Bard in the Barracks performances start this week

Category: stage 121

Fredericton’s annual Shakespeare in the Park series Bard in the Barracks gets underway this week with performances of The Tragedy of Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing running in repertory between downtown and Odell Park.

Noah Deas and Scott Shannon perfoming a scene from The Tragedy of Coriolanus during a dress rehearsal run.
Matt Carter 

It’s a sure sign of summer when a new season of Bard in the Barracks begins. Even when the weather might make you think otherwise. With another season of both the Living Roots Music Festival and Flourish now in the books, there’s no denying Fredericton’s summer season is underway. It’s Bard time!

As the final days of rehearsal come to a close, the 2023 Bard in the Barracks season gets underway later this week with performances of The Tragedy of Coriolanus (a tragedy) and Much Ado About Nothing (a comedy) running in repertory between downtown and Odell Park.

Thinking about a two-show season, I’ve always been a fan of offering two quite different experiences for audiences to choose from, or to complement one another. So doing one comedy and one tragedy makes sense,” said Bard in the Barracks Artistic Director Len Falkenstein. “I also like pairing one better-known play with one lesser-known. I’ve long been a fan of Coriolanus, but knew it would be unfamiliar to many people.”

A scene from The Tragedy of Coriolanus plays out with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in the background.

Falkenstein said his choice of Coriolanus, which he is also directing, was informed in part by the success and location of last year’s downtown production of Julius Caesar which took place around the Legislature Building, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and along the Green.

“Coriolanus is similar in setting and themes to Julius Caesar, which we did last year. So it seemed natural to do it this year, promoting it as a companion piece to last year’s show,” he said.

As for this year’s comedy, Falkenstein said he offered a number of suggestions to returning director Tilly Jackson who directed last year’s production of As You Like It. From that list, Jackson eventually settled on one of her personal favourites.

“Much Ado About Nothing is one of my all-time favourite Shakespeare plays,” said Jackson. “I love that it seems like a simple story on the surface, but underneath it is so multi-layered. 

“There are a few really fabulous roles for women, and also some deeply interesting explorations into toxic masculinity, society’s obsession with womens’ virtue, and how romantic love can present in different ways,” she said. “Of course, the dialogue is also clever and hilarious, and we’ve gender-bent a few key characters, which always brings out new levels of emotions and motivations.”

This year’s performances of Much Ado About Nothing will take place throughout Odell Park with audiences following the story through various locations new and old. Besides offering an evening of good fun, Bard’s Odell Park performances allow audiences the opportunity to engage with the park in a new way helping to reinforce the versatility of the city’s largest green space. 

Rebekah Chassé in performance on the Green.

Location is a big part of what makes each new Bard production unique. Besides challenging local actors and theatre artists with some of the most studied scripts ever written, the locations themselves offer an entirely new set of variables adding to the experience for both the artists and the audiences alike. 

“This can be good or bad, sometimes altering moments for the better,” said actor Scott Shannon, who is playing Coriolanus in this year’s downtown production. “But then there are the more frequent occurrences that one might refer to as intrusions. And yet, even these sounds or movements from those passing by, running into a playing space, dogs barking, that lovely motorcycle rev, the start of the rain, the bugs hanging around, all that stuff is part of the experience. 

“Sometimes those intrusions can make a moment unique, and it’s not like we’re fooling anyone about what is happening,” he said. “It’s not a movie at a theatre or at home. It’s a play and we’re all here together at the same time, performers and audience, sharing in the experience. The good and the bad. C’est la vie. That’s why I love it.”

Upcoming Performances: 

The Tragedy of Coriolanus (June 21-July 9)

Reduced price preview performance: Wednesday, June 21.Opening night performance: Saturday, June 24. Regular performances: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays June 25, 27, 30, and July 2, 4, 7 and 9. All performances begin at 7:30 PM near the corner of Queen St. and Church Street (on The Green east of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery), but patrons should arrive by 7:15 if purchasing tickets on site.

Much Ado About Nothing (June 22-July 8)

Reduced price preview performance: June 22. Opening night performance: Friday, June 23Regular performances: Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays June 28, 29, and July 1, 5, 6, and 8. All performances begin at 7:30 PM at Odell Park, but patrons should arrive by 7:15, especially if purchasing tickets at the door.

Full details and ticket information can be found at bardinthebarracks.com 

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