunity to perform for a live audience with new infrastructure completed along the South Saskatchewan River.
“We’ve built … the Staging the Future project down there which has become something larger and more wonderful than we could have possibly imagined at the beginning,” Brooks said.
“We finished building it all last summer … this is the first time that the full venue will actually be up and running and all the brand new cushy chairs, new lighting equipment, new tent, new stage, new seating risers and the whole nine yards.”
The 2021 season taking place from July 23 to Aug. 20 is scheduled to start with two preview performances on July 21 and 22.
“I cannot wait to take the first ticket as somebody walks through those doors … I suspect it’s going to be one of those feelings that nobody can describe,” Brooks said.
“Theatre, at its core, is an in-person event. It’s all about having audience and storyteller live in the same room together and we all know how we’ve been yearning in our guts to have those kinds of human connections again.”
Ticket sales are expected to be announced later when organizers have a better idea of what capacity will be.
“Things are going to change rapidly as we go and we don’t want to sell people tickets that we then have to take back because the capacity shrunk,” Brooks said.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be 10 people or 300 people that are allowed in the show, but either way, it’s going to be 10 of the best people or 300 of the best people and we’ll get the tickets out there available for them as soon as we can.
“The show will go on. How many people get to see it at a time? Not so sure, but we’ll get as many in there as we can safely.”
The Saskatoon Fringe Festival — another summertime staple — will return this season from July 29 to Aug. 7, according to the 25th Street Theatre company’s website.View link »