Bard on the Beach Celebrates Its 35th Season

Bard on the Beach Village Tents

Photo: Bard on the Beach

Running every summer since 1990, Bard on the Beach is one of Vancouver’s oldest theatre festivals. Head to the tents in Vanier Park to take in four different Shakespeare plays between June 11 and September 21.

Bard on the Beach began 35 years ago with a modest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an event tent at Vanier Park. Over the years the not-for-profit theatre company has grown, staging multiple plays each season, employing thirty actors, and expanding to two large purpose-built tents. While attendance in the first year was just 8,000, these days average attendance is about 100,000 over the course of each summer and most shows sell out.

Bard on the Beach at Sen̓áḵw/Vanier Park

Aerial shot of Bard on the Beach

Photo: Bard on the Beach

The festival takes place on the grassy lawns of Vanier Park near the Museum of Vancouver. The location is the site of a Coast Salish village called Sen̓áḵw on the ancestral lands of the Sḵwxwú7mesh (Squamish), xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam) and səlilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.

Each year two large tents are erected on the site. The custom Mainstage Theatre tent was designed with an open back to allow downtown Vancouver and English Bay to act as the backdrop for the plays. The smaller Douglas Campbell Theatre tent has a more intimate setting and usually highlights lesser-known Shakespeare plays or plays with connections to the festival.

2024 Festival Line-Up

Bard on the Beach is staging four plays this year. Tickets are on sale now. Regular performance tickets start at $30 and there are discounts for preview performances and youth tickets.

Twelfth Night runs on the BMO Mainstage from June 11 to September 12. With a magician, a carnival atmosphere, fights, pranks, and jokes, this romantic comedy is sure to entertain. Directed by Diana Donnelly, it includes original music by local composer Veda Hille.

Twelfth Night at Bard on the Beach

Twelfth Night. Photo: Bard on the Beach.

The BMO Mainstage will also host a production of Hamlet from June 13 to September 20. Directed and adapted by Stephen Drover, the play invites us to see ourselves in Hamlet as we consider the ways that loyalty, self, and mortality blur.

Nadeem Umar Khitab stars as Hamlet at Bard on the Beach

Nadeem Umar Khitab stars as Hamlet. Photo: Emily Cooper/Bard on the Beach

Over on the smaller Howard Family Stage, you can catch The Comedy of Errors from July 2 to September 21. This adaptation from Rebecca Northan and Bruce Horak takes the audience to ancient Greece for a fantastically farcical comedy.

Comedy of Errors at Bard on the Beach

Comedy of Errors. Photo: Bard on the Beach

Measure for Measure is also playing on the Howard Family Stage from July 4 to September 20. Directed by Rumble Theatre’s Jivesh Parasram this adaptation is set on the dance floors of contemporary Vienna and takes an absurdist turn when premarital dancing is outlawed.

Measure for Measure at Bard on the Beach

Measure for Measure. Photo: Bard on the Beach

Special Events at Bard on the Beach

In addition to the four plays, there are also lots of special events taking place during Bard on the Beach’s summer season.

In July you can combine a Shakespeare play with the Celebration of Light at Bard Fireworks Nights. Your ticket includes admission to the play, a private fireworks viewing area, and a dessert buffet by Emelle’s Catering.

Fireworks at Bard on the Beach

Bard Fireworks Night. Photo: Bard on the Beach

Attend select matinee performances to take part in Family Days. Arrive at the venue early to enjoy kid-friendly activities prepared by the Bard Education team to help little ones get to know the play’s characters and story.

On Wine Wednesdays, you can upgrade your evening with a pre-show wine tasting sponsored by Cedar Creek Estate Winery and Mission Hill Family Estate. Your tasting ticket includes a selection of wines and a curated box of savoury bites from Emelle’s.

Or stay for a Q&A session after the play on Talkback Tuesdays. Select members of the cast will take the stage to answer audience questions about the production.

Talkback Tuesdays at Bard on the Beach

Talkback Tuesdays. Photo: Bard on the Beach.

In the Neighbourhood

With its location in Vanier Park, it’s easy to combine your visit to Bard on the Beach with other nearby attractions.

To start, you can make getting there part of the adventure. Ride the scenic False Creek Ferry from Yaletown, Olympic Village, Granville Island and more to the stop at the Maritime Museum, then walk a few minutes to the tents at Bard on the Beach. Or rent a bike from Mobi, Vancouver’s bike share program. You can pick up a bike from hundreds of stations across the city, then cruise the seawall to get to Bard on the Beach.

Two people ride Mobi bike share bikes in Vancouver.

Photo: David Niddrie/Mobi Bikes

Since the festival is located in Vanier Park, it makes sense to bring a picnic to enjoy before the show. Relax on the grass and enjoy the view. Or walk a few minutes west to Kitsilano Beach to walk across the sand or play some beach volleyball.

Bard on the Beach is also located next to three of Vancouver’s best museums. The Museum of Vancouver is right next to the theatre tents and includes exhibits about our city’s history. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is also nearby. Don’t miss the spectacular planetarium shows. The Vancouver Maritime Museum is just west of Bard on the Beach. With a focus on ocean culture in the Pacific Northwest it houses exhibits about lighthouses, shipwrecks, tugboats and lots more.