Shakespeare actors ‘let their comedic genius shine’

Bard in the Valley returns for its seventh season with 16 unique outdoor performances

The Taming of the Shrew

■ Front Lawn of the Fort Langley Community Hall
June 29, 30 and July 1 at 7 p.m.
Admission is free
■ Township 7 Winery
July 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 7 p.m.
July 10 at 2 p.m.
Tickets $20; call 604-532-1766 or email wine@township7.com
■ Spirit Square Stage in Douglas Park
July 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 at 7 p.m.
July 24 and 31 at 2 p.m.
Admission is free

It’s a story that’s been told for more than 400 years, yet its themes of love remain timeless.

The Taming of the Shrew, one of William Shakespeare’s earliest written comedies, has been selected as Bard in the Valley’s 2016 summer production.

Set in a modern era at an exclusive golf and tennis club, the story centres around two eligible bachelorettes.

Bianca, a sweet, innocent and beautiful girl, has suitors lined up across town to win her love. But her older sister, Kate, does not. Though equally as beautiful, Kate is a tyrant, and no man is brave enough to pursue her.

Their father, Baptista Minola, has declared that Bianca will remain a bachelorette until Kate has been married off, prompting Bianca’s rival suitors to employ a peculiar man, Petruchio, to woo Kate.

Director Darcy J. Knopp (pictured below), who has performed in the play once before while in university, says he’s had The Taming of the Shrew in his “back pocket” for a number of years.

“I was particularly fond of it because of the supporting roles that are available,” said Knopp, an H.D. Stafford alumni.

“You not only have two really strong characters in Kate and Petruchio, but the supporting characters were a lot of fun to play with and provided the best opportunity for the actors we have.”

Knopp has pitched the idea to Bard in Valley before, with the idea of transporting the setting from the 1500s to the modern day.

“The design concept that we’ve all put together is something that I’ve had in my head as a way I would want to do this show,” Knopp said.

“I’ve been a fan of modernizing some of the Shakespeare shows because I think it makes it easier for our audiences. (For) a lot of them, who are new to Shakespeare, it provides them an easier way to relate to the characters.

“The golf and country club is sort of an exclusive world, and sometimes has some antiquated policies and allows people to be a little more ridiculous than they could be in normal life.”

There will be 16 performances at three different outdoor venues throughout the summer, and 11 of those have free admission.

The first three shows, beginning June 29, will be staged on the front lawn at the Fort Langley Community Hall, followed by additional performances at Township 7 Winery and the Spirit Stage in Douglas Park.

This is the seventh season for Bard in the Valley, and Knopp, who has participated in six of them, says their group is becoming larger and stronger each year.

“We’ve managed to gather a really gifted bunch of actors,” he said.

“I think the biggest plus of doing this show is that it gives them a real opportunity to let their comedic genius shine. In some of these rehearsals, I turn them loose on the script, and see what they can come up with to make some really funny moments.

“As much as I’m directing them, and trying to bring the show together, I’m sitting there getting some pretty choice entertainment every evening of rehearsal.”

Produced by Bard in the Valley president Diane Gendron, the play stars Langley actors Dylan Coulter, Dayna Thomas, Sarah Cavalli, Lauren Trotzuk, Nikola Trotzuk, Kailea De Leon and Jeff Hacker, as well as actors Mandy Dyck, Pauline Dynowski, Sheri Eyre, Madison McArthur, Aaron Holt and Misha Kobiliansky.

Tanya Schwaerzle is choreographer and  Lauren Trotzuk is musical director.

“One of the nice things about the show, and Shakespeare in general, is that we’re dealing with human elements,” said Knopp.

“The stories are based around human emotions and human practices and so it should be very accessible to our audience.

“Most people have been in some kind of relationship or have pursued love of some kind, and often times have been frustrated with the lack of fruit from their labour. And I think that’s what we showcase for just over two hours, is the pursuit of finding that one perfect match, and the failing that comes with it sometimes.”

Audience members are invited to come to the performances early and bring a blanket, lawn chairs and picnic. Chairs and snacks will also be available at all venues, and donations are welcome to help cover production costs.

“Anybody who has maybe been afraid of seeing Shakespeare and maybe thinking it would be a little too tough to understand or to enjoy, come take a chance on a free show in a beautiful summer evening,” said Knopp.

“I rarely run into anyone who is disappointed by what they see.”

To learn more, visit bardinthevalley.com.

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