Kitchissippi residents young and old are invited to attend Bear & Co.’s rendition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The play runs to July 26, with a total of 16 performances at different parks all across the city.
“It’s going to be quite different every time,” says Chris McLeod, a Kitchissippi resident who plays Prospero, the main character.
The Tempest follows Prospero, the Duke of Milan, who was marooned on an island with his daughter. By strange accident, the people who conspired to exile him from Milan and maroon him are caught in a storm and land on the same island. While on the island, Prospero had been studying magic, and helped to brew up the storm that landed the conspirators on the island. He tries to get them to repent past wrongs. At the same time, Prospero also attempts to make one of the princes fall in love with his daughter so that she can go back to Milan and be the queen. It’s a big play for a natural setting.
“One of the challenges is getting vocally and corporeally big enough that in a park where there are no walls to bounce off and things like that people can hear and understand (us),” says McLeod.
This is McLeod’s first time acting with Bear & Co. although he has worked with them before as a fight director.
About 16 years ago, McLeod approached Tempest’s director Eleanor Crowder, who at the time was the artistic director of another theatre company. He pitched a show to her that he wanted to direct and she ended up asking him if he wanted to act. They worked together for many years afterwards.
For the past couple of years, McLeod has been concentrating more on fight direction such as sword and rapier fighting. Then one day Crowder called him and asked him if he wanted to play Prospero in Tempest.
“My first reaction was ‘aren’t I a little young for Prospero?,’” laughs McLeod. “And if there’s a little piece of you that thinks you’re an actor and somebody says you should be Prospero, you generally say yes.”
Prior to agreeing to play Prospero, McLeod’s summer plans had been to renovate his house, but he says that’s all on the backburner. He’s currently working full time on the play, along with the six other actors and actresses who practice eight hours a day five days a week. The group began rehearsing at the beginning of June.
The chemistry between the actors is apparent. “We’re having an amazingly good time and Shakespeare is just so funny,” says Crowder.
Bear & Co. points out that The Tempest is a very accessible play, one which can be understood by audiences young and old.
“It’s for all ages and the show really surprised me how funny it was. There’s a lot, it has everything,” says Sarah Waisvisz, an actor in the play. “It has magic, it has fights, it has clowning, it has a fortress, it has a love story, it has fire dancing, it has music… and these things are just so fun to discover.”
There are performances scheduled for July 10 and 24 in Hintonburg Park and July 17 for Clare Gardens Park, rain or shine. Suggested donation is $20. For other Ottawa performances, locations and show times, go to bearandcompany.ca.