Bard in the Barracks bring two of Shakespeare’s plays to life with performances in Barracks Square and Odell Park.
There’s a lot to see and do in Fredericton during the summer months. From outdoor concerts and walking tours to cultural festivals and outdoor theatre events, there is no excuse to stay cooped up indoors during the finest months of the year. Of the many to-dos that start the summer season off, Fredericton’s outdoor Shakespeare company, Bard in the Barracks, is one of many annual highlights of the season. Now entering their thirteenth year producing high-quality theatre in downtown Fredericton’s Barracks Square and Odell Park, the company is set to open two productions next week.
Director Len Falkenstein has been with the company from the beginning and enjoys the challenge of running tandem productions, keeping all the readings and rehearsals on track leading into the public performances.
“There are a lot of moving parts to these productions,” said Falkenstein. “There are two different plays, two different locations, twenty seven actors in total, plus a couple of musicians. There are also fight rehearsals in addition to regular rehearsals, and several designers involved in making these shows happen.
“It is definitely a little bit of organized chaos, but at thirteen years in, we kind of have this down so it’s a bit of a well-oiled chaos machine,” he said. “What really helps is that everyone is well trained, knows their job, and gets it done. Our time is tight but we use it efficiently, and it’s a great benefit that I have such talented people to work with. Both our veteran actors and our relative rookies have an intuitive feel for Shakespeare and bring a lot of wonderful things to the table all on their own. This makes it a wonderfully collaborative environment and I’m less directing than coordinating the work of multiple talented artists toward a common goal.”
This season finds the company revisiting last year’s popular production of The Comedy of Errors in Barracks Square as well as introducing a new production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedy Cymbeline for audiences in Odell Park.
“The Comedy of Errors is a really fun, entertaining show and audience loved it a lot last year and we drew great crowds,” said Falkenstein. “We were a little unlucky with the weather though, with a couple of rainouts, and because we had a limited run to begin with we wished we’d had more shows to allow more people to see it. So we thought why not bring it back this year? Plus it’s a show that just works so beautifully in Barracks Square, moreso than many other Shakespeare plays.”
Location plays a big part in the Bard in the Barracks experience. In Barracks Square, the historic garrison buildings, which play a defining role in the city’s downtown landscape, often become part of the set. In the past, the company has incorporated the balconies and the casements into the show adding design elements to create a one of a kind set that support everything from castle ramparts to village markets.
In Odell Park, the many pathways and natural canopies and clearings provide an impressive backdrop to stage a play. Audiences follow the actors from location to location moving through the park as the story unfolds around them in a truly immersive and captivating way.
“This is our first time producing Cymbeline,” said Falkenstein. “Apart from remounts, we haven’t repeated a show yet.
“Though Cymbeline is less well known than some of Shakespeare’s other plays, it’s always been one of my favorites,” he said. “It is wild, wacky, epic, and a great mix of both comedy and drama with history, romance, and battle scenes mixed in to boot. It is also very well suited to performance in Odell Park, in particular for the scenes set in the wilds of Wales—a great play for an immersive adventure in the forest.”
This year’s productions bring together a combined cast of 27 actors and musicians including a few who have chosen the double-duty of acting in both productions.
Scott Harris is one of eight actors working in both productions this season.
“The challenge of playing more than one character is trying to make them as individual as possible,” said Harris. “Both The Comedy of Errors and Cymbeline have ‘false identity revealed’ scenes so I am learning how to react to such stimulus in two separate ways, often without lines to express that difference. This challenge also brings a blessing in that it makes the actor work very specifically, making the acting very focused and highly selective.”
Bard in the Barracks kicks off next week with performances running until July 8. For full details, visit bardinthebarracks.com
See you in the park!
What else you need to know:
The Comedy of Errors in Barracks Square: June 22-24, 26, 29, and July 2-3.
Cymbeline in Odell Park: June 24, 27-28, June 30, and July 4-8.
There are no shows on June 25 and July 1. June 24 performances are pay-what-you-wish.
Single tickets range from $12-$18 with discounts for families and groups.
Two-show passes, offering the patron’s second show at half price, are also available, for $15-$30.
Bard in the Barracks is made possible with support from the City of Fredericton, Downtown Fredericton, Picaroons, The Radical Edge, Valley Graphics, the New brunswick College of Craft and Design and UNB Fredericton.