Prime Stock Theatre saw a notable uptick in audience at this year’s Bard on Bower performances.
Every summer, the theatre company puts on free performances of Shakespeare plays outdoors at the stage in Bower Ponds as part of the Bard on Bower festival.
“The crowds were good this year – they were up probably 25 per cent from last year,” artistic director Richard Beaune said, adding the weather didn’t interfere with performances for the most part.
“We had one show delayed by about 20 minutes because of hail. We had one other show we didn’t get to finish because of rain. But mostly we had good weather and the crowds came out and stuck with us, even when the weather was looking a little iffy.”
As You Like It and Henry IV were the plays chosen this year.
“We did some unofficial surveys of audiences and one of the things I was really pleased about was the number of people who had seen Richard II last year and came back out this year to see the sequel, Henry IV,” Beaune said.
“When I asked people if they want to see Henry IV Part II, there was a really enthusiastic response from audiences. I think doing the history cycle is really paying off in terms of the commitment to the relationship audiences have with us. It’s a really exciting thing – they can come back year after year and see the same story continue. That’s a pretty rare opportunity.”
Beaune said Prime Stock Theatre exploring the possibility of putting on indoor performances where audiences will need to pay for tickets, in addition to the free performances outdoors during Bard on Bower summer festival.
“I don’t know if we’re able to do it next year – but I hope so. We certainly want to move one of our shows indoors. We still want to keep doing the shows in Bower Ponds and keeping those free,” he said.
“We’re thinking about doing something where we have a little more control over the environment and where we can really do a deeper dive into some subtle work that audiences can really appreciate – it’s a little tougher to do outdoors.”
Bard on Bower helps connect the performers with the community, Beaune added.
“You’re right out there and you’re in direct contact with the whole community. You really feel the connection. It’s a great open door for people to come experience (the arts). They don’t have to make a big commitment to come down. Even people who are just walking through the park can take it in,” he said.
“It’s a nice way for people to decide if they’re interested in it. They might not have known they’re interested until they walk by and say, ‘That’s actually pretty cool.’ I think there’s a real excitement for what we’re building. The festival is growing and the team involved is growing and getting stronger every year.”
For more information on Prime Stock Theatre, visit www.primestocktheatre.com.