With only four more shows to go, the cast and crew of this year’s Bard in the Valley are looking at record-breaking attendance numbers.
Spectator numbers at the first 12 of 16 showings of Romeo and Juliet are “trending up” this year, according to Diane Gendron, Bard president and Lady Capulet in this year’ production.
“Last year 3,200 people came to see the 16 performances of Much Ado About Nothing and it looks as though our numbers are going to be even higher this year,” she shared with the Langley Advance.
She credits the rise in crowd numbers to several factors, partly because of the popularity of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, partly because every year more people learn about Bard in the Valley; and partly because there are many people for whom these shows become a summer tradition.
“One nice man told me on Friday evening that our shows were the highlight of his summer. I think he was probably exaggerating a bit but it was sweet to hear,” Gendron said.
Attendance at the opening night in Fort Langley dropped from 250 last year to only 80 this year. She’s convinced the looming dark rain clouds overhead Canada Day kept people at bay.
“Hats off to the hearty souls who, even when the rain started to fall in the second act, stayed in their seats and watched the show until the final scene,” she said. “Then the cast and crew struck the set that night after the show and packed it all away on the truck in the pouring rain.”
But since that first show of the season, attendance has been strong, with all five performances at Township 7 Winery sold out a couple weeks ahead.
After the free shows in Fort Langley, and the paid shows at the winery, Bard has set up for its final two weeks in Douglas Park, and again crowd numbers have been strong, Gendron said, saying numbers for the City shows are up 23 per cent compared to 2017.
Looking out over the audience at Douglas ahead of one of the shows, Gendron said she was thrilled to see so many children in the crowd.
“The action and romance keep the children engaged from the opening scene to the curtain call,” she suggested.
“Because there is no admission fee at Fort Langley or at Douglas Park, whole families can – and do – come to see Bard in the Valley productions,” and she said she’s thrilled to see such a cross-section of people in lawn chairs and on blankets in front of the stage.
This is Bard’s ninth season, and their version of Romeo and Juliet is set 300 years in the future on the supercontinent of Asia, where the rivalling families of Capulets and Montagues battle for supremacy.
It’s Romeo and Juliet with a martial arts twist. For as the story goes – regardless of the era – the two heirs, Juliet and Romeo respectively, meet accidentally and realize that love, regardless of race and tradition, has a power greater than that of hate to drive change.
“We have one more week to go – Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2,” Gendron said, inviting people to come out for an evening of outdoor theatre in the park.
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