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Backed by picturesque Georgian Bay, it's theatre as you like it (4 photos)

'Bard on the Bay' is presented by Georgian Bay Theatre on the waterfront at the Collingwood Shipyards Amphitheatre

You may have noticed a scene at the Collingwood Shipyards Amphitheatre on Sunday and Monday nights.

The scene is straight out of a Shakespeare play and is put on by a theatre company called Theatre Georgian Bay. For the last three years, the company has put on a program called Bard on the Bay, which features actors performing a work of Shakespeare in the open air with Georgian Bay as the backdrop.

The shows are pay-what-you-can, though the suggested donation is $10. There are four performances left including Monday, July 30 at 6 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 5 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Monday, Aug. 6 at 6 p.m.

CollingwoodToday reached out to Theatre Georgian Bay to learn a bit more about Bard on the Bay. We talked to Theatre Georgian Bay collective member Julia Beaulieu. Here’s what she had to say:

CollingwoodToday: When did Theatre Georgian Bay start doing Bard on the Bay productions in Collingwood and what made you start?

Julia Beaulieu: Theatre Georgian Bay had their inaugural season three years ago; at that time Bard on the Bay opened at the Shipyards Amphitheatre with Twelfth Night directed by our collective member, and co-founder Cam Oates. That was a big year for him and for us – he acted and directed and our producer also took on a small acting role. We quickly realized how big the responsibilities were and not to overload ourselves in the future!

I personally auditioned to be a part of the collective when they first came to Collingwood. I had decided to start an event planning business (Your Royal Treatment) in hopes to help bring more arts, culture and absolute adoration for theatre to the community. After graduating a triple-threat college program, I knew that theatre was the right choice for me but it broke my heart that the opportunities back “home” were few and far between.

Theatre Georgian Bay had a mandate to produce both classical texts as well as new Canadian work and I knew it was a perfect fit from the start, having a company being created with the same morals of why I was here seemed too good to be true. I was ecstatic when I opened the email that stated they wanted me on board. Although I wasn’t involved in their first Bard on the Bay performance due to prior commitments I have been knee deep in Shakespeare ever since and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With Theatre Georgian Bay I have been given many unique opportunities. I have directed a new and developing musical, produced a cabaret, stage managed a show that was a brilliantly written two-hander with an entirely female team, and even had the opportunity to explore some of my dream roles; last with Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and this year with Touchstone and Phebe (not to mention the musician Amiens as well) in As You Like It.

CT: Who is involved in this year's Bard on the Bay performances? Are they volunteers? Is everyone involved a professional/trained actor or do you have amateurs as well?

JB: For our Bard on the Bay performance, as well as the rest of our season we will cast from within our collective, from there we source our local actors both professional and amateur as we want to give those around us as much opportunity as possible, we want to celebrate the outstanding talent in the Georgian Bay area and also provide those who may not have had an experience like this with the know-how and courage to continue to go after their dreams.

With that said we have an incredible front of house team this year (and every year) that is comprised entirely of volunteers. We could never be able to pull off what we do without them.

CT: Do you always choose a Shakespeare play for this? What made you choose As You Like It this year?

JB: Bard is a term often used to refer to Shakespeare, however less often it can be referred to as an author of classic text or a poet. This, excitingly, will allow us to explore more classic theatre, such as The Importance of Being Earnest as we move forward and continue to grow in the years to come.

The system we have for choosing our Bard shows is very straightforward however it was almost an entirely different show this year! The collective members of Theatre Georgian Bay meet after the run of every show, as well as quarterly to discuss our company, growth, and what we gain from each experience. During these meetings we also propose shows that we want to explore the possibility of producing, and as we have a Bard on the Bay annually we have many discussions around which Shakespeare shows we best think represents the community, are workable in the space, are castable within the collective and community – and what finalized our decision this year was who our director was and what they felt was the best fit! Stay tuned for next year’s choice!

CT: How do you adapt the performance for the amphitheatre venue?

JB: Adapting to a venue that essentially has no technical component or a backstage is both a blessing and a curse (perhaps respectively in that order but you didn’t hear that from me). It makes our lighting cues very simplistic – and by that, I mean we rely entirely on the sun to light our performance venue. Having no lighting and performing in broad daylight also means that there is nowhere to hide in moments that would often be in a spotlight or for entrances and exits which requires us to always be in character.

Quick changes in a venue with no enclosed walls also presents itself a unique challenge. Especially when we have to set and tear down after every day. We learnt the extreme difficulties of this last year when we had “partitions” set along the hill – which were great for hiding behind – but I’ve never had the need to use so many power tools in my life.

We also don’t have sound; which means we have to use our training in voice to project without yelling so we can still convey the emotion behind the text, it’s a lot of trial and error and rehearsals to discover where the sound travels best, and where it gets lost and blocking (where the actors stand at any given moment) to reflect that so that we don’t lose important moments and the audience follows us along our journey from beginning to end.

CT: I understand the show is pay-what-you-can, how does the money you collect get used?

JB: The money that we collect from this performance goes to a myriad of things, of course, we first have to put money into the company to help us pay for things such as our insurance. Beyond that, we have to cover the costs of our composer, our set, props, costumes, printing fees, and we always want to be able to put on another show!

With what may be left after we pay back expenses and the company itself it is spread amongst the professionals that we work with, from director to producer to actor. We are skilled tradespeople – working off donations and the time that we put into the show often the math works out to less than $5. They aren’t kidding when they tell you not to go into theatre for the money but for the love of art and the importance of storytelling.

For more on Theater Georgian Bay, click here.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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