The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival village at Vancouver's Vanier Park.
The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival village at Vancouver's Vanier Park.

With Vancouver’s unusually snowy winter and a wet start to spring, Vancouver theatre-goers are no doubt casting their eye towards summer. And there is no better harbinger of warmer weather than Bard on the Beach, which opens its 28th season with Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

This year, the annual summer festival will feature four classic Shakespeare plays, plus a short-run contemporary drama. Together they have been designed to transport audiences from a mythical past, to modern-day Venice, and contemporary Vancouver.

Opening the festival on the main stage is audience favourite, Much Ado About Nothing (Jun 1-Sep 23). Set in 1959 Italy, the production is inspired by the era’s glamorous and extravagant Italian films. The comedy plays on alternating nights to The Winter’s Tale (Jun 8-Sep 22), Shakespeare’s magical and poignant family drama set in mythical kingdoms in Sicily and Bohemia.

On the smaller Howard Family Stage, award-winning Canadian actor and director Nigel Shawn Williams will direct a provocative staging of The Merchant of Venice (Jun 22-Sep 16), set in contemporary Italy. It will alternate with Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Jun 29-Sep 17).

Completing the 2017 lineup is a short-run production of Shylock (Sep 6-15) by British Columbia playwright, Mark Leiren-Young. Presented to complement The Merchant of Venice, the play imagines a modern-day actor playing Shylock as he wrestles with issues of censorship and political correctness, themes which continue to resonate.

Along with the quartet of plays, Bard on the Beach returns with audience favourites including the popular Bard-B-Q & Fireworks, performances by Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, and more.

The 2017 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival returns to Vanier Park from June 1 through September 23. Visit for tickets and information.