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Frank Cox-O'Connell in HAMLET - Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park
Frank Cox-O'Connell in HAMLET - Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

Shakespeare In High Park, 2016: Everything You Need To Know

Picture of Alix Hall
Updated: 20 July 2016
For 34 consecutive seasons, Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park has been bringing the Bard’s legacy to Toronto audiences; outdoor and beneath the stars, Shakespeare’s classics are performed all summer long in the High Park Amphitheatre. Shakespeare in High Park is Canada’s longest-running outdoor theatre event and is a summer staple for over 30,000 annual attendees. 2016’s double bill covers both tragedy and comedy, featuring Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well. Shakespeare wasn’t kidding when he wrote, ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’ –so take advantage of those midsummer nights. For a quick guide to all things Shakespeare in High Park, 2016, read on.

There’s Tragedy

Surprisingly, this is the first time that Shakespeare in High Park has performed Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. You’re likely well versed in Hamlet’s plot, but if you need a refresher from high school English class: a young prince, Hamlet (Frank Cox-O’Connell), has some considerable angst. Tormented by the death of his father the King, and the union of his mother Gertrude (Rachel Jones) and Uncle Claudius (Alon Nashman), Hamlet takes action to avenge his father’s death. This task proves pretty difficult, and Hamlet’s world heads on a swift downward spiral. Director Birgit Schreyer Duarte’s (Canadian Stage Dramaturg & Artistic Associate) strips back this classic with contemporary staging, shining Shakespeare’s most famed royal family in a thought-provoking new light.

Frank Cox-O'Connell in HAMLET - Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

Frank Cox-O’Connell in HAMLET – Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

There’s (Slightly) Lighthearted Fare

The fairytale comedy All’s Well That End’s Well is rarely performed, with some critics referring to it as one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ since it’s not quite a comedy, not quite a drama. At the heart of the story is Helen (Mina James), your classic antiheroine, who is bent on winning the affections of Count Bertram (Kaleb Alexander). After curing the King of France‘s fistula, Helen decides Bertram shall be her reward. Her none-too-plussed new husband immediately heads to the Italian warfront with his wingman Parolles (Qasim Khan). Director Ted Witzel shakes things up in more ways than one, as he puts a brilliant satirical, contemporary spin on the production. Expect a comedic, upbeat performance with modern music and script changes (for example, ‘knave’ is replaced with the abrasive ‘slut’ – sure to grab the attention of contemporary audiences). Happy endings are infamously elusive in Shakespearean plays, and All’s Well That Ends Well is no exception.

Mina James & Kaleb Alexander in All's Well That Ends Well - Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

Mina James & Kaleb Alexander in All’s Well That Ends Well – Photo Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

2016 is Shakespeare 400

2016 marks the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death, and the anniversary is being celebrated the world over. With performances, lectures, and consortiums being held across the globe, you don’t have to be in England to take part in the fun – enjoy a bit of Shakespeare right here in Toronto.

Collaboration

The productions are presented by Canadian Stage, in collaboration with the Department of Theatre, School of the Arts Media, Performance & Design at York University. From York University Theatre faculty members Teresa Przybylski (Set Design – Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well) and Shawn Kerwin (Costume Design – All’s Well That Ends Well) to Costume Designer Michelle Tracey (Hamlet), a recent graduate of York’s Theatre Production and Design program, Shakespeare in High Park is truly a collaborative process between established and newcomers in Toronto’s theatre scene. Also getting in on the action are York Undergraduate students, taking on the roles of apprentices and assistants, under the artistic guidance of York faculty members and professional theatre artists.

Ensemble - All's Well That Ends Well - Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

Ensemble – All’s Well That Ends Well – Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann | Courtesy of Shakespeare in High Park

Pack A Picnic

The only thing more enjoyable than watching Shakespeare under the stars is watching Shakespeare under the stars with some really good cheese. Packing a picnic, of course, is optional. But you are warned in advance: you’ll be jealous of the many snacks in your line of vision.

All's Well That Ends Well Set | © Alix Hall

All’s Well That Ends Well Set | © Alix Hall 

Pack A Blanket

You’ll be sitting on the ground for the 90-minute performances, so pack a blanket or something comfortable to sit on. The ground might be a bit damp, so plan in advance.

 

Dress Accordingly

Not only is Shakespeare in High Park under the stars, but it’s potentially under the clouds, rain, humidity, and other weather factors. So pack a sweater, or raincoat if the forecast calls for it. Heavy rain can lead to performances being rained out, but if it’s a light drizzle, the show will go on. London’s Globe Theatre was open to the elements, so just think of it as an authentic experience.

 

Admission is Pay-What-You-Can

Each performance is pay-what-you-can (suggested $20 contribution), with the option to pay with debit or credit at the entrance. Advanced $25 premium seats can be reserved online. Backstage tours, youth nights and pre-show workshops for groups are also available.

 

 

📅 June 30th – September 3rd, 2016 | Gates open at 6 pm

Hamlet runs from June 30th to September 3rd with performances on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8 pm.

All’s Well That Ends Well runs from July 1 to Sept. 4 with performances on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 8 pm.

Both performances run approximately 90 minutes without intermission.

📍  Shakespeare in High Park, High Park Amphitheatre, 1873 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 368 3110