Four Reasons You Can’t Spend Your Summer Indoors

For people who spend six months of the year oppressed by snow, it’s no wonder that most Ottawans look forward to summer breezes, beer on the patio and barbecues.  And although in the heat of the day, the cool air conditioning of a traditional theatre venue certainly appeals, there’s no reason why, as the sun sets, we can’t pull up a chair or a blanket and a cool drink and relax in the great outdoors instead.

As You Like ItOutdoor theatre is somewhat of a tradition in Ottawa, with three local companies presenting Shakespeare and other classics like they were meant to be seen, in twilight throughout the months of July and August.  In our outdoor theatre series we’ll be previewing productions by three local companies:  Bear & Co., A Company of Fools and Odyssey Theatre, as well as the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, located in Prescott (Don’t roll your eyes at me!  It’s barely an hour away and many members of the creative team are from Ottawa. Go!)

So, what’s on the menu?  We’ll be giving you a more complete preview of each show in the next few weeks, along with soundbites from each of the companies and exclusive photos, but for now, here’s the quick list of what coming:

Henry VA Company of Fools presents Henry V (Shakespeare):  With the lead role played by Margo MacDonald, this play promises a battle that is beyond ordinary.  Show dates July 2 - August 18, 2012. Full details on their website, or read our preview.

Bear & Co. presents As You Like It (Shakespeare):  A tale of love, loyalty, friendship and a fight for the throne, with some unexpected twists on the classic tale.  Show dates July 4-27, 2012.  Full details on their website, or read our preview.

St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival presents Othello / A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare):  Deception and jealousy are the keystones of the tragedy of Othello, while magic, fairies and trickery provide a lighter fare at A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Show dates July 14 - August 18, 2012.  Full details on their website, or read our preview.

Odyssey Theatre presents The Game of Love and Chance (Marivaux):  Two lovers pose as their servants and vice versa.  Madness ensues!  Show dates July 26 - August 26, 2012.  Full details on their website, or check out our preview.

The Game of Love and ChanceNow that you have the low-down on the shows, here are some tips on making the most of your outdoor theatre experience.  The difference between outdoor theatre and indoor theatre is not unlike the difference between staying at a hotel and camping.  There are certainly positives - it’s cheaper, there’s a more relaxed atmosphere, and you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.  But the flip sides of these ‘positives’ is, of course, that because you’re not paying the overhead for all that added comfort of the venue, you’ll need to take those needs into your own hands.  Some things to consider before heading out:

Seating:  Most outdoor venues are created on-the-fly.  The troupe shows up, possibly pitches a tent for changing and a set for performing (or possibly not) and pretty much points you to an area to sit.  It is highly recommended that you bring either a blanket to sit on or a fold-up chair.  Even in outdoor amphitheatres, seating can be a bit spartan, so bringing your own cushion is a must, especially for Shakespeare, which can run 2 1/2 to 3 hrs.

Food:  Generally a bring-your-own deal, so if you like to nosh, keep that in mind.  This is one of the things that’s a plus about outdoor theatre - whereas indoor venues limit you to a quick bite or drink at intermission, you can, technically, eat and drink right through an outdoor performance.  If this is your plan, however, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.  First of all, be courteous to the performers.  Quiet food and drink only, please.  Secondly, keep in mind that bathroom facilities may be limited.  Facilities are open throughout the summer at Ottawa parks, but whether they’ll be open after dark is unlikely.

Comfort:  Listen to your mother.  Wear a hat.  Bring a sweater.  Put on sunscreen. Umbrella. Bug spray. You get the idea.

Have any other tips or suggestions?  Leave them in the comments below!  

Cover photo credit: R. Belford


Reena Belford

About Reena Belford

Reena Belford is a sometimes actress with a passion for promoting and supporting Ottawa's local theatre community. She keeps Production Ottawa's calendar (Ottawa's most complete theatre calendar) up-to-date and is a semi-regular contributor and writer.

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