It’s back, it’s live and it’s here in our own beautiful, oceanside backyard.
Beach House Theatre Society presents its third season of Shakespeare – and second of Robert Munsch – next month in Crescent Beach.
Imaginative costumes and scenery, first-class technical work by technical director Geoff McEvoy and a cast of eager, young professional-calibre players are all set to transform the parking lot at Blackie Spit once more into a theatrical environment that returning actor James Walker calls “its own magical, little village.”
But live-theatre fans shouldn’t wait too long to buy tickets. While there’s still a window of opportunity to reserve seats, with only one week of performances, it’s a window that will rapidly close.
For this year’s main production, Beach House is presenting one of the bard’s loopiest and best-loved farces, The Comedy of Errors (Aug. 12-17, 8 p.m.).
Adding even more swashbuckling appeal, Beach House’s version is in decidedly piratical vein – a production set in the Caribbean in 1725.
And Beach House is repeating a winning formula introduced last year by presenting another show aimed at exposing children to the idea of live theatre.
Like last year’s Munsch Ado About Nothing, The Three Munschketeers (Aug. 11-15, 11 a.m.) is a family-friendly show based on the popular children’s books of Robert Munsch: featuring Matt Falletta and Courtney Shields, both players who connected with audiences in 2013.
Beach House creators and artistic directors Candace Radcliffe and Rick Harmon acknowledged that, in year three, the company is no longer an untested product – there’s no need to “reinvent the wheel” each season.
By the same token, they said, there are always new challenges to be met and mastered, aside from a general determination to build on past strengths.
Again, the season emphasizes Beach House’s community roots and a mission to involve youth in theatre, they added – a natural given their educational background (Radcliffe is current, and Harmon former, head of Earl Marriott Secondary’s drama department).
Munsch show stage manager Samantha Paras, now in the stage-craft program at Douglas College, started with Beach House when she was in Grade 11.
And this year’s Beach House scholarship winner, Marriott grad Riley Leiper, who’s heading to Capilano College in the fall, has been operating complex sound cues for the company since she first volunteered in Grade 10.
They’re also bringing back two popular players – Aaron Holt (Sebastian in 2013’s Twelfth Night) and CTC nominee James Walker (Theseus in 2012’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – as comedy leads.
They’re double cast as two sets of like-named identical twins – Antipholus (Holt, master) and Dromio (Walker, servant) – who have co-existed, blissfully unaware of their corresponding doubles, in the cities of Syracuse and Ephesus.
Not a problem, one might say – until the day that one set of twins stumbles into the city of the other…
Needless to say, there’s plenty of opportunity for the actors to exploit the comedic mayhem and confusion that results when mistaken identities pile error upon error. Given Shakespeare’s characterization of the cities of Syracuse and Ephesus, and the coastal, island landscape suggested, setting the play in the West Indies of the early 1700s seemed a natural fit, said Harmon.
“There’s a little bit of a lawless feel to the times,” he said, “as though the towns of Syracuse and Ephesus are areas where privateers and pirates might have settled.”
Radcliffe noted she and Harmon have done a slight re-arrangement of scenes to provide a more upbeat beginning.
“The actual script opens with a very serious scene of a man facing execution for breaking trade laws,” she said. “We’re opening with the dance and festive fun and high comedy elements of the play.”
“It’s also Shakespeare’s shortest play, and one of his most accessible,” Harmon noted.
One of the biggest challenges is to make the business of two sets of twins being mistaken for each other work – and Harmon said the best choice is to have one actor play each set, augmented by some “cheating” and body doubles.”
“We put it to both actors, at the auditions, whether they’d be up to the challenge,” Harmon said.
“The first thing I said to Rick was how long are both roles,” Walker said.
“He gave me the word count – 65 lines to 450 – and said ‘you can do it.’ Regardless of what anyone else says, I’m going to get it by opening night.”
To make the comedy work, the changes between both Dromios have to be subtle.
“Hopefully that will play out and come out,” he said. “Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse have two very different upbringings – while they’re both servants, one is of the higher strata and one is of the lower strata.”
Holt, a 2013 graduate of Douglas College’s theatre program, said he’s delighted to be back as both versions of Antipholus.
“I knew at the end of the last show that I’d be coming back to audition for this year,” he said.
“I love working with these guys – it’s really special working with something that’s relatively new and seeing it grow each year.”
For reservations and information, visit beachhousetheatre.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org