By Eleanor Crowder
Glebe audiences are avid fans of summer theatre, known to brave all weathers. For the actors of Bear & Co., performances at Central Park are a highlight of the summer parks tour. Imagine a still and perfect evening: blankets and lawn chairs spread in a semi-circle, picnics, babies, dogs, bicycles, studious fans with scripts in hand and neighbours out for a walk. At 7 p.m. the actors take to the “stage” under the big catalpa trees on the east side of Bank Street and the audience is transported to another world. Last year, we brought you The Tempest. This summer, Bear & Co. is back with songs and swords, skullduggery, sorcery and fire witches. Yes, you read that right: fire witches.
Bear & Co. brings you Macbeth as the Queen’s Men might have toured it. We throw a rope on the ground and conjure a world of sound and fury, bringing the full experience of the text and all the magic of strolling players to our stage. The ensemble includes Chris McLeod as Macbeth, Doreen Taylor-Claxton as his Lady and Rachel Eugster as Banquo and music director. Music lovers will know both Doreen and Rachel as premiere sopranos in town, while Chris is the region’s go-to fight director. Chris and Doreen led the cast of The Tempest last summer, while Rachel recently starred in Bear & Co.’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at The Gladstone. Glebe audiences in particular know Eleanor’s and Rachel’s work with the community over a decade of GNAG Theatre shows.
Zoe Georgaras is fire choreographer for Bear & Co. when she is not at work with Dragon Wheel Circus, her own fire performance company (look for them in the Byward Market during Ottawa Fringe). Director Eleanor Crowder first cast Zoe as Puck 15 years ago. Since then, she has trained at Canterbury, Carleton and with École Gaulier in Paris where she learned her fire skills in the catacombs! Zoe is joined by Alexis Scott and Sarah Waisvisz as the three witches who invite us into the world of 12th century Scotland. Daniel Claxton, a student at Canterbury High School, rounds out the cast, bringing his youth and his lovely singing voice to the role of Malcolm.
In this 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death, Macbeth brings us his telling of a story already 400 years old. In 12th century Scotland, the politics of the knife-blade rule. It is the world of Outlander, where decisions reek more of Game of Thrones than of the court of St James. The script remains a cornerstone of the high-school English curriculum, and Bear & Co.’s production brings both the savagery and the surprising tenderness of the story to life. Passersby are already stopping to watch our rehearsals in the “fireman’s park” at Fifth and O’Connor. Drop by on weekdays to watch the play progress!
As part of Bear’s July tour, Macbeth will play Central Park on July 6 and 20, both Wednesdays, and on Saturday July 30, our last performance of the season. Curtain is always 7 p.m., but audiences are encouraged to arrive any time after 6:30 p.m. to enjoy the pre-show music. The show runs 90 minutes. True to Shakespearean form, the company passes a hat at the end of show. We suggest a $20 per person donation. Believe our closing pass-the-hat song: your support is indeed how the actors will eat tomorrow!
Performances run across the city from July 3 to 20. Do check the full schedule on www.bearandcompany.ca for your friends who live outside the Glebe. Windsor Park, Hintonburg, Clare Gardens, Strathcona and Stanley parks all host our shows, as do the towns of Chelsea and Wakefield.
And if the magic of outdoor theatre is really not for you, mark the last week of September on your calendar. The show will move indoors for a week at The Gladstone as part of a three-week Shakespeare Fest. But a warning: fire-witches shape shift. They are best observed in their full glory outdoors!
Eleanor Crowder has made theatre in the Glebe since 1977. Most recently she directed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Glebe Community Centre, performed Vern Thiessen’s Shakespeare’s Will at uOttawa for the Shakespeare 400 Symposium and spent a week in Whitehorse as artistic director of the Whitehorse Schools Shakespeare Festival.