Other than providing Vancouver residents with performances of great Shakespearean plays for the last 25 years, Bard on the Beach also runs an active educational programme, to give young people the skills and the confidence to speak on stage, as well as an appreciation of the beauty and drama of the great dramatist.
Riotous Youths is a new initiative of Bard whereby “graduates” of the Young Shakespearean programme could continue to participate in workshops and hone their acting skills. To mark the end of this new endeavor, the group of young artists put on a show with brief scenes from some of Shakespeare’s most well know works. To add an element of chance to the performance (a la John Cage?), the names of the plays were put in a hat, and audience members were asked to draw from the hat to determine the scene to be performed.
This was a remarkable hour of theatre. Musicians and actors, who set out to recreate great works of art, should have only one goal in mind: to ensure that whatever he or she is doing, no matter how “original”, is to be true to the spirit of the creator, be it a Shakespeare or a Mozart. These young artists gave us their “take” on scenes from the plays they had chosen, and performed them with conviction, verve, and a youthful enthusiasm undiminished by “experience”. At no time during the performance did I feel that they were trying to be different for the sake of being different. Unlike certain professional directors, they did not try to use Shakespeare to further their own political or personal agenda. And at the end of the performance, I was convinced that they had stayed true to the spirit of Shakespeare.
Funding for the arts in today’s society is often tenuous at best, and becoming more and more so. In North America, there appears to be unlimited funds when it comes to sports. Bard’s Riotous Youth programme has shown us that when we invest in the arts, we are investing in the future of our young people. Let’s hope that this very worthwhile initiative will continue to thrive and grow.