Shakespeare By The Sea announces 30th summer season | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Shakespeare By The Sea's Drew Douris-O'Hara (left) and Jesse MacLean (right).

Shakespeare By The Sea announces 30th summer season

The outdoor theatre is 30, flirty and thriving as it stages Romeo and Juliet.

When curtain time finally arrives for Shakespeare By The Sea’s opening night performance of Romeo and Juliet (one of two shows that comprise the veteran theatre company’s 2023 summer season, which is also its 30th), associate artistic director and play director Drew Douris-O'Hara will be ready, primed, equipped, toes already waiting behind the metaphorical start line: “I think I've probably seen 30 productions of Romeo and Juliet in the last decade. It's my favourite. I think it's Shakespeare's most exciting play. I think that it's the play that has stayed with us in the cultural zeitgeist. More than any other play ever written, really,” he says, speaking by phone with The Coast along with SBTS managing artistic director Jesse MacLean. Douris-O’Hara even has lines from the play inscribed on his wedding band.

Douris-O'Hara’s vision for the ultimate teen hormones PSA we’re all perennially invested in is “somewhere in between Baz Luhrmann and sort of traditional telling,” he says (referencing the luminous 1996 adaptation starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio). “It's really important to the mission of Shakespeare By The Sea that our shows are as accessible as possible. And part of that accessibility is updating or adapting Shakespeare's plays to fit in the world that we live in today. So: This production of Romeo and Juliet is going to be a great example of that: We’re retaining the original text of the play, but it's going to be pretty heavily adapted, and designed to look like these characters are your friends who are here in Halifax, today.”

"Really, for our biggest season to date, we wanted Shakespeare's biggest play."

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It’s the perfect way to kick off a landmark summer for the Point Pleasant Park institution: “We haven’t done this play at Shakespeare By The Sea for almost 20 years. It was more than time for Romeo and Juliet to come back,” Douris-O’Hara says. “Really, for our biggest season to date, we wanted Shakespeare's biggest play.”

Three decades deep—and entering its second summer since its final co-founder Elizabeth Murphy retired—Shakespeare By The Sea remains as stalwart as ever, the duo add: “We hear all the time: ‘I saw my first show ever at Shakespeare By The Sea. I come every year.’ That's amazing. And that's a huge responsibility that we have in the community: To introduce people in the city to theatre. And if we messed it up, they might not come back,” Douris-O’Hara says. “We really do take that responsibility really, really, seriously. And in everything we do, we are looking to be an open invitation: A warm embrace when you come into the park to see a play.”

“If you happen to be at Shakespeare By The Sea on a clear night, and the moon is rising over the Battery as the show's happening? There really isn't any other word other than ‘magic’ to describe it,” MacLean adds. “It’s as if someone imagined that there was going to be a theatre in that spot when the earth was formed, that that place was going to face that way. And that the moon was going to come up over the ocean. And we'd be saying lines from Romeo and Juliet—or whatever the show has been. But, those moments that capture what it means to be human, like Shakespeare did so well, but also what it means to be in nature: You know ... it's really magical.”

Shakespeare By The Sea’s Romeo and Juliet runs July 19-Sept. 1 at Point Pleasant Park’s Cambridge Battery. Its musical production Pinocchio: The Musical! runs July 8-Sept. 3 at Cambridge Battery. Tickets and details available via the SBTS website.

Morgan Mullin

Morgan was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she wrote about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She started with The Coast in 2016.
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