The longest-running outdoor summer theatre event in the St. John’s area is celebrating the last of its teenage years.
Founded in 1993 by Aiden Flynn and Danielle Irvine, the first production for the Shakespeare By The Sea Festival was “The Tempest” directed by Tony Chadwick, in Logy Bay. Since that time the community-based, charitable organization has produced plays for growing audiences at various venues in the city and beyond.
“We’ll be gearing up this year for our 20th season next year,” says an enthusiastic Krista Hann.
“It’s going to be a year-long celebration honouring those who have contributed to its success and offering lots of great events.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we will be 20,” adds Hann, who in the past three years has taken on diverse roles with the company including that of writer, director, board member and marketing committee chair.
The company will begin auditions May 7-8 for “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” and two new shows — one for kids, written by Phillip Goodridge, the other featuring Sherlock Holmes, written by Chris Hibbs.
Auditions will be held at the Reid Theatre, Arts and Administration Building at Memorial University. All acting positions are volunteer.
While anyone can audition, Hann says because of the hours and “crazy schedules” auditions are generally limited to age 18 and older.
“And Shakespeare didn’t write a lot of parts for kids,” she points out. “Even ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are heavy roles. That’s why we have our own children’s (family-friendly) show.”
Still, those younger than 18 who have a sincere interest in auditioning shouldn’t be discouraged.
“We recommend they come out — it’s all about exposure and experience. So if someone is underage and truly interested, then yes, please do,” Hann says.
“We’ve had kids audition and they come back every year and we’re just waiting for them to reach the right age, so the possibility is there.”
New this season
The regular summer festival doesn’t get underway until July. But this year the company is introducing a new pre-launch of the season with performances of “The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)” May 6-8.
Hann is hoping the pre-season peek will encourage anyone interested in acting to try out for a part in upcoming productions.
“We’re remounting one of our favourite shows from the previous summer just to say: hey, we’re here again, come and audition and see what you could be acting in,” she says.
Performances will take place Friday and Sunday, May 6 and 8, at the Masonic Temple. The location for Saturday’s show will be announced later.
Along with activities like bonfires and bowling, the organization has set up several educational perks for its volunteer actors.
“During the May 24th weekend we have an exclusive offer to cast members where we fly in experts for workshops,” Hann explains.
“Last year we had a vocal expert and a text analysis expert from the Stratford Festival of Canada. This year we have a similar workshop planned.”
The company is also offering a combat arts workshop to help actors safely and accurately execute staged fight scenes.
“The workshop is for company members only. We’ve partnered with Jean-Francois Gagnon, a world-class fencer.”
Gagnon is a nationally renowned fight director who works at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal.
“He will work with members on stage combat in the broad sense, and on specific shows that might need extra work.”
A new kids’ show is planned for weekend afternoons at Harbourside Park.
“It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s Shakespeare inspired,” Hann says.
The candlelit production at the Newman Wine Vaults based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes is new this year as well.
“The Vaults show is a brand new one, written by actor and resident photographer Chris Hibbs, who’s also done some writing with Robert Chafe, so we’re really excited about that.”
“Twelfth Night,” directed by Hann, will kick off the season July 10, “at the lovely and picturesque Topsail Beach.” It will run 6 p.m., Sundays and Mondays to Aug. 15 at the beach’s amphitheatre.
Steve O’Connell who played Sgt. Daniel Hood on “Republic of Doyle,” will be directing “Hamlet” which will run 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, July 22 to season end Aug. 20 at the Tattoo Field, Signal Hill.
(Visit sbts.info/NowPlaying.aspx for schedule).
The show must go on, but not without funding, and so throughout the year Shakespeare By The Sea holds several other events.
The Finer Things fundraiser takes place at the Newman Wine Vaults in October.
“We have a wine connoisseur who makes suggestions for red and white wines and talks about the regions they come from, the winery and the people. The wines are all paired with complementary cheeses from Belbin’s Grocery. And Britannia Teas does a tea tasting with teas of different aromas and from different regions.”
The Feast of Fools fundraiser, held each year in April, comes with a three-course meal, live music, entertainment and a packed house.
“We’ve had to hold it at a different place each year because we seem to outgrow the place we had the year before.”
At the Feast of Fools held earlier this month, Shakespeare By The Sea presented the Alumni of the Year for 2010 to playwright Robert Chafe. Chafe, author of 15 stage scripts and co-author of 10, won the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 2010.
Words, Words, Words
Each year Shakespeare By The Sea holds a sonnet contest called Words, Words, Words, inviting submissions from adults and high school and junior high school students.
The winner in this year’s adult category was Wendy Rodgers for her sonnet, “On the Tongue.”
C.B. O’Brien, and Rosemary Norman, shared the first runner-up prize, O’Brien for “K-T & Me” and Norman for “Dervish at rest.”
Catherine Mason’s “Square” was chosen as second runner-up.
Three Grade 12 students were awarded for their offerings in the High School Category. William Power (St. Bonaventure’s College) was the top winner with his sonnet, “Time.” First runner-up was Chelsea Ireland, (Prince of Wales Collegiate) for “The Secret” and an untitled piece by Jane Walker, (Prince of Wales Collegiate) captured the second runner-up prize.
Grade 8 student Kylie Hynes (Mount Pearl Intermediate), submitted the winning entry, “Slumber Deep” in the Junior High School Category. First runner-up was Jack Etchegary, Grade 9 (St. Paul’s Junior High) for “Sing.” Second runner-up went to Lesley Kendall, Grade 9, (Leary’s Brook Junior High) for “Simply Sweet Seduction.”
Winners received a Shakespeare By The Sea Festival gift pack valued at approximately $140 and a $100 cash prize.
Judges for the contest were CBC Radio Weekend AM host Angela Antle; Jean Graham, writer and Shakespeare By The Sea Festival board member and Telegram entertainment editor Ken Simmons.