The red-and-white tents won't be going up in Vanier Park this summer, the first time since the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival started more than three decades ago.
Citing the risks and unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has now decided to cancel its entire 31st season, which was to have run from June 10 to September 26.
“Our team has spent the past month in an intensive exploration of what might be possible for our season, given the impact of COVID-19,” founding artistic director Christopher Gaze and executive director Claire Sakaki said in a joint statement today. “Our first focus throughout has been the safety and well-being of our patrons, our staff and volunteers, our donors, sponsors and partners, and the greater community we serve and entertain. 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.”
The 2020 lineup featured Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream in repertory with the drama Henry V, on the BMO Mainstage. The Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre was to host a Jazz Age rendition of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Erin Shields’Paradise Lost. The fest has pledged to stage the same program in summer 2021 instead.
"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," Sakaki said 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 bought tickets will have a range of options, including 2021 ticket credits, charitable tax-receipted donations, and full refunds; full details are at bardonthebeach.org