The highly anticipated St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival opened on Saturday with ‘Julius Caesar’ to a large crowd of eager audience members. Located at the Prescott harbour at an outdoor amphitheatre, the play is perfectly located for a Roman experience, and what better way to enjoy theatre than with the beautiful St. Lawrence River as a backdrop?
The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival is a member of PACT, the Professional Association of Canadian Theatre, and a member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association. With 12 professional actors who perform in both plays (the second play in this year’s festival is ‘Much Ado About Nothing’), the festival was granted a special concession from the Canadian Actors Equity Association to enable them to invite 18 volunteer performers from the local community to play Roman soldiers, senators, and citizens. “Their participation makes this production unique, specific to Prescott, and gives it a texture, visual dynamic and scale that’s never been seen on our stage before” – Rona Waddington, Director’s Notes, Julius Caesar. The extra Romans helped to bring life to the on-stage battles and parades that added to the authenticity of the play, and adds a unique, local touch to the performance.
I personally was not overly familiar with this particular work of Shakespeare, so I was appreciative of the synopsis provided in the festival program which allowed me to have the plot outlined so that I could be free to enjoy the intricacies of the play. The Festival always makes an effort to condense the play so that it is accessible to a wider audience and their performances are never more than a maximum of 2 hours. While Caesar is ultimately assassinated during the first half of the play, I loved the presence that he maintained even after intermission and his embodiment on stage, haunting the remaining players (you will have to watch the play to see it for yourself).
Lawn chairs and cushions can be rented at the gate for $3 or $1 respectively, or you can bring your own if you don’t wish to sit directly on the stone or grassy areas. Water, pop, and candy bars are sold on site, ice cream can be found nearby in the harbour, and staff the Red George Pub set up to sell wine, beer and cider before the show and during intermission. You are welcome to take your treats into the amphitheatre to enjoy, which is a nice perk of an outdoor setting.
The Festival runs July 16-August 20, 2016. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm, and rotate between ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, with matinees at 1pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. View the performance schedule at a glance. Tickets can be purchased online in advance, by calling the festival office at 613-925-5788, or in person at 206 King Street West in Prescott. If you purchase tickets in advance, you can pick them up ahead of time from their office on King Street, or get them from the ticket pick up counter by the gate a half an hour before the start of the show.
Adult (in advance) $28
Adult (at the gate) $30
Wednesday matinee $20
Youth 14 and under free when accompanied by an adult, courtesy of TD Canada
Kinsmen Amphitheatre, Sandra S. Lawn Harbour, 1 Water Street West, Prescott
For more information, visit the St. Lawrence Shakespeare website at stlawrenceshakespeare.ca