toronto outdoor theatre

Toronto outdoor theatre preview 2012

In the summer, an exciting thing happens to the stories we tell under the lights. They're taken outside the black box and shared under the stars. While we lose some of the technical wizardry that can be created in precise conditions, the outdoor setting brings an undefinable magic of its own. Here's a roundup of what to expect from this year's outdoor summer theatre.

Macbeth / Humber River Shakespeare Company / June 10 - August 5
It's hard to believe that the Humber River Shakespeare Company is now in its fifth season. The company first presented Twelfth Night in communities along the Humber River in 2008. I caught their 2010 production of The Taming of the Shrew on the beautiful Old Mill grounds — it was cleverly done. They've chosen to present Macbeth this season. The Scottish play with the title-hungry lead lends itself to a wooded setting, albeit one with a stormier backdrop.

Dusk Dances / June 23 - August 26
One of my favourite summer arts experiences is Dusk Dances, a company that's been touring their programme for 18 seasons. After enjoying live music from community performers, audiences are taken throughout the park to sample a diverse selection of energetic and upbeat dance pieces. The experience is enriched as the crowd swells with on-lookers that join in the fun. With stops in McGregor, Neilson, Withrow, and Earlscourt Parks, and PWYC admission, there is no excuse to miss this outdoor dance show.

A Midsummer Night's Dream / Shakespeare in High Park / June 26 - September 2
To mark the 30th anniversary of Shakespeare in High Park, Canadian Stage puts the Bard front and centre (it was previously called The Dream in High Park). This year, they've recruited Richard Rose to direct the playwright's most famous comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Last year's The Winter's Tale, a far more challenging work, was an enchanting success that harnessed that quality of magic under the stars. The Toronto summer tradition runs for two months.

A Midsummer Night's Dream / Driftwood Theatre Company / July 12-13, July 24-29
With its focus on love, magic, and faeries, the Dream is a perennial choice for summer Shakespeare. It's no surprise that two productions of the play will feature in Toronto parks. Driftwood Theatre presents the Bard Bus Tour with city stops at Todmorden Mills, Bradley House Museum, and Withrow Park. The company also offers Shakespeare shorts workshops for youth with a focus on iambic pentameter and performance.

Clouds Over TO / Guild Festival Theatre / Starts July 12
The Guild Inn and Gardens set atop the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto's east end are the setting for the Guild Festival Theatre. It's arguably the prettiest venue for summer theatre in the city. With the endorsement of acclaimed director Robin Phillips, the festival launched their inaugural season last summer with Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. This year, they've gone off the beaten path with a new work called Clouds Over TO, a musical based on The Clouds by Greek comedian Aristophanes.

Two Gentlemen of Verona / Shakespeare in the Ruff / August 15 - September 2
The new kids on the block, so to speak, Shakespeare in the Ruff is a promising collection of young artists who have the late summer slot in Withrow Park. Kudos to the team for picking a less obvious comedy for outdoor theatre. Headed by Brendan McMurtry Howlett, the team plans to present community-based Shakespeare in Riverdale and Leslieville with a focus on youth mentorship, partnership with local members, and nurturing young artists.

The Toronto Fringe Festival and SummerWorks Theatre Festival will also feature outdoor shows with BYOV and found space performances.

Photo of The 605 Collective courtesy of Dusk Dances

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