Theatre in the park: Bear & Co in the summer

UPDATE: Bear and Co. is back for their second outdoor theatre summer season. Catch Comedy of Errors at Hintonburg Park on July 5 and 19, at Iona Park on July 6 and at Reid Park on July 30. All shows start at 7 p.m. and picnics are welcome. A hat will be passed at the end of the show.

July 12, 2012

On July 5th and 6th Bear and Co. started close to home, playing to large crowds at dusk performances in Clare Gardens Park and Hintonburg Park.

Music Director Rachel Eugster—who not only lives in Hintonburg but volunteered on a community
advisory committee in 2010-2011 during the rehabilitation of Hintonburg Park to ensure that the historic
stone wall surrounding the park would be rebuilt to reflect its heritage character—was thrilled with the
play, the venue and the audience.

“It was director Will Sommers’ inspiration to set the play in 1950, during the McCarthy era” says Eugster
who appreciates that with familiar music and costumes, Shakespeare’s themes resonate for
contemporary audiences in a way that will echo what his original audiences experienced. “The music and
costumes provide the cultural key, and I think Anna had as much fun creating 1950-era costumes as
I had choosing and preparing the music. Judging by the delighted smiles that break out on people’s faces
when they hear a familiar song, it’s clear that we are successfully communicating this sense of fun to our
audience.”

Eugster notes that 1950 was an amazing year for music and in general. Many icons of contemporary
culture began in 1950. “Saturday morning children’s programming began on TV, Charles Schultz
introduced “Peanuts” and the first Xerox machine was produced,” says Eugster who jokes that not having
a piano is her biggest challenge in programming the music for outdoor theatre.

“Partly because we’re outdoors, and partly because we’re a touring company, we are limited to using
instruments that are easily carried,” explains the musical director. “Primarily that is the voice—which is my
specialty—and we make extensive use of that, singing songs in part or in full, in harmony or in unison.
The character of the songs also invited the use of guitars and kazoos. For example, we created a trumpet
call out of one of the songs, using kazoos, to signal the bad Duke’s entrances and exits.”

With children in the front rows, deeply engaged in watching the play unfold—especially the stage fighting
—Bear and Co. truly brought Shakespeare to life close to home.

Eugster noted that “the wall makes a gorgeous backdrop for theatre. It also acts a bit as a sound
container, which makes it easier for the actors to make themselves heard—very important in an urban
environment, especially when the show is in competition with sounds from the play structure and the
splash pad.”

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