Back for the second year in a row, the non-profit theatre troupe, Bard in the Valley, is once again hard at work preparing a special outdoor Shakespearean production.
After last year’s successful showing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this year the troupe has chosen to do another comedy, As You Like It.
They will be showcasing the play in August at the Douglas Park Spirit Square, and at Willoughby Community Park for Langley’s International Festival.
Keeping true to the troupe’s motto “one goal — one passion — Shakespeare for everyone,” director Allan Thain says he is determined to bring quality Shakespeare productions to audiences in the Valley, rather than just Vancouver.
“Because we are only in our second year, I’m doing comedies to get people used to hearing the text. And by doing that you help to get rid of all the memories in high school, standing at the front of the class droning on,” said Thain.
“They make it into a great literature. And it is, but really it’s just the blueprint for a play and that’s the way I treat it.”
As You Like It is known as one of William Shakespeare’s classic comedies, telling the tale of mistaken identities and misguided love. Featuring the memorable young lovers Rosalind and Orlando, and Touchstone the clown, Thain says the plot is timeless and will continue to make modern audiences laugh.
In his rendition, Thain chooses to take a more natural approach to Shakespeare. There are no fake British accents, everyone is to speak in their regular voice.
“Although we are doing Shakespeare that requires a certain style, we say the lines so they sound like they are being spoken for the first time — even though they’re 400 years old,” he said.
“And that’s an actor’s job — to make the lines sound fresh.”
Boasting a cast of over 30 people, mostly from the Langley-Surrey area, Thain has incorporated a variety of actors to tell the story.
Some are old Shakespeare pros, having performed many times in the past, while others have never spoken a Shakespeare line on stage before. Regardless of experience, Thain takes all of the actors under his wing and teaches them the skills that he has gained over a lifetime in theatre.
Langley students Jonathan Dearden, 16, and his older sister Caroline Dearden, 19, have both benefited from Thain’s guidance.
As You Like It is the first Shakespearean play for both of the siblings.
Jonathan, who is playing three different characters, says he is finding the archaic language of Shakespeare not too difficult to learn.
“It’s just a matter of getting into character,” he said.
Caroline, an engineering student at the University of the Fraser Valley, has also transitioned well into Shakespearean mode.
“It’s been very enjoyable so far,” she said.
Thain says the production is a very good experience for young, emerging actors.
“With the younger people thinking of doing theatre as a career, I give them a sense of what a professional production will be done like. There’s no nonsense,” he said.
“I teach them how the lines should be spoken, how to bring out the meaning, and they all do very well.”
With rich, hand-made period costumes and an impressive hand-crafted set, the stage will be set to take audiences back in time.
The first perfomances will be held at the Douglas Park Spirit Square, 20550 Douglas Cres., from Aug. 11- 24.
Evening performances run Aug. 11-13 and Aug. 18-20 at 7 p.m., and afternoon matinees run Aug. 14 and 21 at 1 p.m.
Seating will be first come first served, and after seeing large crowds last year, the public is encouraged to come early and bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.
Performances at Willoughby Community Park, located beside the Langley Events Centre, 7888 200 St.,will be held Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m. and Aug. 28 at 2 p.m.
All shows are free, with donations from the public encouraged to help with costs of the production.