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.

Bard on the Beach won’t be pitching its iconic red and white tents in Vanier Park this summer as the annual Shakespeare Festival is the latest arts organization to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, founding artistic director Christopher Gaze and executive director Claire Sakaki say their team had spent the past month exploring what might be possible for the season given the impact of COVID-19. Unable to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, they made the call to cancel.

“It has now become clear to us that if we stage a Festival in the park this summer, we won’t be able to ensure the health and well-being of all those people who would gather together at our site and in turn, be in contact with others. And so, we have made the deeply painful decision to cancel our season. We know the impact it will have on so many people we care about – and we are heartsick about that – but we are sure that we are making the responsible and necessary choice.”

Gaze goes onto say the Festival intends to reassemble the same teams to present this year’s cancelled lineup in its 2021 season. “Each production’s concept is unique and innovative, and we’re thrilled that the promise of each of them will survive and be fulfilled next summer,” he says in the statement.

The shows to be moved to next summer are Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the drama Henry V on the BMO Mainstage. At the same time, the Douglas Campbell Theatre will see a restaging of the 2015 Jazz Age production of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Erin Shields’Paradise Lost.

“We know that the cancellation of our full slate of over 200 performances will have a significant financial impact on the livelihoods of the people who rely on us for a large portion of their annual income – as well as on our organization,” says Sakaki in the statement. “We are deeply troubled by those facts. But we believe we must make the decision to cancel – and make it now – for the safety of all and for the longer-term financial health of our company.”

Patrons who had already purchased tickets have several options, including 2021 ticket credits, charitable tax-receipted donations, and full refunds. Visit bardonthebeach.org for more information.