In the west, there is an alternative performing arts season, separate from fall and winter. It takes place largely under the stars, with the sprawling Prairie skies and mountains, trees, inlets and rivers thrown in as no-charge set design.
It mixes bug spray with the Bard, corkscrews with pas de deux and show tunes with full moons. And it is not to be missed. Here, a short list for summer of performing arts under the Western Canadian stars.
Don’t forget to bring a blanket!
Bard on the Beach
Kits Point, Vanier Park, Vancouver; June 6 to Sept. 22
Lysistrata, the Greek classic that premiered in 411 BC, has been adapted by Bard on the Beach company members Jennifer Wise and Lois Anderson (who also directs) into an arch political dramedy about how art and humour can be the sharpest tools in the political toolkit. Also in the schedule: Macbeth, Timon of Athens and As You Like It.
$24 and up; bardonthebeach.org
Heritage Amphitheatre, Hawrelak Park, Edmonton; June 19 to July 15
Comedy of Errors tells the tale of the misadventures of a pair of identical twins in ancient Syracuse that sounds sort of like the synopsis to a 17th-century Farrelly brothers movie. It will be performed on odd days and matinees in repertory with Hamlet, in a 1,400-seat amphitheatre tent, with 400 hillside seats under the stars.
$22 to $32 (kids under 10 free); freewillshakespeare.com
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
Riverbank of Saskatchewan River, downtown Saskatoon; July 4 to Aug. 19
Don’t miss Titus A. Puppet Revenge (July 12 to Aug. 19), a play on Titus Andronicus, probably the most Tarantino-esque Shakespeare drama. It’s long on swift, pitiless puppet-on-puppet violence. Also in the summer lineup: Hamlet and Merry Wives of Windsor, both opening in early July.
$18 to $32; shakespearesask.com
Shakespeare by the Bow
Prince’s Island Park, Calgary; June 29 to Aug. 19
Some of Calgary’s top emerging actors perform Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of Shakespeare’s romantic comic farces, on an island that was submerged in the 2013 flood, and has emerged more beautiful than ever.
Pay what you will (suggested donation: $20); theatrecalgary.com
Theatre Under the Stars
Stanley Park, Vancouver; July 4 to Aug. 18
The true story of 42nd Street, which tells the rags-to-riches musical story of Peggy, the understudy who becomes a star, is actually worthy of a sequel. On opening night in 1980, 42nd Street director Gower Champion died, a few hours before curtain, but not before finishing his Broadway musical that became a smash hit! (Also in rep: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella ).
$30 to $49; tuts.ca
The Canadian Passion Play
The Badlands, near Drumheller, Alta.; July 6 to July 22
Aaron Krogman plays Jesus in the 25th anniversary production of The Canadian Passion Play, which combines Old Testament biblical storytelling with a site-specific spectacle that includes live animals, and lighting design so heavenly – showtime is magic hour in the Badlands – it feels as if you went to sleep and woke up in a Terrence Malick film (mixed with some Me Gibson and Marty Scorsese).
$30 to $71; canadianpassionplay.com
Kildonan Park, Winnipeg, July 10 to July 22 and Aug. 14 to Aug. 30
Be sure to take in Breaking Up is Hard To Do, a new jukebox musical featuring the songs of Neil Sedaka, in an amphitheatre setting – one of Canada’s largest open-air theatres – backdropped by Winnipeg’s gorgeous elm trees, the Red River, and lots of ducks. (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs Aug. 14 to Aug. 30).
Caravan Farm Theatre
Armstrong, B.C., in the Okanagan Valley; July 24 to Aug. 26
Law of the Land, a 1982 musical comedy by Peter Anderson, is a musical farce about the collision of politicians promoting an energy project and the less enthusiastic locals. Law of the Land blends mask, music, physical comedy and political satire to create a summer show that sounds sort of perfect for a province in the age of Kinder Morgan and its pipeline debates.
$20 and up; caravanfarmtheatre.com
Ballet in the Park
Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg, July 25 to July 27
More than 20,000 people gather under the stars in historic Assiniboine Park to watch the internationally acclaimed Royal Winnipeg Ballet perform a selection of pieces by the resident company, as well as students from the RWB’s professional and recreational dance programs. (If you want to make a day of it, there’s also polar bears at the nearby zoo, and starting in 2020, a biodome garden.)
Victoria, Aug. 5
Last year’s Symphony Splash, which drew 40,000 to Victoria’s Inner Harbour to listen to the Victoria Symphony perform selections from Peer Gynt and a few other Scandinavian-sourced composers, on a floating barge, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. This year’s repertoire will be announced July 7.
Free, donation suggested; victoriasymphony.ca