Bard on the Beach Artistic Director: There’s so much further to go
As the 2016 season of Bard on the Beach hits its stride, VancouverTheatre.ca’s Max D’Ambrosio sat down with Artistic Director Christopher Gaze to talk about the effort required to produce the epic outdoor theatre festival.
Max D’Ambrosio: So, how is the preparation for the festival going? Any miracles or disasters? Or has it been routine?
Christopher Gaze: No disasters that I know about… there have been years! But not this year. The weather was glorious in April, May, as they put up the site. And that’s a big job, you know. We spend… to put that site up and take it down in October, it’s three quarters of a million dollars.
MD: I suppose you’re looking at the weather a bit like a sailor, sometimes.
CG: A little bit, yeah, and we’re always disheartened when it is raining, because we’ve got five or six vehicles driving all over that site, lifting stuff from here to there, and cranes, and goodness knows what. And if it rains, it just gets ugly. The ground churns up, and so on. Anyway, it didn’t! And they’re getting near the end now, because the BMO Mainstage is all done, and we’re playing Romeo and Juliet. And now Merry Wives of Windsor has dress rehearsal tonight, and away we go. And the other theatre, they’re rehearsing down there for Othello, at the moment, and they’ll switch over into Pericles in ten days or so. We’re all-systems-go, right now!
MD: Is there a production this year that’s especially close to your heart? In other words, do you play favourites?
CG: Well. You have to be careful! I can say something for all the shows. Obviously, the Romeo and Juliet that’s just opened is startling. Wonderful production. And Merry Wives, we’re doing it again because we want to expose it, make it available to many, many more people. On the Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre, we did it in there four years ago. But you can only get so many people in there, it’s a two-hundred-forty-seat theatre. The big BMO Mainstage is nearly seven hundred and fifty seats, so we can get forty or fifty thousand as opposed to ten thousand. And it won Show of the Year, that year. It’s just such accessible fun, The Merry Wives, for the new people… whether you mean a new theatre-goer, or a Shakespeare neophyte… or if you’re just trying to test the waters again, if you had a rough time in school with Shakespeare and never understood its relevance.
MD: How has your experience with acting in general, and with other aspects of the industry, informed your role as an artistic director, founder, and leading figure of Bard on the Beach?
CG: I think that in everything I did as a professional actor, I always paid attention to the managements of theatre companies. Yes, I was an actor in the plays, or a director, but I was always interested in the viability of the theatre companies. How did they put it together, financially? And as a young man growing up in the 60s, I used to talk to my father a lot about business, although I wasn’t a businessman, and it played no part in my life at all. My mother, who lives just ten minutes from here, will tell you. If you ask her, “what was Christopher like as a young man, what did he tell you about the theatre and the life he wanted to lead,” she’ll say: “Well, the one thing he did say was that he would never, ever, spend more than twenty-five minutes in an office! He wanted to be an actor.”
Well, I did want to be an actor, and I guess I still am an actor. But I’ve spent twenty-seven years in an office now, as well as being on stages and making speeches, and the whole breadth of what it means to be, as you say, a leader. I think I’ve been informed so by my father, from his business sense, from all the people I’ve looked up to and been mentored by. And there are a great many of them, because I reach out to people to help me understand: how do we do this better? Even at the age of sixty-four, as I am now, it’s a constant quest for wisdom.
Whilest Bard on the Beach does reach some pretty extraordinary artistic heights, I believe there’s so much further to go, for us and for our community, and we’ll be looking for ways to really advance, over the next decade.
Bard on the Beach
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BARD ON THE BEACH 2016 SEASON