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Once again, Theatre Calgary’s Shakespeare by the Bow will hit the road and become Shakespeare on the Go.
Instead of performing in Prince’s Island Park, this summer’s production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor will travel to Heritage Park, various community centres and several Brookfield Residential properties. The complete schedule is available on theatrecalgary.com/shakesgoperformances.
Jane MacFarlane, who adapted and directed Merry Wives, says “when were we planning the summer program, we had no idea what COVID restrictions would be in play so we felt it was safer to program another Shakespeare on the Go rather than return to Prince’s Island.
“Also, last year when we went to four different communities, we found a whole new and very enthusiastic audience. We’ll be expanding our audience base even further and that is really what we want to do.”
The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known comedies. It tells the story of how the devious Falstaff plans to increase his fortunes by wooing the wives of the wealthy businessmen Master Ford and Master Page. He foolishly sends the women identical love letters which, when they compare, prompts them to teach him as many lessons as possible.
“Shakespeare wrote many comedies but The Merry Wives is really his only farce and it works well for an outdoor summer show because it is written in prose, making it very accessible,” says MacFarlane.
“I’ve cut the script down to 75 minutes by removing all the subplots. It’s now all about how the wives conspire to trick Falstaff and their husbands. It’s now fast and furious fun and it’s a great 75 minutes you get to enjoy with family and friends outdoors.”
Sam Free, who plays Master Ford, admits, like most people who will be coming to see The Merry Wives, he’d never read or seen the play before being cast.
“I’d heard of it but knew almost nothing about it so it was a treat finding out just how funny it is when I read it, especially this version that Jane has created. It’s a hilarious show and the humour is very broad and very accessible. Our production is all about the action and the laughs. It’s very silly. You could even say stupid at times which will definitely appeal to younger viewers.”
Free and Javelin Laurence, who plays Falstaff, are the only members of the six-actor company who don’t play multiple roles. Their co-stars include Kathleen Faith Ballangan as Mistress Ford, Christian Daly as Master Page, Abby McDougall as Mistress Page and Keysha Swanson as Mistress Quickly. Beth Kates designed the set and Cathleen Sbrizzi created the costumes.
Free recently graduated from the drama program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton where he starred as Malvolio in a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Like Falstaff, Malvolio is the subject of trickery.
“What happens to Malvolio is much, much darker than what the wives do to Falstaff and yet Falstaff is actually more deserving of the tricks that are played on him. Falstaff is never actually tortured, which makes the play suitable for young audiences.”
Theatre Calgary’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is a co-production with The Shakespeare Company and Hit & Myth Productions and it runs until Aug. 7.