Freewill Players: Shakespeare in the Park

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Summer nights in July and my first thought goes to warm evenings. So why wouldn’t I want to sit in the middle of Hawrelak Park and watch a play? Can you think of a better way to spend the evening?

It rained for most of the day and I was feeling cold but eager to head to the Heritage Amphitheatre for one of my favourite festivals of the year. We left the house at 6:30 because even when you pre-purchase tickets for a particular night if the place fills up, you risk having to sit on the grass. It sounds fun, but grass isn’t as soft as I remember as a kid. As it turned out, we were able to secure second-row stage left. The gates opened at 7:45 pm and they scanned our phones, technology is cool. My daughter bought tickets for last night’s performance in the car on the way. I found myself telling her an old-person story, “I’m from a time when you didn’t pre-purchase tickets except for Rock Concerts, and then you had to camp out at the box office to have a chance to see anyone decent.” Buying in the car is still amazing to me!

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I had the forethought to bring a quilt and a scarf. I regretted not bringing my winter jacket and gloves. It was damp and 16C felt very cold for me. I bundled up and snuggled in with the program while my companions decided to take in the preshow Puppet version of the play. We were seeing Comedy of Errors but Shakespeare isn’t written in a style that makes sense without having studied it and focusing on the cadence of the language. You can get the gist of it by watching the show unfold, but having the background is helpful. The Freewill Players have a short 10 minutes synopsis preshow to help people following along. It makes it a better experience if you understand the show.

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The Hubs and Chatterbox went to the puppet tent and had a great time. They both commented on the way back to the car they commented without the puppet show they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. I admitted I had no idea what the prologue was about until the final scene, then it all made sense, but I had no trouble following the storyline. I did study Shakespeare for three years in high school (Julius Ceasar, Macbeth and Hamlet) and in University (A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Romeo and Juliette, Taming of the Shrew, Othello, King Lear and The Merchant of Venice). I felt confident I could follow along.

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There were several concession tents, one for food and one for beer and wine. There was also a souvenir tent selling shirts, squirrels and pins. Two different contests were going on, a 50/50 draw (I didn’t win) and a survey that enters you in for a dinner to Chanti’s (I didn’t win that either but the gal behind me did). I did have some popcorn at the intermission because the scullery maid ran across the stage chasing Dromio. She paused and said, “this will take several minutes, so why don’t you go get a beverage and some popcorn?” That sounded like a great idea so I gave $5 to Chatterbox and off she went.

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Not to give too much away, but one of my favourite things about the Freewill Player comedy productions is the Bollywood ending. Its fun and kitschy. Watch for no other reason than to see Jesse Gervais and Hunter Cardinal dance with their partners. They were hilarious.

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Comedy of Errors plays odd dates and Hamlet plays even dates. Pay what you will is Tuesday night and I think I might go see Hamlet or at least catch it on the weekend. I hear it is the best of the two productions and I thoroughly enjoyed Comedy of Errors so Hamlet might be worthwhile for me to head back out.

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Tickets and Showtimes available here. Remember to bring a blanket. Shakespeare in the park ends July 15th.

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2 thoughts on “Freewill Players: Shakespeare in the Park

  1. This is the first year that I have come away disappointed with the evening. I love, love, love Shakespeare in the Park. I adored Sheldon Elter as Romeo, John Uliat in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. John McDonald as Henry V. Love Jesse Gervais and Belinda Cornish in anything . Oh yes, Mark Meer as Othello.
    But the comedy this year was not up to your usual high standards. I am not sure from where that influence came but feel it was overdone.
    While I understand that in Shakespeare’s era all the actors were men, but the cross gendering confusion was too much in an already confusing play. Your attempts to be “with the times” or ” current” is so unnecessary as I am aware of LBGTQ if that was your intent.

    There were seven of us who attended together and we are Shakespeare in the Park veterans.
    We are in our fifties, sixties and seventies. We were all in agreement in our disappointment.
    Today my dental hygienist asked my opinion as she also was disappointed. We both agreed to write.
    As I am writing this, I wish I had written previously when I was also loving all the plays and familiar actors.
    I should have been praising you and thanking you for all the good times. We loved Hamlet.
    While I did feel the need to address my concern, please know that I will continue to attend until I am incapable either due to age or illness. It is one of my summer highlights.
    Thank you so much for all the wonderful years.

    ehorsford@shaw,ca

    1. “I should have been praising you and thanking you for all the good times. We loved Hamlet.
      While I did feel the need to address my concern, please know that I will continue to attend until I am incapable either due to age or illness. It is one of my summer highlights.
      Thank you so much for all the wonderful years.” Just so you know, I am not the Freewill Players nor am I affiliated with the Shakespeare festival in any way. I love my city and love to explore all it has to offer. Not everything is good or even great, but art is supposed to make you feel. and by the sounds of how disappointed you were, it certainly did. You felt something, so the intent was accomplished. I have traveled all over the world and we are pretty damn lucky to live in this amazing city. I hope you keep supporting live theatre and the arts.

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